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Reimagine Your Network

December 11th, 2018 by

Savvy retailers are turning “brick-and-mortar” stores into a competitive advantage, blending digital technology with traditional merchandising. From enabling personalized item recommendations using tracked buying preferences to streamlining purchases with mobile check-out, digital technology increasingly delivers a superior customer experience, driven by real-time, secure data. According to a recent Incisiv study we co‑sponsored with BRP Consulting, “digital already directly drives more than a third of all retail sales, and it further influences a much higher percentage.”

One challenge: Success with in-store digital technologies demands robust, resilient network connectivity. Over the next twelve months, retailers are posed for 2x growth in digital retail technology focused on mobile enablement such as mobile POS, in-store mode for mobile apps and customer Wi-Fi among others. Legacy retail networks don’t have the bandwidth and reliability needed to enable the new retail experience – an issue compounded by this new wave of tech investment. To take full advantage of the technology available, retailers will need to reimagine their network to gain new levels of performance, capacity, and reliability.

Reimagine your retail network

New imperatives for retail networking

Leveraging cloud applications for stores and distribution centers is an essential starting point for delivering valuable data that is both real-time and uniform across all stores and applications. Beyond this basic requirement, retail networks need to be simple, fast, agile, reliable, and secure.

  • Simple. Managing disparate networks and traditional phone lines is both complex and costly – and unnecessary given today’s technology. A simple, unified environment across the enterprise speeds the ability to update capabilities as new and enhanced technologies come to market. Retailers that enlist a network partner to proactively help manage their network, further benefit by allowing their resources to be focused on key value drivers and growth-oriented initiatives.
  • Fast. Giving customers and employees new apps and systems that run at a sluggish pace is a surefire recipe for frustration. Seamless bandwidth and instant connectivity are must-haves.
  • Agile. Centralized network management and real-time application prioritization ensures solid performance, reduces store-level IT requirements, and speeds the turn-up of new sites and capabilities. Empowering retailers with the visibility to see the performance of their applications in real time enables the flexibility to choose the best connection and bandwidth allocation for each application, ensuring optimal performance.
  • Reliable. Rapidly adding digital technologies can quickly strain bandwidth, and outages of any kind, can grind business to a screeching halt. Retail networks must deliver steady connectivity to ensure business runs smoothly and accommodates both near-term and future technology additions.
  • Secure. When the store converges with the digital world, the network becomes a lifeline and the data it carries, treasure to be guarded. Retailers must protect and prevent damage to their most valuable assets, and isolate and respond to network threats the instant they appear.

Added bonus: Implementing an advanced network can significantly reduce operational costs, creating a strong business case for an upgrade. It does not take a strong imagination to see how a solid network foundation will accelerate business and position retailers for any applications the future may hold in store.

Learn more at NRF

To further explore the retail network of the future, be sure to visit booth 4609 at NRF 2019. Experts from Windstream Enterprise and retail consulting firm BRP Consulting will be on hand to answer questions regarding your specific needs and best options for satisfying them – the real starting point toward reimagining your network for the new competitive landscape of retail.

SD-WAN: 1,000 Enterprise Deployments and Counting

August 28th, 2018 by

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over a year since Windstream Enterprise fully launched its software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) solution. We have seen remarkable growth since our launch last July and were pleased to end 2017 with more than 500 enterprise customers at our six-month mark.

As I sit here now, roughly over six months after reaching that milestone, the number of customers adopting SD-WAN has more than doubled again – Windstream Enterprise today leads the market with more than 1,000 SD-WAN customers.

There are multiple factors that play into this success, but the clear common denominator is the talent and commitment of our team. Enabling a new service to scale at this pace is no small feat. Our sales teams are leaning in and helping customers understand the value. Our service delivery teams are constantly challenging themselves to do things better, faster and with high-quality results, fewer manual touchpoints and more automation, while still providing the agility that our customers and the market require. Our IT and product development teams have championed DevOps and agile methodologies to allow us to rapidly deploy new features and functionality (internally and externally) at a cadence that is completely unfamiliar to most traditional network service providers (aka many of our competitors). Our architecture and product teams are always looking around the corners and out into the future to understand and anticipate customer needs and further differentiate our solution from the competition.

A doubling of a business every six months does not happen without some growing pains along the way. The measure of an organization is in how you respond. We aim to respond with accountability, agility and an appetite to invest as needed to drive continuous improvement.

