LEO Pharma has rolled out SD-WAN on 60 locations worldwide in the midst of a global shutdown. This has resulted in significant economic savings and improved network performance in China, among other places.
How does a global company best and most cheaply build the infrastructure that connects different business units worldwide? This was the challenge for Danish pharmaceutical company LEO Pharma, which employs more than 6,000 employees at 60 locations on six continents. Previously, they received an internal MPLS line (Multi Protocol Label Switching) from a single network provider that handled all equipment, operations, and service. However, it was a relatively expensive solution, and the network performance fluctuated, especially in the strategically important market of China. Therefore, LEO Pharma sought a new, global network solution that could reduce costs and deliver higher quality.
“Today, we have split our infrastructure delivery into three areas. First, we have a global network of internet providers that deliver lines to our offices, whether fiber, copper, mobile network, or whatever performs best in the respective country. On top of that, we have built a Cisco-based SD-WAN service, for which Conscia is responsible. And we have also had Conscia operate our network through their company in Slovenia. In principle, we can freely replace each of the three legs whenever we want. So instead of being tied to a single supplier, we have now gained much more flexibility and control over our setup,” says Kenneth Jacobsen, Service Delivery Manager at LEO Pharma.
Networking is a strategic focus area
He explains that the SD-WAN solution performs at least as well as MPLS.
“On our two locations in China, we previously experienced users using local guest connections because the performance on the MPLS network was too poor. We have successfully used the SD-WAN solution for about half a year. Users are now using our new setup. And as a positive outcome of this, we have had to upgrade the new connections.”
“It may be that SD-WAN is a relatively new technology, but what is going on under the hood is not new. Building tunnels over the internet has been done for 25 years. SD-WAN is just a smarter way to do it,” Kenneth Jacobsen, Service Delivery Manager at LEO Pharma
Morten Eriksen is Head of Infrastructure Services at LEO Pharma. He explains that the switch from MPLS to SD-WAN is a small but strategically important switch that aligns with the company’s future ambitions.
“We have become much more agile with our new setup. If we move office in a country or open a pop-up site for a period of time, we don’t have to wait several months to get internet connectivity. With SD-WAN, we can get it up and running in no time. This makes a huge difference for us.”
Really good business case
LEO Pharma managed to prepare everything for the big SD-WAN rollout in early 2020, but COVID-19 suddenly shut the world down. The solution was that Conscia packed all equipment into a cardboard box along with a user manual and sent the packages out to the various locations. The entire operation was completed on time and also yielded important lessons.
“I honestly think the remote rollout ended up being a better solution than if we had sent out people physically. This way, through our partner, we could send local technicians to each office and perform the installation with us on the phone. If we had sent people out into the world from Denmark for each site, we would certainly have encountered situations where the lines were not ready when they arrived at the address. It is inconvenient and can quickly become expensive to have a man waiting for several days – should he go to a hotel, should we fly him home and back out again, and so on,” says Kenneth Jacobsen.
“In addition to the fact that it ended up being a cheaper installation process because we did it remotely, the implementation of SD-WAN has undoubtedly been the best business case I have experienced on the infrastructure at LEO Pharma in many years. It is really good. ROI is approximately 10 months. It is rare to see it on a five-year solution,” adds Morten Eriksen.
When LEO Pharma first expressed their desire to use SD-WAN, they encountered several network providers who wondered whether the technology was mature enough for a company of LEO Pharma’s size and business needs. That doubt has since been proven wrong. Today, LEO Pharma’s global network setup in the Danish context stands as a digital role model, showing how to build a cheap and robust infrastructure that can securely link offices across continents.
“It may be that SD-WAN is a relatively new technology, but what is going on under the hood is not new. Building tunnels over the internet has been done for 25 years. SD-WAN is just a smarter way to do it,” Kenneth Jacobsen concludes.