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Neos Networks supports Bakkavor’s network transformation with SD-WAN

Neos Networks supports Bakkavor’s network transformation with SD-WAN

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Networks are a critical component of a data centre’s performance and it is essential that organisations operate with robust and resilient network infrastructure to continue accelerating at speed. Richard Barton, Network & Datacentre Domain Lead, Bakkavor, discusses how the organisation relies on data centres for optimum performance and tells us how the network transformation afforded by SD-WAN is also helping Bakkavor to connect its large, data-rich warehouses reliably and securely.

Neos Networks, one of the UK’s leading connectivity providers, has announced a partnership with Bakkavor, one of the UK’s leading providers of fresh prepared food (FPF), to transform the company’s multi-site network.

As a Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) provider with more than 19,000 employees globally, Bakkavor operates across the length and breadth of the country and supplies all of the UK’s major supermarkets with a diverse range of freshly prepared food products. To ensure the smooth running of its operations, a robust, resilient network that maximises uptime and productivity is of paramount importance.

The project has seen Neos Networks deploy a comprehensive SD-WAN solution across 22 UK sites and one international site in Spain. The network has been built to support secure, reliable connectivity across Bakkavor’s entire footprint including all its food production and data centre locations.

Bakkavor’s legacy network had become outdated and wasn’t flexible enough or able to adapt to the company’s cloud and Digital Transformation plans. By bringing Neos Networks on board, the business has already begun to gather much greater visibility of its operations; with real-time network insights providing diagnostic data, better traffic management and greater value for money as well as enabling the all-important shift to the cloud.

The resilient network transformation afforded by SD-WAN is also helping Bakkavor to connect its large, data-rich warehouses and fast-moving supply operations both reliably and securely. The technology allows the full utilisation of bandwidth across multiple connections offering automation and improved delivery of service to its users.

Bakkavor will now be able to undertake tactical work focused on improving overall performance and productivity, with the adoption of SD-WAN also providing the business and its UK-based IT team with added control and uniformity over its growing network.

The delivery by Neos Networks has been such a success that the initial contract was extended earlier this year to support continued network automation and improvement. The additional scope of work will see SD-WAN technology cover additional sites in the US.

Pete Asman, Managing Director for Public Sector and Enterprise, Neos Networks, said: “We’re very excited to be working on such a large-scale project with Bakkavor, helping to provide the connectivity to digitally transform the UK’s leading fresh food provider. As a fellow CNI organisation, we are well positioned to support it with resilient, robust networks ensuring uptime and reliability.

“This project is the perfect example of SD-WAN’s effectiveness in providing network resilience, performance and visibility in a fast-moving, multi-site environment. We’re incredibly proud to continue to play a vital role in helping large enterprises transform their digital operations within key UK industries through our connectivity solutions.”

Richard Barton, Network & Datacentre Domain Lead, Bakkavor, said: “As a CNI provider, ensuring our production facilities and multiple sites have a reliable, resilient network to operate is essential. In support of our continued Digital Transformation and international growth, we selected Neos Networks due to its vast experience in similar projects and knowledge of managing large scale network transformations.

“We firmly believe in the power of SD-WAN technology to help bring independence to our sites with network visibility and resilience, ensuring maximum uptime for our essential production facilities. We’re looking forward to continuing the relationship in the coming years.”

Intelligent Data Centres caught up with Richard Barton, Network & Datacentre Domain Lead, Bakkavor, to discuss the implementation and its benefits.

Can you tell us about your role as Network & Datacentre Domain Lead and what this entails?

My role is to look after the Bakkavor group network and data centre facilities. We cover all of the UK and the US, as well as Asia. We look after everything from the local area network, wide area networks and all of the connections and factory systems that interconnect into our network.

Why did you decide to work with Neos Networks and how does/did this particular vendor stand out from the rest?

We went through an RFP process, evaluating multiple vendors, and we narrowed that down to the select two which was Neos and another vendor. It came down to basically looking at value for money and the reporting features and the benefits that it could bring to us. The Silver Peak and Neos solutions stood out for us as the primary candidate.

How has Neos Networks enabled secure, reliable connectivity across Bakkavor’s entire footprint, particularly data centre locations?

We have multiple sites across the UK and the US and they’ve delivered their service using multiple carriers into those premises. We’ve got some very rural locations that are very difficult, but Neos has managed to use different carriers to deliver a resilient and secure service for our sites. And in the data centres, Neos has primary connections into there already so that was very quick and easy for us to deliver via the connectivity into those data centres.

How far does the operation of your network rely on data centre performance?

Very heavily. A lot of our data is real time, we’ve got systems that are talking out to the cloud constantly for reporting and data analysis, as well as our factory systems are interacting and pulling orders in, we’ve got EDI systems, sending orders in from suppliers. So, our network is critical to the business.

How important are data centres in enabling your Digital Transformation goals?

Very critical. Without the data centres the environment would be a lot more widespread and a lot more costly. It enables us to centralise our services but still maintain high availability and keep costs down.

How does the implementation ensure a robust, resilient network that maximises uptime and productivity for the customer?

The service offers resilient connections with automatic failover. Subsecond failover means our users don’t really notice if one circuit fails, the traffic goes straight down the other circuit and nobody notices. This means we maintain the critical connections all the time. We also route traffic based on service level agreement. So, if we have certain traffic that needs certain requirements, the Silver Peak solution maintains that for us and makes sure that it routes the traffic down the circuit that’s the least busy.

How does the network infrastructure enable the smooth processing of your data and how important is this?

For us, it enables it because of the resiliency and the control and granularity we’ve got around the traffic. So historically, we were an MPLS network meaning we had very little control over our traffic. With the Silver Peak solution and the Neos network it enables us to really granularly control that traffic which means we can restrict certain applications and prioritise more critical business traffic. So, we prioritise our team’s traffic, we prioritise our internal production system traffic, but we can restrict back normal Internet traffic.

How has digitalisation impacted the pressure on your networks and how does the solution address some of these challenges?

Digital Transformation, especially at the start of COVID, has really ramped up and really progressed and I think that without the Neos and Silver Peak solution, we would have struggled because previously we had an MPLS network which was an active/passive network. With the Silver Peak solution it enables us to use both circuits so we can use both circuits at the same time, but still also maintain resiliency. So it’s enabled us to grow and scale very quickly. Another thing to note is that we had some new business requirements which we had to rapidly respond to and historically, with a traditional service, we would have struggled to get services in place. With the Neos solution and Silver Peak we very quickly put a 4g service in and put the site online within days – something which we have previously struggled to do.

How critical has this technology been for defining your overall business performance?

I think it’s been very critical. The main focus for us is obviously around Digital Transformation and is a process that the business is currently going through. The SD-WAN solution gives us that flexibility to scale and grow very quickly and control that traffic and prioritise what we do and don’t need.

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