Greater Visibility and Simplicity That Closes the Gaps Between IT Teams and Delivers Better Service
The energy sector is changing fast. Residential and business customers are increasingly mindful of the price, source, and environmental impact of their power. Utilities must adapt to these concerns and rethink their internal processes to deliver the value-added services that today’s informed consumers expect.
But as the scope and scale of these services grow, so does the complexity of the underlying network. An expanding network opens the possibility of security risks and blind spots. One way to overcome this is to retool IT infrastructure to take advantage of the latest cloud-forward, performance-enhancing features. This is how we approached the problem at , a leading European electrical, heating and plumbing, ventilation and climate, and energy sourcing and services company headquartered in Denmark.
Solar is currently in the middle of a multi-year project to modernize our infrastructure, moving away from a traditional data center and network in favor of a service- and application-based trajectory. Instead of approaching IT in terms of power and capacity, we are looking at ways to support our business by leveraging technology to speed up our applications, streamline our group service desk, improve security and visibility of our infrastructure, and improve customer connections.
How Simplifying Management Unified Our Teams
I’ve been with Solar since 2016 and currently work as a network administrator overseeing network design, documentation, security, our cloud and wireless infrastructure, and the evolution of our data center. Shortly after I started at Solar, I tackled my first hurdle: Our Cisco hardware was completely out of date.
Some of our switches were 15 years old and well past their end of life. I took this information to our CFO, and he recognized an opportunity to modernize and optimize our network. He asked whether we could reduce complexity by consolidating network devices. It was an exciting puzzle, figuring out whether we could replace 15 pieces of equipment with one or two. I presented a plan, and he authorized the purchase of 500 .
We didn’t stop there. Solar adopted , making us one of the first customers in Europe to embrace the new network management solution. It was a big achievement, but we wanted to go a step further for our three service desk teams. That’s why we adopted cloud monitoring for Cisco Catalyst switches.
Cloud monitoring for Cisco Catalyst switches makes life even easier for our service desk teams. A 10-minute proof of concept convinced our group service desk manager it was the right choice. Cloud monitoring for Cisco catalyst switches provides an integrated view of our Catalyst switches in the , giving them a single-pane-of-glass solution for our level one and level two support teams. With cloud monitoring, they’ve gained visibility into switch statistics and configuration, and improved troubleshooting capabilities. It's transformed how we deliver support to end users. Instead of going through multiple screens and using five or six applications, they can find the information they need in one or two clicks. We now close tickets that used to take hours in 10–15 minutes. This is a time savings of more than 10%.
Although Cisco Meraki is an excellent tool for our tier one and two service desk people, my network team loves Cisco DNA Center for tier three and four support, deep dives into our infrastructure, and provisioning our network. Again, our primary consideration is ease of use, and we take far fewer steps and spend far less time configuring and troubleshooting our network. We rely on the dashboard to administer our infrastructure and as a result, we’ve become more agile, increasing efficiency and improving our ability to share information with our group service desk teams.
Before adopting Cisco DNA Center, my network team spent most of its time supporting our internal needs. Now, we’ve found a solution to support the group service desk, creating a comfort zone where both departments can cooperate to resolve complex technical issues for end users while approaching them from different angles. By changing our infrastructure, we’ve changed our behaviors to operate more as one team. As a result of this cooperation, our front-line support workers better understand how our network functions without having to learn the intricacies of deploying and architecting it. Since we are not spending as much time supporting the group service desk, we are now able to take on more strategic and complex challenges for the business.
Better Visibility and Monitoring Help Us Achieve Our Sustainability Goals
In early 2022, Solar started transitioning our network, migrating the Catalyst switches at our 104 locations to Cisco Meraki Dashboard because we loved the simplicity of our deployment and management. We have moved two-thirds of these switches to the Meraki cloud and will have completed the process by early spring 2023. This will empower my team to better monitor, secure, and optimize our worldwide network while improving the user experience for our international teams.
Our customers ask us to provide green energy and cost-effective power. Upgrading the Cisco platform to the latest models helped us reduce our energy consumption and the number of devices we use, impacting our carbon footprint. Because we have greater infrastructure visibility through cloud monitoring for Cisco Catalyst switching and DNA Center, we can use this data to optimize future upgrades, purchasing only the capacity we need and scaling as we grow to avoid wasting energy. This is a big deal to Solar—we are also using hybrid on-prem and cloud solutions to reduce electricity and cooling costs, and our headquarters will run on renewable energy and be 100% self-sufficient by the end of 2024.
As Solar continues to modernize our infrastructure, we are moving more of our core apps and data to the cloud—although we still rely on some on-prem applications, too. We are heavily invested in Microsoft Azure and use Microsoft 365 and Webex as our productivity and collaboration tools. Cloud monitoring for Catalyst switches and Cisco DNA Center have increased visibility into our on-prem infrastructure and the public cloud, allowing us to monitor applications inside and outside our network perimeter. We are no longer in the dark. When we encounter an issue, we can discern its origin and correct it ourselves or open a ticket with the appropriate service provider.
Paving the Way for Other Companies
I was recently at a Cisco seminar, and the presenter asked the audience if anyone was using the Cisco cloud monitoring features. I was the only one who raised my hand and said, “We are.”
That admission started a great discussion about the success we’ve seen so far. I got to share some of the insights we’ve seen from within our IT department with some big Danish companies. I talked about giving our group service desk access to Meraki to simplify troubleshooting and how Cisco DNA Center had made my network team more agile. I also encouraged other companies to start conversations between their IT people and other departments, and open their minds to collaboration and bridging the gaps between their teams. I also pointed out that Cisco offered ready-made solutions to monitor on-prem and cloud infrastructure, so they wouldn’t have to build these tools in-house.
Solar is one of the first companies in Denmark to embrace a service- and application-based IT trajectory. We hope to inspire other businesses here and abroad to do the same. We couldn’t have done this on our own. Cisco is an industry leader and the engine behind the IT solutions that have allowed us to rethink and retool our infrastructure to better support our people and gain full visibility into our applications and our network.