Digital transformation is not just about lowering costs and increasing productivity, in Philips case it is about improving the health of people worldwide. Philips is a company spread across 100 countries with over 77,000 employees. Their goal is to make the world healthier and more sustainable through innovation, with a specific corporate goal to improve the lives of 3 billion people a year by 2030. As part of this goal they will strive to improve access to care in underserved communities for 400 million people a year by 2030.
Over the years, Philip’s portfolio has evolved to focus on well-being and healthcare needs offering services ranging across personal health, connected care, diagnosis and treatment. Most of these modern healthcare services require reliable and scalable network connectivity to function. To deliver these types of services the traditional wide area network simply will not scale and is too costly and inefficient. The network needs to be transformed.
Re-thinking the network
Philips’ networking costs were increasing dramatically every year, so they knew that to accommodate this capacity increase with the same or lower budget they had to re-think their network. This coupled with the connectivity requirements to deliver their new healthcare service offerings necessitated a transformation in their network.
The Philips team had already witnessed the scaling benefits of the move to cloud-based technology. Can they replicate these same scaling benefits across their global wide area network? It was around 2017 when the concept of “software-defined WANs” started to mature and provided an opportunity for Philips to examine this technology more closely.
Philips knew that with an SD-WAN, an automated solution with centralized policy management can be leveraged to provide application flow-based routing control. This could allow them to program application flows across less expensive Internet broadband WAN links to mitigate the exclusive use of their high quality MPLS links. Also, with an SD-WAN architecture they could move from their existing latency-inducing “hub and spoke” architecture to a more efficient meshed network architecture.
With SD-WAN in mind, Philips formulated some lofty goals that they wanted to achieve: 45% cost reduction, 80% latency improvement, 200% bandwidth increase. When Philips deployed SD-WAN, they exceeded their cost goal. For example, in 2019 Philips’ WAN transport cost reduction was measured at 50%. This cost included the cost of transition and included a deployment that doubled their bandwidth at each site. Philips selected BT’s Agile Connect SD-WAN service empowered by Nuage Networks from Nokia’s SD-WAN technology to drive these benefits.
Philips has learned a lot from their journey of deploying SD-WAN, including:
- The benefits of SD-WAN deployment are heavily dependent upon the access mix and the underlay quality
- MPLS is still needed to provide deterministic performance to mission critical applications such as video, VOIP, and servicing certain regulated countries
- Transform as many sites as possible to increase your SD-WAN benefits while focusing on stability before turning on advanced features
- To drive operational scale, prepare your team to use the SD-WAN web portal and rely less on traditional per-router access
- SD-WAN is still new so move slowly when deploying advanced SD-WAN features to ensure scale and performance
- Due to the rapid evolution of the still nascent SD-WAN technology a “do it yourself approach” can be very challenging
- Zero touch provisioning (ZTP) works but it is the use cases that need to be confirmed and verified before they are operational that may take time
Philips digital transformation journey has also provided some learnings from the perspective of a service provider who may be looking to offer an SD-WAN managed service. It is essential for the service provider to share the risk with both the SD-WAN vendor and the enterprise customer. One of the advantages of a managed service model to the enterprise is to have access to both the CSP as well as the SD-WAN vendors when issues arise. When looking at the network itself, the service provider must understand the difference and relationship between the underlay network and the overlay SD-WAN when it comes to operations and troubleshooting.
Finally, it is important for service providers to manage SD-WAN software upgrades carefully. Since the SD-WAN controller drives SD-WAN branch gateway upgrades, finding ways to mitigate risk by upgrading parts of the network at a time is advantageous.
For more information on the Philips digital transformation journey and their implementation of BT Agile Connect powered by Nuage Networks from Nokia, follow the link below: