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HMV pivots from legacy MPLS to SD-WAN

Record retailer HMV goes all-in on a Cisco Meraki software-defined network to cut costs and improve its network resiliency

Music and entertainment retailer HMV has switched out its physical in-store networks for a Cisco Meraki software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), bringing benefits in terms of network flexibility and resilience, and saving it more than£200,000 in the space of a few months.

Once the largest record retailer in the UK, with more than 300 stores, HMV was hit hard by the transition away from sales of physical music media in the 2000s following the launch of Apple’s iTunes service, and fell into administration in 2013.

HMV was subsequently brought back from the brink by restructuring and financing specialist Hilco and today operates 130 brick and mortar stores in the UK.

Following a series of workshopped events with Cisco service provider Cisilion, HMV IT head Darren Houghton elected to move ahead with the deployment of the Meraki SD-WAN service, which incorporates features such as self-provisioning hardware, fine grain application, user and device control, built in multi-site management, and automatic network monitoring alerts, among other things.

It was deployed across HMV’s estate beginning in October 2017, with work completed in time for the peak Christmas trading period.

“We now have a private, fully managed network, which has accelerated growth and allowed more flexibility to help us achieve our goals of modernising our retail sites and increasing employee productivity,” said Houghton.

“Not only have we reduced costs by moving from legacy MPLS to internet base connectivity, but the Cisco Meraki SD-WAN solution has allowed us to add monitoring and surveillance on top of the solution, increasing security levels across all our stores.”

Cisco’s UK and Ireland commercial director, Kevin Sparks, said streamlining networks using technology such as SDN would help retailers get to grips with the increasing demands that digital technologies are putting on traditional retailers.

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“Digital technologies hold great promise for the retail industry, but without connectivity that addresses the demands of their workforce, in-store digital initiatives fall at the first hurdle. We’re delighted to be working with Cisilion and such a recognisable UK brand in HMW to help connect their employees and stores, in a move that is already seeing tangible benefits,” he said.

“We are seeing increased demand for modernising expensive and complex legacy WANs to enable cost-effective transformation and expansion,” added Cisilion CTO Alex Hooper.

This is especially important in HMV’s case, as even though the organisation weathered the advent of Amazon and Apple, the ongoing evolution in how people consume music, and the growth of subscription-based, cloud-hosted streaming services such as Spotify continue to present the brand with challenges.

The retailer said besides the cost-savings compared to its legacy network service, it had also seen a dramatic improvement in staff productivity thanks to increased network resiliency and uptime, and it was able to accelerate its existing digital transformation project across its retail outlets as a result.

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