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Automating Network Management Brings Global Simplicity to Multi-National Retailer

E-commerce is a two-edge sword for retailers: on the one hand, customers can shop from their homes; on the other hand, retailers need online networks that are available, because competitors are always a click away. Today, network reliability is one key to customer engagement.


But retailers have other challenges, too – keeping their networks secure. When Trend Micro recently analyzed data breaches by industry between 2005 and 2014, it uncovered an interesting metric in the retail industry: by far the largest percentage of breach methods were caused by hacking or malware, at 47.6%. That was higher than healthcare (6.9%), the public sector (17.4%), or even finance (21.5%).


That’s why both network availability and security is so important to companies like the Colruyt Group, a multi-national retail and consumer goods chain based in Halle, Belgium, with 30,000 employees in 800 locations around the world.


The 88-year-old company has grown over the years from a family business to encompass multiple retail sites, including Colruyt, DreamBaby, DreamLand, Bio-Planet, and Spar. But its long-time network management solution couldn’t keep up with the retailers’ growth. According to Joris Beckers, a Colruyt Group network engineer, “Our ideal network management is to be able to automate all processes in such a way that when a new point of sale is opened, store managers can connect to our network at the push of a button.”


A single network management team of 20 engineers oversees its global network, including brick-and-mortar locations, distribution centers, administrative buildings, and data centers. The team had to attend to even minor glitches on an ad hoc basis, and processes that should have taken 30 seconds easily took 30 minutes. This inefficiency increased operational costs and worked against Colruyt Group’s strategy of giving its customers the lowest price on the market.


The Colruyt Group needed a solution that could meet its needs for automation, efficiency, and compatibility. It consulted with SecureLink, an Infoblox Elite Partner, which recommended Infoblox DNS and NetMRI solutions for their ability to provide the flexibility and compatibility the group was looking for.


Colruyt deployed Infoblox NetMRI for the management of more than 1,000 servers, 4,000 switches, 1,000 routers, and 6,000 access points. If conflicts arise, the Infoblox solution immediately sends out an alert so that the network managers can carry out adjustments before issues emerge. “Thanks to the increased visibility afforded to us by Infoblox NetMRI, we discovered, among other things, that certain ports were not being used. By simply deactivating them, we saved a significant amount of expense in terms of operational load, maintenance, and time,” says Michel Deneyer, team lead of network solutions at Colruyt Group Services.


This is one of the most important benefits for network engineer Beckers. “As all automated processes are running smoothly, we can now focus our efforts and manpower on more strategic business-oriented projects,” he says. “Everything is managed from a distance: Self-service IT!”


Read the entire case study here.

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