Look at all the considerations before deploying SD-WAN, says Rentokil Initial

14 December 2017 | James Pearce


Rentokil Initial, shared with us a real life case study of a global SD-WAN deployment at the WAN Summit in October.

Speaking to the audience Mike Howell explained that Rentokil Initial is member of the FTSE100 and is an international pest control and hygiene services company with over 35,000 staff in over 70 countries.

Howell started quoting a statement from the company’s annual report. It said: “Over the next three years we see significant opportunities to drive revenues, reduce costs and help better serve and retain our customers through the deployment of digital technologies” underpinning Rentokil’s commitment to innovation and technology.

 “Our leadership team understand the importance of technology in our industry,” explained Howell. “And we do feel that it will help distance us from our competitors.”

The company currently has WAN deployments live across thirty countries on five continents, and deployed in four regional data centres and live in over 130 sites.  

He explained that Rentokil last year won an award for the best internet of things project (around the connect product) and they’ve been a big Google partner for almost nine years now. 

“We have 35,000 google apps accounts, re-platforming our primary business application into Google Cloud, SD-WAN and hyper converged infrastructure in all our global data centres,” he added.

But what is it about SD-WAN that aligns itself with the needs of Rentokil so well? “The sheer global visibility that SD-WAN can give you”, expanded Howell. “I don’t think a view like this is possible natively within a network.” 

He told the WAN Summit that Rentokil has been looking into SD-WAN for two years now, to specifically address business challenges such as: providing low latency high bandwidth connectivity to cloud-delivered services and applications; to deliver scalable and future-proof network capability; to offer greater business agility in order to provide secure connectivity globally; to simplify the network, streamline processes and provide increased bandwidth Deliver better value for money.

From a benefits perspective, Howell said that SD-WAN is cost effective by using ISP (Internet service provider) circuits to replace MPLS for less critical sites, for example. It has high security through the use of end-to-end encryption of all data traversing the WAN among other features. It is an agile solution as it enables the ability to provision a branch within minutes using a 4G dongle and has reduced lead times with ISP circuits. The performance using SD-WAN has an average 5:1 increase in ISP bandwidth compared with same cost MPLS circuit. And of course increased visibility as you now have the ability to view a complete application breakdown of all traffic flows across the SD-WAN.

But Howell also broke down a number of cautionary considerations to make before deploying a SD-WAN network. Although he prefaced it by saying that there’s “no silver bullet to say how you should or shouldn’t set up your SD-WAN deployment”.

Firstly, he told enterprises to think about how they are going to consume SD-WAN - will it be As-a-service, through a channel partner or through a MSP. Next, he says to ensure that your provider has global reach and licensing to operate in all business regions and think ahead of time on how will support be managed on a global scale. 

As for technical design considerations, Howell said: “Look at the technical considerations beforehand you really shouldn’t be looking at it after you’ve deployed because it could cause you a lot of problems.”

On the topic of IP Addressing he said: “Set a standard and enforce it”. On routing "carefully design routing flows in a hybrid MPLS/SDWAN environment, factors to consider” and as for disaster recovery “ensure you have considered routing to a DR facility in your SD-WAN network design.”

His last area of considerations were deployment-based and this was broken down into two sections, the first being proof of concept and global deployment. Under the umbrella of proof of concept Howell said: “Ensure it can run in parallel to your current production network […] assess the deployment against a measurable success criteria and […] ensure it spans multiple regions to truly test the Global reach.”

As for global deployment Howell advises that you establish connectivity to your hub sites and to plan country / regional deployments so as not to impact any branch to branch traffic.

In closing Howell summarised in saying that “not all SD-WAN solutions are created equal. Due diligence is key” and that deploying a global hybrid network requires lots of planning - “trying to do this on the fly will result in network inefficiencies and outages” he explained.