The key objective for Bilfinger's SD-WAN implementation was to add new connections quickly while improving control. After having looked at the functionalities and capabilities of a small number of SD-WAN vendors, they soon found VMWare SD-WAN to be the most mature and complete solution. Bilfinger would then team up with Expereo - VMWare's SD-WAN partner, who conducted an SD-WAN Proof of Concept based on VMWare SD-WAN for them.
Bilfinger’s wide area network
Anton Hooijdonk is Senior Systems Engineer at Bilfinger Industrial Services. He is responsible for implementing and managing core network and system components and advises on future expansions and implementations of ICT systems.
Anton Hooijdonk: “We have nine branches, and for large clients in the chemical, oil & gas, food, energy, and steel industry, we operate from a facility on their sites, which means we have people working on dozens of customer locations. One of the strengths of Bilfinger Industrial Services is that we can act very fast. We have to be able to have people working at every location in the Benelux – including all necessary IT – within two days from receiving an order from our clients.
This also means we need to be able to have a full-functioning WAN connection up and running within this timeframe. Increasingly we work on locations where our telco could not deliver the required connectivity in time, for example, newly built locations or industrial areas. For these locations, we can use a 4G mobile network as the carrier, but on top of that, we need a stable and secure connection.”
Key objective for the SD-WAN implementation was to add new connections quickly while improving control.
For Bilfinger, innovation and digitization are important drivers for improved efficiency. Digitization of business processes, smart apps, big data, and sharing of information with clients has also helped the organization differentiate itself from its competitors.
Anton Hooijdonk: “There are a number of things we wanted to achieve for Bilfinger with this VMWare SD-WAN implementation. Our primary objectives were to add new connections quickly and improve control through centralized management of our WAN.
Another driver was that we didn’t want to be dependent on our telco partner anymore; we wanted to have the ability to ‘mix and match’ providers and connection protocols, ranging from MPLS to ADSL and 4G. We also established increased availability and stability through redundant connections on every location, for example, an ADSL connection with 4G as a backup. I must say: Expereo and VMWare SD-WAN helped us achieved all we wanted and more.”
SD-WAN, Expereo and VMWare SD-WAN
Anton Hooijdonk researched possible solutions and soon concluded that Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN) technologies would satisfy this need for Bilfinger. “I have looked at the functionalities and capabilities of a small number of SD-WAN vendors, but soon found VMWare SD-WAN to be the most mature and complete solution. We teamed with VMWare SD-WAN partner Expereo, who conducted an SD-WAN Proof of Concept based on VMWare SD-WAN for us.
The PoC really convinced us of VMWare SD-WAN so we decided to implement it throughout our wide-area infrastructure,” Anton says.
Benefits for both end-users & the IT team
As a result of the SD-WAN implementation, Bilfinger Industrial Services has experienced various business and technical benefits. The stability of connections has significantly improved in all locations where we implemented VMWare SD-WAN. Furthermore, the speed and user experience have increased.
Anton Hooijdonk: “Our users are happy with the new situation, which is great. But we also see clear benefits from an IT perspective. Our own employees work via Citrix, which is highly efficient in terms of network traffic. But some of our partners for temporary workers use their own IT systems over our lines. We had no insight into that traffic, but with our VMWare SD-WAN solution, we have full network visibility – meaning we can now more effectively manage application traffic and performance.
Another significant advantage is the ability to centrally manage the whole WAN. A good example: we recently had to upgrade 23 routers, which used to be a relatively big project with onsite visits. Besides the necessary preparations, the actual upgrade now took us no longer than 15 minutes!
Also, we save a lot of time on onsite work such as printer configuration: we can do it all remotely now, which is a great efficiency improvement for our small IT team.
We still use the configuration developed by Expereo for the PoC; an excellent example of the quality Expereo stands for. When we deploy a new appliance, the configuration is loaded, and as soon as it is connected to the internet, our secure connection is live.”
The experiences with Expereo and VMWare SD-WAN
Anton Hooijdonk: “I don’t exaggerate if I say VMWare SD-WAN makes me, and my team, very happy and enthusiastic. The software is straightforward to configure through a simple and intuitive web user interface. In addition to that, VMWare SD-WAN offers all the tools we need for troubleshooting.
The same goes for Expereo. Their team helped us prove VMWare SD-WAN was the right solution for Bilfinger Industrial Services and can also provide us with new VMWare SD-WAN appliances if we need additional capacity, which we can configure and implement ourselves. Expereo team is always flexible and available to support us anytime.”
Bilfinger Industrial Services is the industrial benchmark for projects and maintenance on industrial assets.
With over 60 years’ experience, Bilfinger industrial services are delivering either integrated or as separate disciplines: isolation, scaffolding, rope access, conservation, tracing, asbestos removal, fire protection and noise control. In Belgium and the Netherlands, Bilfinger Industrial Services employs approximately 1,300 employees. On top of that, up to 1,200 people are subcontracted. The company is part of the German publicly traded industrial concern Bilfinger SE.