SD-WAN Benefits in the Time of COVID

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work. Enterprises globally have had to shift their operations and shut their offices to help slow the spread of the disease. The result: In the blink of an eye, millions of employees tapping corporate networks and applications that mostly reside in the cloud from their home-based remote offices.

To say this this work revolution has been a strain is certainly an understatement.

Ill-prepared businesses are having to adjust to this new norm while ensuring they can secure, support, and manage their remote users and avoid unpredictable user experiences in the last mile. At the same time, security is more important than ever as corporate data moves into unsecured spaces.

This “forced” digital IT transformation in just under two months has had a notable impact on enterprise networking. In fact, an IDC survey of 250 large-to-medium-size companies in June found that almost half of all respondents—48%–reported they will increase investment in advanced automation platforms to reduce the manual management of the network.

These new challenges highlight why now is the perfect time for enterprises to consider an SD-WAN (Software-defined Wide Area Network) architecture to power their businesses and networks. SD-WAN is a WAN overlay architecture that allows enterprises to leverage any combination of transport—including MPLS, dedicated Internet, broadband, and LTE services—to securely connect users to applications.

SD-WAN improves cloud and on-premise application performance by optimizing enterprise network connectivity, in turn maximizing user experience and boosting productivity.  SD-WAN platforms also provide greater visibility into what’s happening across the network. At the same time, SD-WAN solutions can proactively recognize and remediate many network issues in real-time, thus reducing impact to productivity and collaboration.

A Higher Level of Service & Agility

SD-WAN gives enterprises a higher level of service and more intelligence into what the WAN is doing. That means when the enterprise tasks the CIO with adding features such as live streaming across the WAN, SD-WAN provides that flexibility, often with little to no intervention required from the IT organization.

SD-WAN typically provides greater application intelligence, examining network traffic, identifying the application, and making classification and forwarding decisions accordingly. Network management teams can use this application-awareness to prioritize their business traffic across the entire WAN or for individual branches or remote users.

That’s key because the source of application and network issues across a network can be considerable. Branch information can be collected and centrally processed in the SD-WAN policy engine and technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence can perform a proactive diagnostic of network reliability or application performance.

All of this can save IT organizations significant time and effort in deploying, reconfiguring, and troubleshooting, improving the remote IT operational experience as well as the end user experience.  In short, by employing SD-WAN, enterprises can get a better handle on their connectivity, their bandwidth, their network, and their applications—allowing businesses to operate smarter and more efficiently, especially during this new remote era.

Security Considerations

While greater application intelligence and visibility can be useful for security teams, SD-WAN technology can also open the door to security challenges if not property addressed.

Because SD-WAN solutions bring distributed Internet to multiple locations within an enterprise, firewall technology is necessary to keep data and applications safe. Many SD-WAN providers have already integrated firewall technology and other security features into their products. Industry consolidation between SD-WAN providers and security providers is also on the rise, such as Palo Alto Network’s recent acquisition of CloudGenix.

The key is to make sure you work with a partner who understands clearly how to secure SD-WAN solutions effectively with clear KPIs that work well with your IT organization.

Layering in Managed Services

The added network automation provided by SD-WAN affords organizations with significant benefits, but enterprises can further operational gains by layering managed services on top.  This allows an organization to redirect valuable IT personnel’s attention from “keeping the lights on” to activities that drive additional value to the company.

These services can range from Managed SD-WAN solutions to Managed Security Services that address security from the network’s edge all the way to the cloud, and incorporate automation, Zero Trust architecture, and best practices for security and industry-specific compliance.

To be sure, anything an organization can do to get its people doing more of what drives value to the enterprise sets a business apart from its competitors. SD-WAN is built to do just that.

From tapping an improved cloud-based delivery system to maximizing scalability and productivity to seamless security, SD-WAN will make smart businesses look, work, and perform smarter.

In these uncertain times, that can be a game changer.


Lightstream Helps a Large Restaurant Chain Fast Track Digitalization and Save Millions in AWS and Azure

Industry:  Retail

Managed Services for Network and Cloud Simplify Billing, Improve Bandwidth Speed and Reduce Costs

Business Challenge

Consumers have choices, especially when it comes to fast-casual dining. When people are considering restaurant options, they are looking for fast service, convenience and tasty food delivered with quality and excellence at an affordable price. And they won’t settle for less. Restaurant executives understand this. As a result, they continually strive to deliver high quality, innovative service to their customers, to stay ahead of the competition.

