Scaling through Remote Network Access to Manage Critical Connected Devices in more than 350 sites

An Opengear Case Study

Highlights

  • By adopting Opengear Smart out-of-band solutions, Schneider’s IT Network Service Delivery team was able to cut travel costs tremendously, resulting in 90% savings.
     
  • Accessing different connected devices including routers, switches, access points, and firewalls helped team members upskill and earn certifications, boosting their career journeys. The whole team is now certified.
     
  • Team members were able to fulfill their roles during the COVID-19 lockdown. Had they not deployed Opengear appliances, they would not have been able to access the remote sites in their region to perform essential tasks and responsibilities.

About Schneider Electric

A global leader in industrial automation and energy management, with its 128,000 employees worldwide, Schneider Electric generates $32billion (€28.9 billion) in revenue annually. The company provides products (e.g., connected room solutions, smart panels, automation servers, water & wastewater solutions, low voltage motor control centers, and switchgear), automation software, and digital services for data centers, businesses, and homes, making them sustainable and energy-efficient.

Through the years, Schneider has built an open ecosystem network of customers, suppliers, universities, technology companies, independent software vendors, solutions, and service providers by co-designing and innovating. This open ecosystem network thrived due to customers’ need for interoperability, dynamic technology partnerships, and robust IT network.

Vital to its business, its network helps power Schneider’s smart factories and distribution centers. The IT Network Service Delivery team is tasked with operating this strategic asset that provides operational and business resilience. The teams are distributed by region and deliver services locally. They ensure data and communications over Schneider’s network are delivered quickly, securely, and reliably.

Challenge

Schneider’s operations model supports its global footprint with four regional hubs: North America, Europe, China, and India. With this multi-hub model, the company can respond and adapt to changing circumstances or new challenges and recruit the best talent. While the IT Network Service Delivery team is globally distributed, it is relatively small, with 10 engineers per region supporting hundreds of sites across 25+ countries.

According to Tai Lam, Manager, Enterprise IT Network Service Delivery, North America (or Americas?), who oversee 30+ countries, including their network delivery options. There are more than 350 sites in the US alone they must manage.

Since 2020, Schneider has experienced significant challenges, changes, and supply chain disruptions with the rest of the world. Pandemic-related lockdowns and travel restrictions forced the team to start working from home. Despite these constraints, the team still needed to enable users and devices to access the network. Team members continued to provision connections, provide project support, and configure or administer critical connected devices. And, in the event of disruptions, they still needed to troubleshoot.

“As an engineer, your console is your arms and legs out there. ”

Tai Lam, Manager, Enterprise IT Network Service Delivery Engineering Team, Schneider Electric

Solution

Tai Lam and his team have a long history with Opengear products, first introduced to Opengear’s Smart Out-of-Band management a decade ago. After the first demo unit delivered more than expected, Lam decided to explore other Opengear solutions from the Network Resilience Platform.

As the business evolved, so did their infrastructure needs, resulting with Schneider deploying most of Opengear solutions across their enterprise. The company first deployed ACM5000 remote site managers to monitor, access, and control its sites. Then requiring secure access to critical devices from the control room to the Network Operations Center (NOC), they moved to IM7200 Infrastructure Manager as their out-of-band solution, specifically designed for dense IT environments. This was the right solution for the Schneider team for accessing the remote management interface in their data centers.

Now the company is moving to Opengear’s Operations Manager (OM) product family. Combining the capabilities of Smart Out-of-Band and NetOps automation, the IT team is leveraging the OM products for a variety of tasks. Streamlining repetitive administration, conducting proactive maintenance and enabling remote recovery are all capabilities needed to meet their growing demands. The company uses Opengear to console into routers, switches, firewalls, and access points. With 112 access points, the company uses 10+ Opengear devices and uses Opengear to spin up a new office, stage a new site or refresh an existing one.

Finally, via the Lighthouse Management Software, Schneider can access and orchestrate its routers, switches, or firewalls through an easy-to-access single dashboard. This gives the teams a unified view of their remote access management platform from wherever they are located.

Results

Results are multi-faceted and easy to quantify for the Schneider team, as reflected in their commitment to their Opengear journey.

First, Opengear helps them optimize their Out-of-Band management. The IT Network Delivery team manages, remediates, and automates their remote access with the Network Resilience Platform every day, bringing consistent peace of mind.

Opengear has also helped the team elevate their professional profiles as network engineers. Lam says that thanks to Opengear devices, his team was able to access, monitor, and manage routers, switches, and firewalls from the leading vendors. This conferred new knowledge and skills, which led to certifications that have boosted their careers.

Finally, as an engineer, Lam adds, “consoles are like your arms and legs in a remote site.” This has many-faceted business impacts, from ensuring remote access to manage and remediate critical devices to ensuring network service quality. It can also result in significant savings in travel costs; over the course of two years, the team was able to cut its travel cost from $80-100k to $8K.

Industry: Energy Management

Location: Headquartered in France with offices in 10+ countries

Products: IM7200 Infrastructure ManagerOM1200 Operations Manager