Editor’s Corner—EarthLink’s SD-WAN allows Dunn-Edwards to cut costs, alleviate bandwidth constraints

business meeting
Dunn-Edwards is just one part of EarthLink’s SD-WAN customer momentum
Sean Buckley, FierceTelecom

EarthLink’s customer Dunn-Edwards, a regional painting manufacturer with 130 sites across the western United States, is finding utility with SD-WAN to cut circuit costs while creating a new backbone to support bandwidth-hungry applications, reduce costs and gain network redundancy.

Dunn-Edwards focuses on large commercial painters as well as serving consumers that can purchase paint at retail locations in its 100 stores located across the western United States.

SD-WAN is arguably a relatively new service, but I think customers like Dunn-Edwards illustrate how the technology can be used to cut costs and gain a holistic view of application and network performance.

Pete Garcia, manager of infrastructure services at Dunn-Edwards, told FierceTelecom traditional T-1 circuits could not handle the company’s growing traffic demands.

At the same time, Dunn Edwards wanted redundancy at its sites, which is very expensive using traditional copper-based T-1 circuits.  

“These are the primary drivers that said you need to look at getting more bandwidth, and SD-WAN was the answer,” Garcia said. 

Bandwidth growing pains

Dunn-Edwards traditionally used T-1 circuits to support voice and data, but the idea of purchasing T-1s is an expensive proposition. Such a trend is not that uncommon among multisite businesses.

Today, 90% of Dunn-Edwards’ stores use EarthLink’s hosted IP voice services. While T-1s worked well for voice and point of sale (POS) applications, these circuits were not enough to support the work areas in its buildings for district managers and regional managers.

Dunn-Edwards also added paint advisors that allow consumers to go to a store, provide a picture to get an idea of how the paint would impact a particular room in a home like a kitchen or bathroom.

“As we were bringing up these work group areas, we began to see the saturation of the circuit,” Garcia said. “It wasn’t necessarily affecting the business from POS because we could do quality of service, but the experience wasn’t very good for those users.”

Additionally, Dunn-Edwards also wanted to have network redundancy at its high volume stores, a prospect that was expensive when using T-1s.

“In some cases, we had T-1s, but that’s a lot of dollars per megabit so those stores were candidates for SD-WAN,” Garcia said. 

In its 10 store pilot deployment, Dunn-Edwards has installed a T-1 circuit and a mix of DSL and cable broadband services.

EarthLink’s SD-WAN provides a graphical report that measures three elements: T-1 performance in terms of uptime and jitter, disruption and the same data for the internet circuit.

“A combination of T-1 and broadband should give me triple nines of availability,” Garcia said. “In the locations where my broadband service is above that nine scale, I will eventually feel comfortable taking down my T-1 and going to two internet circuits, which would give me more megabits than I had before.”

Seeing potential in using a software-based platform, what is even more compelling is Garcia’s future vision to virtualize more of the network.

“In many of our locations, I see us migrating to what I call a no server footprint where I can virtualize my POS,” Garcia said.

Question of management

One of the key questions is how much they want the service provider to manage for them? For service providers and businesses, the next step in the SD-WAN race is finding ways to fit SD-WAN elements into their service portfolios and driving new capabilities they could not offer before. 

Having EarthLink manage the SD-WAN service for Dunn-Edwards makes the service experience easier for Dunn-Edwards and its employees.

Dunn-Edwards’ IT team worked on the front end of the deployment with installing interfaces to the existing switches and routers while EarthLink conducted the backend work to connect to the cloud.

“When we came together on this, my team worked with them on the front end piece and trusted EarthLink with the backend piece,” Garcia said. “That strategy worked really well because I have been able to progress by giving that backend work to them.”

Overall, businesses are seeing the value of SD-WAN. Dunn-Edwards is just one part of EarthLink’s SD-WAN customer momentum. Earlier, TGI Friday’s awarded the service provider an SD-WAN and other managed services contract for 400 locations.

Dunn-Edwards may have found unique capabilities from SD-WAN, but it’s likely that 2017 will be a time where we will see more businesses trial and deploy SD-WAN solutions. Gaining this level of customer traction and interest bodes well not only for EarthLink, but for other businesses examining how they can use SD-WAN. - Sean, @FierceTelecom