In today’s connected world, consumers increasingly browse menus online and place orders remotely. Restaurants need a high-performing voice and data network to accommodate these demands.

In 2015, Lightstream began working with an international fast casual restaurant chain to address several network challenges. At the time, the company had over 2,000 restaurants and was struggling with an expensive, complex telecommunications network. They were experiencing connectivity issues at the stores, and it was costing tens of thousands of dollars every month in wireless cost overruns.


When Lightstream first engaged, the team began with a thorough review of the company’s existing network infrastructure and service providers. Each store was configured with a primary connection for voice and data with a wireless 4G connection for backup, and the company used hundreds of different providers across the country.

At the restaurant level, the company’s network was designed for uninterrupted service. If the primary connection went down, service immediately switched over to the 4G network. The change happened seamlessly—users were oblivious to the failover, and service continued as usual. The network, however, was not monitored closely. The company often was unaware when a switchover occurred, and stores could operate on the 4G network for a long time, causing wireless costs to skyrocket.

Because the company had hundreds of different telecom providers, the finance organization was overwhelmed with invoices flowing in from across the organization from the various vendors. Consequently, sorting through invoices every month was time-consuming and inefficient, requiring painstaking research to ensure the billing was accurate.

To resolve these challenges, Lightstream consolidated the company’s entire telephony infrastructure, replacing them with lower cost, higher bandwidth connectivity options, and streamlined the number of providers. In addition, Lightstream added network monitoring and event management services, so that any network outages or anomalies and would be identified and resolved without any added burden on the company’s IT organization.

Since that initial engagement in 2015, the company has grown to 3,000 restaurants, and the organization’s infrastructure has evolved. Today, SD-WAN is deployed across the infrastructure, and the company has invested heavily in moving workloads to the cloud.

As the company has grown over the years and its needs have changed, Lightstream has expanded its relationship providing network monitoring, event management, telephony, field services (installation, cabling, and wiring) and cloud infrastructure optimization.

Business Outcomes

Reduced Costs / Increased Bandwidth

Working with Lightstream’s technical experts, the company consolidated its voice and data network, reducing the number of circuits and carriers and increasing bandwidth to the stores at the same time. This substantially simplified billing—reducing the number of monthly invoices from well over 100 down to one.  All of this has generated millions of dollars in cost savings.

Reduced Connectivity Problems / Improved Service Availability

In 2015, the company was struggling with excessive wireless overage charges. Lightstream’s Network Managed Services for network monitoring and event management helped solve those problems, improving service availability and reducing wireless overage costs by a factor of ten. Network Managed Services includes proactive monitoring and carrier management, managed services through the support of our 24/7 network operations center, dedicated customer service managers and optional field services.

Cloud Infrastructure Optimization

The company has invested heavily in the cloud.  Currently nearly half of its revenue comes through digital sales which depend on the cloud infrastructure.

In 2017, cloud costs accounted for about $150,000 annually. Today, due to the growth of digital sales, cloud costs have increased by a factor of more than 100.  To keep costs in check and to optimize cloud investments, the company utilizes Lightstream’s Cloud Managed Services to help them gauge monthly trends and capture billing anomalies within their environment. This helps them avoid wasteful spending accounting for nearly one million dollars annually in savings. Cloud Managed services helps clients manage the day-to-day administration and management of their cloud infrastructures with a flexible mix of consulting, integration and managed services.

Digital sales are expected to grow as consumers are demanding more digital access than ever before. As a result, the company continues to invest heavily in cloud and rely on services from Lightstream to help optimize cloud infrastructure costs, while delivering better user experiences for their customers.



Larry H. Miller Dealerships Supercharges Network Infrastructure with SD-WAN

Business Challenge

As a large organization with 65 car dealerships spread across the western United States, keeping everyone connected in real time was paramount. Unfortunately, LHM Dealerships’ network suffered from intermittent loss as well as frequently degraded wide area network (WAN) connectivity. This had a significant negative impact on the company’s ability to transact business and serve its customers.

