How SD-WAN turned Blue Illusion’s digital ambitions into reality

“Digital transformation forms a major imperative for all retailers today,” says Sud Patel, IT Manager of Blue Illusion. “But it can only succeed when all the fundamentals of infrastructure and technology get along well with one another.”

Achieving that level of harmony, however, had proven difficult for the Australian fashion and homeware label, which manages 127 stores across Australia, New Zealand, and North America – as well as a Facebook community of more than 50,000 fans. “We had struggled to manage the often-differing approaches of our IT service providers in the past,” says Patel, “something which didn’t bode well for any large-scale transformation project.”

Patel’s initial objective was a relatively simple one: replace Blue Illusion’s phone system with a Voice-over-IP (VoIP)-ready network. However, none of the vendors that Patel initially approached – including two major telcos – could commit to the retailer’s network and quality-of-service needs.

“The other vendors couldn’t back their SLAs,” Patel explains. “NTT was transparent in saying that it they couldn’t provide a solution with sufficiently robust SLAs, they wouldn’t bid on it in the first place.”

Blue Illusion’s digital makeover

Blue Illusion’s digital transformation plans extended far beyond just VoIP, including greater emphasis on nationwide digital marketing campaigns and adoption of cloud-based productivity tools. When NTT ICT learned of this long-term agenda, its network experts proposed a relatively new solution: SD-WAN architecture.

“We could’ve met Blue Illusion’s immediate requirements with our Hosted Voice (SIP Voice) solution, but that wouldn’t have helped them achieve their digital transformation goals in the long run,” says Tarquin Bellinger, Chief Operating Officer, NTT Communications ICT Solutions. “With SD-WAN, they’d be able to get far more bandwidth and flexibility than with standard DSL without breaking their budget.”

NTT ICT’s SD-WAN solution combined a DSL base layer with a 4G overlay, meaning Blue Illusion could quickly and easily access extra bandwidth whenever any of its retail outlets across Australia required it. Few other retailers in the world, let alone Australia, had taken up SD-WAN to power their online growth – but Blue Illusion quickly recognised the opportunities of being one of the first movers in the market.

“After doing our own research, we found strong precedent for such solutions in other retail markets: GAP, for example, had already deployed over 1500 sites using SD-WAN,” said Patel, who had already worked with NTT ICT to successfully revamp areas of Blue Illusion’s ERP and network management. “We were quite happy to be the first to pilot this sort of SD-WAN solution in Australia with NTT ICT by our side.”

Foundation for the future

Once completed, the SD-WAN solution should give Blue Illusion’s retail stores higher speeds, greater redundancy, and the power to run more digital initiatives deployed by the retailer’s head office. The SD-WAN will also form the foundation of several other initiatives, including greater use of pop-up stores and the company-wide roll-out of SaaS productivity tools like MS Office 365.

“The SD-WAN solution makes us much more agile than we used to be,” says Patel. “4G redundancy at stores means there’s no downtime on our VoIP services – if there’s contention on the DSL circuit, the SD-WAN uses 4G concurrently to route the priority VoIP traffic. The solution has helped us future-proof the business with much greater flexibility, both from the SD-WAN technology and NTT’s service itself.”

“Successful digital transformations require a long-term view of network infrastructure and capacity, particularly for retail where consumer demand can grow and vary massively over time,” said Bellinger. “By taking up SD-WAN ahead of the rest of the market, Blue Illusion’s given itself a head start in achieving that long-term growth and competitive edge.”

“Other retailers can learn from this by asking themselves: which channels will give our business the most growth in the coming years, and how effectively can our network support growth and complexity in those channels? For some of them, SD-WAN may prove to be the best foundation for digital transformation in an increasingly fast-paced, competitive global retail environment.”

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Added 12 June 2017

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