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EarthLink SD-WAN helps Dunn-Edwards Paints connect with customers

When Dunn-Edwards Paints decided to explore software-defined WAN, they looked to their service provider, EarthLink. The latter's new managed SD-WAN service was a hit.

A few years ago, Dunn-Edwards Corp. -- a paint manufacturer, distributor and retailer based in Los Angeles -- found its existing MPLS wide area network connections were failing to meet growing bandwidth demand. So when Dunn-Edwards' service provider decided to pilot a new software-defined WAN service using technology from startup VeloCloud, the paint company volunteered.

We spoke with Dunn-Edwards' Phoenix-based manager of infrastructure services, Pete Garcia, to learn more about his team's experience with the EarthLink SD-WAN service.

Editor's note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Why did Dunn-Edwards decide to deploy the EarthLink SD-WAN service?

Pete Garcia: In the last three years or so, the branch offices have been coming to us and saying, 'Hey, we'd like more bandwidth in the stores' -- for everything from a guest network to better connectivity for our in-store paint advisors, who work in real time with contractors and retail customers.

Pete Garcia, manager of infrastructure services, Dunn-Edwards Corp.Pete Garcia

Gartner was putting out material on SD-WAN at the time, and we decided that was the direction we wanted to go. Then EarthLink came to us and said, 'We're looking for someone to pilot SD-WAN.' We had some success stories with EarthLink already, which made it pretty easy to say, 'Hey, let's do this.'

Can you tell us more about the growing bandwidth demand at your retail locations?

Garcia: Our field sales representatives were going into the stores more frequently. The T1 connectivity was good enough to meet the stores' point of sale and SAP demands, but once we started seeing more of our sales team hooking up their equipment, we experienced bandwidth constraints.

We also have professional paint advisors at our stores. So you can come in and say, 'I want to paint a brick wall on my property -- how do I prepare it?' We have instructional content on YouTube, but with the T1 connection alone, you can't really sit with a customer and show them the resources we have online. So the additional bandwidth allows the paint advisor to work more freely with that customer.

The feedback from the stores has been, 'This is great; what took you so long?'

We also wanted to put up a guest network. And finally, at larger stores, we wanted redundancy to make sure they do not go down.

What benefits are you seeing with the EarthLink SD-WAN service?

Garcia: We've been able to get better reporting, with diagrams that show how both circuits are doing and the quality of a given store's connectivity experience, on a scale from one to 10. So if I have any problems at that store, I can address it.

The feedback from the stores has been, 'This is great; what took you so long?' They're able to do things now in a smoother way; their application response time is much faster. So I've seen a lot of satisfaction among my customers -- which are the stores and their customers.

Would you consider ditching MPLS connectivity entirely?

Garcia: In stores where we see the internet circuit is performing at a level we feel comfortable with, we will ditch the T1 and bring in a DSL or some other kind of internet circuit. This has gone well enough for us that we are opening a new store in Anaheim Hills, Calif., and that store is going to open with two internet circuits. This is the first time that we will do that, but we are comfortable enough now with the technology that that is going to be our deployment method.

What did the initial deployment of the EarthLink SD-WAN service look like?

Garcia: Here's where I think we went right: My team was able to take a look at the quality of service that we wanted and the prioritization of our traffic and communicated that to EarthLink. So together we made a plan for the first three stores. The first deployment went well because everybody was there -- the Dunn-Edwards and EarthLink teams -- but it made us realize that we needed to make some changes in the second deployment. By the third store, EarthLink was deploying everything on [its] own.

We put the time in upfront to determine what we were doing, which I think was what made all the deployments that we've done successful, even when Dunn-Edwards' IT team was not on site. When we migrated a store, it literally was a matter of minutes. You bring in the new equipment; you test it out with the internet; EarthLink comes in and downloads the code. Then it's just a matter of unplugging cables. We did that during the day, and the downtime to the store was roughly two to three minutes.

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