These issues made applications slow or even unavailable, especially with cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) offerings, most notably the company’s dealership management software (DMS). The DMS software serves as the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) application for their car dealers, and its availability and performance are mission-critical to the organization’s sales operations.

New LHM Dealerships CIO, Michael Van Orden began to research networking options. He believed the continued emergence of software-defined WAN showed promise as an enterprise-level solution for his organization. In fact, LHM Dealerships used an early example of SD-WAN technology from a different vendor. The company decided that their fast-growing business needed an enterprise-class network infrastructure. After evaluating a variety of products in this nascent market, in June 2019 LHM Dealerships decided VMware SD-WAN was the right fit.


After deciding on VMware SD-WAN, the network team at LHM Dealerships engaged Lightstream for a proof of concept (POC). This initiative took place from August to October 2019 and was deployed at two data centers, LHM Dealerships headquarters, and three dealership locations. The project completely replaced the older networking platform with the new VMware SD-WAN solution at these three dealerships.

LHM Dealerships saw the VMware SD-WAN advantages immediately. Staff remarked on the improved network visibility at the dealerships involved with the POC. This enhanced monitoring capability wasn’t possible with the older networking technology.

The POC was, however, not without its challenges. For example, shortly after the migration, one of the dealerships began experiencing VoIP handset reboots and call drops during business hours. LHM Dealerships engineering staff, Lightstream engineering personnel, VMware support, and the telephony vendor support converged on the problem and ultimately identified the issue as outdated telephony code resulting in non-standard Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) formatting that was thus incorrectly matched by the VMware traffic policy engine. Once identified, the problem was easily remediated on the telephony platform. The two dealerships on a different, newer telephony solution experienced no such issues. Other issues surfaced throughout the POC which were identified, diagnosed, and resolved by the combined LHM, Lightstream, and VMware teams.

Stress-testing VMware SD-WAN also offered a few insights during the project. The project team engaged multiple video streams, data traffic, and phone calls at one of the dealerships in the POC, essentially flooding the branch site with network traffic. The VMware SD-WAN logic prioritized the network traffic per their requirements with no end-user problems.

The team then disconnected one of the two primary network circuits. They could see the remaining circuit flooded with all the traffic but the software again prioritized the packets. And even though some video was delayed, the prioritized voice phone calls and data requests to the data center were not affected.

Next, the team disconnected the remaining primary circuit and all traffic rolled over to the standby cellular network. VMware handled the transition so well, the phone calls didn’t even drop while rolling over to the standby cellular network, handling all the extra bandwidth traffic and disconnects with no issues. In the end, a successful POC led to a full rollout of VMware SD-WAN across LHM Dealerships’ entire network infrastructure.

For the full rollout of the VMware SD-WAN platform, the LHM Dealerships and Lightstream team formulated an aggressive project plan. The goal involved installing the new networking solution in the rest of the company’s 62 dealerships by the end of 2019, while accounting for blackouts during peak holiday periods. An aggressive timeline was required to ensure a successful project outcome. The project team began the implementation in the second week of October, with a projected completion date of December 23.

Business Outcomes

The LHM Dealerships networking team immediately noticed the tangible benefits of the VMware SD-WAN solution. Van Orden highlighted the enhanced availability, redundancy, and intelligent application optimization enabled by the VMware SD-WAN Dynamic Multipath Optimization™ (DMPO) algorithm across a hybrid WAN consisting of Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), Dedicated Internet Access (DIA), broadband Internet, and 4G/LTE paths. “We no longer had to manually direct traffic flows across individual circuits,” said Van Orden, “The VMware SD-WAN platform just figures it all out dynamically on its own, while allowing us the freedom to override in special cases if we wish.”

Operationally, Lightstream provides full managed services on the infrastructure, including carrier event management, as well as Tier 3 network architecture and operational support. Even though the infrastructure now self-heals by adjusting around network or hardware failures, Lightstream’s managed services ensures such failures are quickly identified, diagnosed, and remediated, thus preventing end-user outages resulting from the confluence of an unremediated failure coupled with a future failure.

Since deployment of the VMware SD-WAN solution, LHM Dealerships reports no infrastructure downtime, arguably the most important metric of any network. “Through multiple tests as well as unplanned outages with a hard-down primary WAN circuit,” Van Orden noted, “the built-in forward error correction (FEC) still optimizes the traffic with one circuit. When both primary circuits go down, the redundancy provided by the VMware SD-WAN platform seamlessly performs a rollover to a wireless cellular circuit serving as a backup.”

