The Challenge: Build a Global and Affordable Network for all Locations
Global networks often pose unique challenges. International MPLS connections cost far more than regional or local ones. Distances are great, so the Internet is often too unpredictable. Sites might be situated in remote geographies making basic connectivity hard to find. All of which was the case for Innovex Downhole Solutions.
The company was formed in 2016 from the union of three industry leaders in well construction and completion products—Team Oil Tools, Antelope Oil Tool & Manufacturing, and Isolation Technologies. That merger left the three-person IT team with an assortment of locations across North America and one in Saudi Arabia. Some sites relied on Internet-based VPNs, others on MPLS.
Extending MPLS to all locations was the logical choice, of course. Nine sites were already connected by a managed MPLS service. But the provider was going to charge “about three times more” to onboard the other 16 locations, says Don Williams, Corporate IT Director at Innovex.
He knew he needed another solution.
The Right Selection Criteria for SD-WAN
Williams had been able to push security management onto his MPLS provider. He wanted the same approach with his MPLS replacement. The provider of his MPLS alternative, which he assumed would be an SD-WAN solution, needed to have security built-in, namely NGFW and IPS. The solution also had to be cost-effective, reliable, and fast to deploy.
“We wanted something that could be rolled out in hours and days not weeks and months,” he says, “On this, we were tired of dealing with big telecom.”
But the solution would also have to be manageable. “We wanted the ability to see the environment with a click-of-a-button and without deploying a lot of hardware infrastructure,” he says.
Innovex Evaluates Alternative SD-WAN Solutions
Before he landed on Cato, Williams and his team evaluated various SD-WAN solutions. He considered a different global, independent backbone provider. But the company’s solution lacked the necessary security and proved far more expensive than Cato. “They were about three-to-four times the cost of Cato,” he says.
As for appliances, a well-known-leader-in-routing-and-networking-equipment quoted him an SD-WAN and security appliance-based solution that over its lifecycle would have cost five- to six-times more than Cato. “It’s like a printer vendor,” he says. “They discount the hardware but then get you on the maintenance — and the maintenance never ends.”
He also didn’t like the cross-domain vendor lock-in. “I was told that I’d have to upgrade my networking equipment in order to use my VoIP phone,” he says, “I would never tie myself to a vendor in that way.”
An SD-WAN appliance vendor with built-in WAN optimization lacked the necessary security services. “They didn’t have a complete solution to our problem. Web monitoring and Web filtering meant having to integrate third-party tools,” he says. “I wanted one solution that I could plug-in and send to a branch.”
The convergence of functions makes an enormous difference, particularly when looking at branch offices. “When you integrate with third-party tools, you find vendors often get into a finger pointing contest when something goes wrong. I wanted to avoid all of that.”
Eventually, he tried implementing an SD-WAN appliance. “They claimed to do all the stuff Cato could do, but after two-and-a-half months of going back to their programmers they were unable to get a meshed network to work,” he says. He decided to reach out to Cato.
Innovex Selects Cato Cloud
Williams had bumped into Cato at an event earlier in his evaluation process. “When we first heard the value proposition we thought, ‘This is too simple we’re missing something,’” says Williams. “My network engineer and I kept wondering how can we get so much more for so much less?”
Now, frustrated by the deployment and in a time crunch, he e-mailed Cato. “We require immediate shipment and configuration of 25 devices for 24 locations with 2 being in the Data Center for an HA configuration,” he wrote. “As if that wasn’t tight enough, I also asked to have three devices overnighted for testing,” he says.
He sent the email on Sunday. On Tuesday three devices were received at his office. He used his existing Internet connections and plugged in the Cato Sockets, Cato’s zero-touch, SD-WAN devices. “Within 30 minutes we got the boxes up and running. “We were like ‘These guys get it.’”
Since deploying Cato, Williams says his team spends far less time worrying about his network.
“We are literally not spending hours/days to get this thing to work,” he says. “I’ve never done that with any other vendor.”
With many users working in the field, Williams and his team also looked at Cato’s mobile access optimization strategy. “The cherry on top was Cato’s VPN solution. It was the coolest technology I’ve seen,” he says. “In less than 10 minutes we were connected through a VPN on the device.”
“I can go to the Cato console and push the mobile client to the user. We don’t have to remote control into their device to set things up. It just works. I can’t do that with any technology I’ve seen,” he says.
Saving Hours and Connecting Locations with Cato
Today, Williams has all of his locations connected to Cato Cloud, using local Internet access, as well as his mobile users. Despite moving off of MPLS and onto Cato Cloud, Williams continues to be impressed.
“Your technology stack is saving us many man-hours and real money as compared to the other solutions we have evaluated or used in the past.”