Enterprise case study: Mott MacDonald

27 September 2018 | James Pearce

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International consulting firm Mott MacDonald presented its SD-WAN deployment at this year's WAN Summit Singapore. Capacity was on hand to find out all about its rollout to over 160 sites.

Mott MacDonald is a £1.3BN global management, engineering and development consultancy. It is one of the world’s largest employee-owned companies, with 17,000 employees and over 180 offices delivering sustainable outcomes for clients in 150 countries worldwide. It works on projects in the transportation, buildings, power, oil and gas, water and wastewater, environment, education, health, international development and digital infrastructure sectors.

It is critical that Mott MacDonald’s IT infrastructure can support global collaboration, says Bradley Tullett, Head of Infrastructure at Mott MacDonald, “We have project teams in offices around the world, who need to share documents, files and data.”

However, supporting a geographically distributed workforce was challenging, he adds, “We had a data centre in London and hub sites at strategic points on our network. Every office had a file server and project data was stored locally. Whenever offices collaborated, data had to be replicated, which had an impact on version control and performance.”

Speaking at the recent WAN Summit in Singapore, Aurelien Heiny-Robert, infrastructure manager – Middle East, Asia Pacific and hosting, Mott Macdonald, told the gathered audience about the company’s journey into SD-WAN.

He explained: “We used to have three network suppliers – AT&T, Tata and Intermode, with Tata being our main supplier. As a global service provider, they provider MPLS and security services to us. All of our offices used to connect through MPLS to our data centres and then out from there. We used to have challenges around core application performance in some sites.”

So what drove the company to look at potential SD-WAN solutions? It was the “rising cost of maintaining an MPLS network” said Heiny-Robert during his enterprise case study presentation. “It was not sustainable to keep upgrading them. We used to spend more than £1 million annually just on parts of this. What we wanted was to have a better performance across our applications, especially Office 365 suite and other cloud applications.”

Because of this, Mott MacDonald’s network team began building a business case in order to procure funds for a network transformation across all its sites.

“It is very important for enterprises to look at what actually goes through your private network and what just goes to internet,” he explained. “Part of our approach was to build a business case in order to get funds from the business. We also had to find quick wins and where upgrading could have the biggest impact.”

The company reviewed Silver Peak, while existing partner Tata Comm also offered up an SD-WAN solution, but initially it agreed to a deployment with Cisco Meraki. There were, however, challenges.

He said: “It was early on so at the time there wasn’t a lot of choice. The challenges we had a long the way. The first was, being a British business with offices far away from the UK, were often regional. Some of the challenges we’d have in APAC were different to those we had in Europe, such as the comparative cost of MPLS.

“Other challenges included trying to find a solution that offered the whole package. We were keen on proper monitoring of the network, so we could see all of our applications. The last challenge I’d say was around how we actually started down our SD-WAN journey. How do we move from having MPLS on a quite standard architecture to having a flexible SD-WAN solution.”

In 2016, Teneo announced it had helped global consultancy Mott MacDonald consolidate resources, improve business productivity and become a hybrid enterprise in partnership with Riverbed. Mott MacDonald decided that WAN optimisation offered the best solution, and worked with specialist integrator Teneo to find the right solution for its business. Solutions from several vendors were tested, including Riverbed SteelHead WAN optimisation.

As a result, Mott MacDonald deployed SteelHead across almost 100 sites, and using Riverbed SteelCentral Controller to manage SteelHead. The deployment, integration, configuration and management of the Riverbed solutions were handled by Teneo.

Teneo “did all the heavy lifting,” according to Tullett in a separate case study. “We gave them the project and they took care of it. They dealt with things like the logistics of delivering products to remote sites. Having Teneo handle the day-to-day management is fantastic for us.”