LHM Dealerships also highlighted how the VMware DMPO algorithm helps network circuits optimize their applications, ensuring bottlenecks never cause performance issues for critical applications. Additionally, the enhanced monitoring capabilities provided by the VMware SD-WAN Orchestrator coupled with Lightstream’s managed services makes troubleshooting and resolving any network problem a simpler and faster process.

The next-generation software-defined VMware infrastructure benefits both LHM Dealerships and its customers. Previously, a customer in a dealership waiting room streaming Netflix programming potentially caused network performance issues for the mission-critical operations. Now, LHM Dealerships can keep the guest wireless access on a separate segment and configure that segment with a lower network priority, while guaranteeing top priority for critical company functions—a positive “customer experience” on multiple fronts.

Customer Quote:

“It’s just opened our eyes to things we haven’t seen on our network before, and facilitates a lot of troubleshooting that we’ve been able to do without the need to have a CCIE on staff.”

Michael Van Orden
CIO, LHM Dealerships

Lightstream Celebrates 15 Years of Technology Innovation

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – August 15, 2018 – Lightstream has reached an exciting milestone this August as the company celebrates 15 years of delivering integrated technology solutions to commercial enterprise and government clients. In an era when technology companies come and go, Lightstream is mid-way through its second decade of innovation and accelerating growth.

Since its inception, Lightstream has grown from a small reseller of regional carrier and wide-area network services to become the largest solutions integrator in the intermountain west, with offices in multiple states and customers across the globe.

CEO Jim Cassell attributes Lightstream’s rapid growth to a void in the marketplace for integrated technology solutions. “From the very beginning, we focused on solutions that drove measurable business outcomes for our customers, wrapped with unmatched customer service. That focus has always been part of our DNA,” said Cassell. “As we’ve progressed our business with integrated cloud services and expanded networking solutions, our focus on customer care continues to drive us.”

Privileged partner access and what the company calls “fanatical” customer service have propelled Lightstream to become the premier solutions integrator and managed services provider in Utah’s “Silicon Slopes” technology corridor in the early 2000s.

Today, Lightstream serves customers in all U.S. states and 198 countries.  The company has premier partnerships with industry leaders such as AWS, Microsoft, Cisco, AT&T, CenturyLink, Verizon, Barracuda Networks, and Palo Alto Networks. It also boasts a world-class network operations center (NOC) located in Minneapolis, MN.

The company’s founders—Jim Cassell, Rod StoutSharon Louie, and Kurt Richter—still work side-by-side in the business and attribute Lightstream’s continued success to another important factor: a rare blend of carrier and data-networking knowledge that supports today’s rapid acceleration in cloud computing.

“We’ve been fortunate to be ahead of the marketplace and position Lightstream to be an early cloud technology adopter and one of the largest cloud solution integrators in the country,” said Rod Stout, President. “Our cloud services business, combined with our very successful network solutions and managed services businesses, have fueled the explosive growth we’re experiencing and will drive us into the next 15 years with great momentum.”

As the company continues to grow, new services such as SD-WAN, cloud envisioning, cloud optimization, and cloud security services have been added. This growing market need is indicated by research pointing to millions in excess IT expenditures due to overestimation of infrastructure requirements. Lightstream Optimization and Containment Services pinpoint public-cloud costs to help companies grow their businesses faster, with proven results from a growing roster of clients.

“By keeping a focus on leading-edge technology solutions and staying true to our core values such as integrity in relationships, we’ve earned many loyal customers,” says Sharon Louie, VP of Customer Support. “We’ll continue to invest and grow our business around differentiating customer support and our customer-first mentality.”

VP of Engineering Kurt Richter also points to Lightstream’s people. “I’m grateful not only for these original three partners, but also my Lightstream coworkers, whom I consider family. We hire the best and brightest in the industry and serve as a trusted advisor for complex business challenges that enable our customers to rapidly meet business objectives and achieve success.”


Founded in 2003 as a wide-area network services company, Lightstream has grown to become a leader in cloud technology solutions, network integration, and managed network services. With corporate headquarters in Salt Lake City, Lightstream has sales and service offices throughout the United States.