Windstream Enterprise SD-WAN achieves 1,000-customer milestone

The fact that so many have embraced this new solution means their homework convinced them of the fundamental gains to be made by making the switch. If you’re in the “still cautious” mode, consider the core advantages SD-WAN offers, as explained in our original product announcement – the benefits we promised then still ring true for more than 1,000 customers and growing:

  • Simplified network management. By converging voice, data and video applications on the same IP backbone, customers can use existing hardware and available access types to connect locations—reducing capital investment, lowering provisioning time and simplifying technology migration. There are no manual switches to engage or monitor, and automatic updates and upgrades protect against downtime or business interruptions.
  • Increased efficiency and resiliency. Business policies dynamically prioritize and de-prioritize traffic, making better use of available bandwidth to enhance performance and overall user experience. While dual active links provide redundant and/or diverse connections at each site, increasing network resiliency.
  • The ability to scale easily. Standardized low-touch provisioning allows Windstream Enterprise SD-WAN to scale quickly and seamlessly to accommodate new sites with easily activated circuits.
  • Keeping critical data safe. A secure, abstracted overlay creates a virtual private network on top of existing connection points. All network traffic is encrypted, for security in a borderless environment.

If your enterprise is still on the fence, you should take a very serious look at SD-WAN today. There’s an excellent chance you’ll be using it in the coming years if you aren’t already and realizing SD-WAN’s benefits sooner rather than later makes tremendous economic and operational sense – as 1,000-plus and growing, Windstream Enterprise customers can testify.

Leaving the Traditional Network WANosaurus Behind with SD-WAN

August 1st, 2017 by

Let’s get this straight. There’s a reason dinosaurs are extinct. Scientists don’t all agree why, but the fact remains; they ruled for a long time, and now they’re gone. IT people can relate to this, since tech works in a similar, but more accelerated, cyclical fashion. In fact, it’s happening now in enterprise networking, with SD-WAN. After a 15 year hiatus, during which MPLS ruled the Earth, a new cycle of network innovation is dawning. The days of the traditional WANosaurus – networks designed for a different kind of enterprise computing environment – are numbered. The era of agile, reliable, cost effective SD-WAN is here.

Goodbye WANosaurus, hello SD-WAN

Don’t get the wrong impression. Before SD-WAN, traditional MPLS was central to my professional life (I helped launch one of the very first services). But that was an eternity ago in Internet years. Look what’s happened since; Facebook, Google, Amazon, smartphones, Uber, the cloud and XaaS… Today is a very different day; the current environment demands a combination of performance, reliability, availability, agility, affordability and security that the once mighty WANosaurus just wasn’t made for.

Networks designed for the cloud and the customer experience

The biggest challenge for current networks is the cloud. As application traffic continues to shift away from the datacenter, traditional connectivity becomes grossly inefficient. Accessing SaaS apps and services from branch locations through the datacenter creates a performance bottleneck, dragging the customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) down with it. And adding skinny T1 bandwidth to address the resulting challenges is not an affordable option.

SD-WAN provides the first alternative to solve that, while still providing the level of security the enterprise demands. Along with a host of additional benefits that make the enterprise more competitive, responsive to customer need, collaborative, productive and agile, super-charging innovation and growth.

Key Priorities Driving Interest in SD-WAN

SD-WAN Key Priorities

Q: Which of the following attributes are most important when considering an SD-WAN solution for branch connectivity? (Rank #1) Source: IDC’s U.S. Enterprise Communications Survey, March 2017; base: 772 respondents who indicated organizational plans to migrate existing WAN connections to SD-WAN within two years

An evolutionary, hybrid path to IT and business transformation

While new tech occasionally comes to market with revolutionary velocity, more often, evolution is the order of the day. Even cloud migration, the primary driver fueling SD-WAN, has been an evolution nearly two decades in the making. Many cite the 1999 launch of Salesforce as the catalyst; some trace it back further than that. The reality is, everyone will need to chart their own transformational path to SD-WAN based on current need, future roadmap, legacy infrastructure, etc.

SD-WAN is ideally for this since it can be integrated in as many or few locations as desired. This is a great for hybrid environments – hybrid IT, hybrid networks, hybrid cloud, hybrid support, etc. – where a phased approach will make the most sense and where needs may be more pronounced in some locations than others.

Wanosaurus

Evaluating SD-WAN options: fully-managed vs. Do it Yourself (DIY)

Regardless of your path, the time to start is now. While DIY may have made sense in the past, SD-WAN requires expertise that makes a trusted network service provider a good option. Look for strong knowledge of SD-WAN and a range of professional services to help assess needs and design the best network configuration. A fully-managed solution is also becoming popular, especially among those who did an initial DIY install and realized a partner may be easier for phase two. For example, Windstream’s risk free 30 day SD-WAN Concierge trial offers a first-hand look at how SD-WAN can evolve an aging WANosaurus.

Whatever your choice, I’d recommend moving fast. While evolution does take time, in today’s customer experience focused, anytime, anywhere world, the once venerable WANosaurus won’t be able to cut it for much longer.