Skullcandy unplugs MPLS, moves to WAN-as-a-Service

Shifting to Aryaka improved performance, simplified management, and made the headphone company more agile

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The move to a cloud-based ERP system forced Skullcandy to rethink its global network, which ultimately led to the decision to migrate to an offering from Aryaka.  Network World Editor in Chief John Dix recently discussed the migration with Systems Manager Yohan Beghein.

skullcandy systems manager yohan beghein

Skullcandy Systems Manager Yohan Beghein

What WAN problem were you having that encouraged you to go looking for an alternative?

Three years ago when I joined Skullcandy as a Network Architect, the task at hand was to address a major WAN challenge – deliver a consistent, stable, reliable and latency-optimized WAN to implement better global productivity and collaboration for Skullcandy. With offices around the globe (U.S., Europe, Canada, Asia, Mexico) and the adoption of SaaS -- specifically SAP ByDesign -- I had a huge job ahead of me that was going to involve MPLS diversity, WAN optimization boxes, VPN backup, etc. 

After a lot of research I came across Aryaka, which has globally distributed points of presence (POPs), offers connectivity in less than 24 hours, and its network is optimized, even for Cloud/SaaS. We did a proof of concept with them with two of our sites, one being Skullcandy’s headquarters in Utah and our office in Shenzhen, China. We were up within a week and there was immediate improvement. Internal users in China told me, “Wow! What did you do to the network?”

So traffic from the office in China climbs on the Aryaka network locally?

Yes. Since Aryaka has global POPs, we just build standard IPSec VPN tunnels to their POPs from our sites. That one tunnel, which has active/passive redundancy built in, allows us to talk to HQ, our data center, and cloud/SaaS resources. Since SAP ByDesign is a cloud ERP app, Aryaka was the best choice to address the connectivity needs for our global users, especially those in China, which used to be a major WAN problem.

Today with Aryaka, when a user types into their browser the traffic automatically routes to Aryaka and is optimized and routed to SAP’s datacenters. Aryaka also enables an SSL proxy to further optimize the connection and overcome latency and WAN efficiency troubles

Was your existing network all MPLS?

It was basically 90% percent MPLS, and only one carrier.  We have eight locations and more to come.   However, many things were challenging with MPLS. When we opened our office in Canada, it took several months to get the bandwidth and the circuit in place.  Now, I basically talk to Aryaka and in three days we are live.  That quick solution, combined Aryaka’s outstanding 24x7 support, gives us a powerful, scalable solution.

For Aryaka, do you need any hardware on premise or just the Internet pipe?

You just need an Internet pipe, or you can use their Aryaka Network Access Point (ANAP).

For locations like China we are using an ANAP.  It’s basically just an appliance you put in front of or behind your firewall that basically creates a redundant connection to their POP. You can do it directly from your router if you want, but in locations where we don’t have a tech in place it was just easier to have Aryaka ship an ANAP and let them manage it.  So for me it’s almost like having 24/7 network support even in China, where that’s pretty hard to get.

In summary, you don’t need their hardware but a company should strongly consider it.  They ship it, they manage it, it is included in their base price, and one is able to realize their full suite of services -- including bandwidth scalability—with their patented compression algorithms.


Aryaka dashboard portal

What capacity access do they require?

It can be anything.  In China, for example, I used to have a 100Mbps interface but only 20Mbps of bandwidth access. I replaced it with four 6Mbps Internet connections.  With Aryaka you basically can go 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10Mbps, because they offer a more efficient solution.  With Aryaka, most of our locations only require 2Mbps because they only have 40 users.  I cannot imagine trying to serve 40 users on a 2Mbps MPLS service, without Aryaka.  I love the efficiency of the Aryaka service.

So you use the network to support ERP, what else?

We have a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) application hosted in our data center in West Valley, Utah, where we wanted to optimize access.  When I went with Aryaka, right away the team in China said they were seeing a lot of improvement.  When I saw that I said, “You know what, that’s the solution for all our locations.”  So I started looking to see when each MPLS contract expired and started swapping in Aryaka.  Today we also use Aryaka for Telepresence (global executive and employee conferencing) and VoIP.

So all of your backbone voice traffic is going over this as well?

Yes, that’s correct.  We have SIP gateways at each location so when someone does a four-digit dial to someone in the U.S., it goes over the Aryaka network.  We’re also using it to support Microsoft CIFS and SMB file transfers, SQL server access, and SharePoint.  And all of that benefits from the TCP optimization, caching and other WAN optimization tools that are built into the service.  When you subscribe you get all of that, regardless if you use 2Mbps or 20Mbps of bandwidth.

How do you quantify the gains?  Obviously performance is a big one.

Yes, definitely performance, because basically it’s almost having a WAN accelerator at every location but without that physical appliance and the associated cost.  Aryaka is a subscription model.  With other hardware solutions you buy it and it’s great, but in three years it’s obsolete and your investment is sunk. 

The Aryaka service gives me a lot of flexibility. I’ll give you an example.  We’re moving an office in San Francisco and with MPLS I would have had to plan three months out to move the circuit, activate the circuit, etc.  Now, I take my Aryaka connection, go to the next location, bring it up and it’s done.  The flexibility of the bandwidth is another plus.  Basically, I can increase bandwidth at any location in a matter of 30 minutes to an hour.  I was not able to do that with another provider.

In simple terms, our world boils down to time and money.  Aryaka delivers more of both than any other WAN vendor I know out.

It is a great service that gives us a lot of flexibility.  In addition, the tech support is great.  I have been working with networks for almost ten years.  With most providers I end up working with Tier 3 technicians and have to escalate things to get them done. When I call Aryaka about an issue, I get a CCIE on the phone.

skullcandy headphone crusher Skullcandy

What’s amazing to me, to be honest, during the POC I thought the service was great because they were bringing in all the best people for the sale. But basically once I was working with them I received exactly the same level of support.  It’s just nice and I don’t have to touch the network anymore. 

How about on the cost side? 

I don’t know what I can say regarding the cost, but basically we had significant savings.  It’s about 40% percent less than MPLS, and that includes two new locations that we didn’t have before.  So I’m really happy with the implementation cost-wise. 

One of the reasons people use MPLS is the reliability factor.  How is Aryaka in that regard? 

That was one of my concerns.  But for less money than MPLS, I can support each location with at least two Internet pipes running to different POPs.  So instead of paying something like $2,000-$2,500 for a secondary MPLS circuit, I basically spend $200 on a 50Mbps or 100Mbps local Internet link. So I have more redundancy, better bandwidth and full support.   And I get a report every week showing me latency, availability, and similar matters.

Aryaka offers 99.99% uptime. And it has not gone down since I brought on the service at each location, so I would say the reliability is better than anything else out there.

There is a lot of talk today about software-defined WAN tools that let you augment your MPLS links with Internet capacity. Did you look at any of those tools?

I looked at some bandwidth aggregation tools, but they are mostly local to a country, so they weren’t a fit for me. None of them addressed the full needs of the WAN.  Aryaka has a truly Software-Defined WAN, but they also combine a global private network, WAN Optimization and cloud acceleration along with bandwidth aggregation, Split Internet Edge, management and orchestration capabilities. In summary, I’m just trying to optimize the use of time and money for Skullcandy, and the solution we have in place is holistic, scalable, powerful, and I feel really confident about it.

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