Delivering an Enterprise Network to an Enterprise Company
When clients ask me why they should invest in their network infrastructure, I tell them this: You can have the shiniest new Ferrari, but it's not much use without a road to drive it on. A network is that road for business. Even the most bare-bones office setup needs a strong network that serves as a base for powerful applications to sit and data to move from place to place, especially in the world of hybrid work.
We are , an IT services provider based in Toronto, Canada, and we encounter clients questioning network infrastructure investments all the time. Synnapex offers services ranging from networking, collaboration, and security to contract management, wireless, and IT management. Our team of experts serves large enterprises in every industry all over the world, executing more than 100 projects per year. I came to Synnapex as a Solutions Engineer, and I recently began the transition into account management.
Several years ago, Synnapex improved that critical road for one of our clients, a major Canadian transportation company, Titanium Transport. In doing so, we prematurely prepared them for the future of hybrid work, and we paved the way for the company's expansion.
How an Upgrade Became an Overhaul
In 2015, one of our clients, Titanium Transportation, reached out to us about wanting to replace their legacy PBX system. Titanium is a leading transportation company in North America and is on an aggressive growth path, ranked by Canadian Business as one of Canada's fastest-growing companies for 12 consecutive years. They were getting ready to go to IPO, and wanted an enterprise collaboration solution that could scale with them as they grew.
Our CEO, Yoon-Soon Kim, has a relationship with Titanium's CEO, so he reached out about their request and suggested taking a step back. Could the current network even support a new collaboration solution?
In short, the answer was no. Titanium was running quite a few transportation tracking applications on their infrastructure, which was bandaged together. We see this with many of our clients—every time they add a new application, it requires them to add a new server. From a design perspective, the quality of the enterprise solution doesn't matter. If the network can't support it, you will have a bad experience.
What we had was an enterprise company without an enterprise infrastructure. We have worked with other transportation customers and seen that Titanium's bigger competitors in North America all have enterprise solutions in place. For Titanium to remain competitive, they needed to redesign their entire network to support more robust solutions.
For Our Clients, the Benefits of an End-To-End Solution Are Clear
Titanium's CEO understood that an investment in the network was necessary to take the company to the next level. We designed an end-to-end Cisco solution, including network infrastructure, wireless, compute, edge security, and collaboration.
Some people might think that going all-in on a single vendor is risky, but consider the alternative. Designing an infrastructure from scratch, you have the freedom to choose switches from one company, firewalls from another, and servers from a third. But there's a lot of overhead that gets reduced by going to a single vendor like Cisco that can create an end-to-end solution. Who do you call if you work with multiple vendors and something goes wrong? Everyone's busy, and having a single vendor means there's only one call to make when an issue arises. An end-to-end solution is also easier for small IT teams to manage. Company technicians only have to know one language, making for a smaller learning curve when onboarding new people.
We're a long-term Cisco partner, and we work with Cisco because it's a widely known, industry-leading company. We know they will be around for the long haul, and they will always have high-quality solutions available as a company grows and its needs change.
This reliability and longevity also make it easy for our clients to switch to another Cisco partner if they feel they are not getting the most out of our services. That keeps us at the top of our game because we know we have to provide the best possible service to continue to earn our clients' business.
We put three technical leaders on this project and followed the Cisco methodology for a phased implementation across Titanium's five locations. We started with the smaller sites and went through them one by one, working with an MPLS provider to connect all the offices at the edge. It was easy in the sense that we were ripping everything out and replacing it with an entirely new infrastructure. But Titanium was also moving their head office at the time, and their new office had some construction delays, so there were a lot of moving pieces. But by the time the head office was ready, everything was already configured, so one sleepless weekend later, we completed the move.
For compute, we relied on Cisco UCS Blade servers: the Cisco UCS C-series at the Bracebridge office, and the Cisco UCS Mini with Nimble storage at the Bolton headquarters. We also had to do wireless networking for their warehouse, which is a little different from an office-based wireless network. We had 43-foot ceilings and had to get creative to ensure the coverage was good for their scan guns in the warehouse.
In addition, we implemented outdoor wireless using ruggedized network equipment installed on light posts. Outdoor wireless enables them to know where their trucks are on the lot and ensure the software on the trucks stays updated. In this way, Cisco supports the customer's requirements down to the most rudimentary operations of the transportation industry.
A Resilient Network That Allows for Easy Acquisitions
The best feeling of accomplishment for a company like ours is when we see customers using the same solution we implemented many years before. A testament to the network's success, Titanium is still using the solutions we implemented in 2015. The network core is the same, which speaks to the longevity of Cisco products. It tells me we put the right solution in place. The resiliency of the solution means that Titanium can continue to scale.
Titanium's growth is very aggressive: they made 12 asset-based trucking acquisitions in the past decade, and they continue to acquire small transportation companies all over North America. During an acquisition, the biggest challenge for technical teams is determining how to merge new environments. Titanium's new enterprise networking solution supports that. Each new office uses the same design and incorporates more recent hardware. This approach enables them to get up and running much faster than before.
A New World of Hybrid Work
No one could have foreseen how the changes to Titanium's infrastructure would set it up well for more hybrid work setups during a pandemic. Titanium employees could work from home because the edge security supported VPN connectivity to the office—and that was true back in 2015!
The reality is that more and more of our lives are moving to the cloud, so it makes sense that businesses are following suit and making adjustments based on everything from resources to geography. If a company grows to include multiple locations, where do they put an on-prem solution? Do the servers stay at headquarters? Should they be installed everywhere? When you start asking yourself those questions as a customer, it’s time to evaluate the situation and decide what's the most efficient and cost effective.
It's hard to predict, but there's a very natural process of clients moving more of their business workloads to the cloud. The cloud offers many benefits:
- It lifts the burden of managing hardware off the technical team's shoulders
- It can be managed and supported remotely
- It supports a workforce spread over many locations
- It shifts the business from a CapEx model to an OpEx model, removing the upfront expenditure
Many of our clients are making this transition, not necessarily with a "cloud-only" mentality, but a "cloud-first" one. It could be as simple as moving a massive application like email to the cloud and going from there.
And guess what? With Cisco, they don't have to change anything in their infrastructure. Wherever a company is on the cloud spectrum, we continue to turn to Cisco to meet the client's needs. Cisco offers a solid foundation that's scalable, resilient, and redundant, with the flexibility to become an end-to-end solution if a company chooses. The infrastructure can support layers upon layers of services, whether it be security or collaboration, with layers of applications and workloads on top of that. And it can all be updated or migrated to the cloud with ease and confidence.
Titanium's original network held them back from their future of expansion. But their overhaul enabled them to grow and stay competitive. Every company has different needs, but the companies that succeed have the foresight to choose the infrastructure that moves them forward, whether in the cloud or on-prem.