The warehouse shopping model is popular around the world as a way to pay low prices for a wide variety of items. Makro Atacadista is a popular cash-and-carry wholesaler with 76 stores across Brazil where members, both businesses and individuals, enjoy one-stop shopping on more than 12,000 items. Makro is owned by SHV Holdings N.V., one of the Netherlands’ largest private companies.
Makro maintains its enterprise applications in two data centers close to its headquarters for cost, security and operational efficiencies. But centralization creates a challenge: Delivering LAN-like performance over the distance between its data center and their store locations. The application performance challenge was heightened by the company’s rapid growth. As application traffic over its wide-area network grew, critical business applications began to perform poorly, as the 256-Kbps satellite connections to its store locations were maxed out.
“All critical applications were very slow in different moments, affecting the day-to-day business across the branches,” said Marco Antonio Souza, CIO, Makro Atacadista. “The links between the branches across the country and headquarters didn’t support the growth of traffic and demand for new business solutions.” In addition to the growing volume of network traffic, the slowdown was attributed to the competition between business-critical applications, including the company’s customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and finance credit, and applications, such as e-mail and Web surfing, that are less critical to store operations.
During the opening of a new Makro store, the volume of network traffic spiked to five times the normal level. “It wasn’t viable to increase the link for a short period of time, and this was causing tension among the branches. At first, it looked like the solution would be to increase bandwidth, but that would have been too costly and it would not have solved the problem long term,” said Souza. “We needed to rethink the whole working environment and define the priorities relevant to the business.”
Makro needed a solution that could accelerate a variety of applications across its MPLS network as well as provide Web security and control to its individual stores and at its corporate headquarters.
Optimize Application Performance and Web Security
After a thorough evaluation, Makro chose WAN acceleration provided by Blue Coat ProxySG appliances with MACH 5 technology as well as Blue Coat Director for centralized management. Makro chose Blue Coat because of improved application performance and the tight integration between WAN optimization and Web security technologies. ProxySG appliances are deployed at Makro’s headquarters and at 76 wholesale stores across Brazil.
“Blue Coat brought unique, state-of-the-art technology that combines acceleration and security in an integrated solution,” Souza said. “Alongside the technology, we contracted with Blue Coat partner Arcon to provide, implement, monitor and manage the integrated solution in all Makro branches.”
Blue Coat ProxySG appliances with MACH 5 technology use multiple techniques to optimize the WAN connection and accelerate applications, such as file sharing, e-mail, Web, SSL and rich media. These WAN optimization techniques include compression, protocol optimization, application prioritization, object caching and byte caching of network traffic.
Blue Coat Director is used for centralized policy, configuration and device management of the ProxySG appliances. Staff at Arcon’s network operations center can make changes to the ProxySG appliances at any Makro location to accommodate new applications and business priorities.
Efficient Use of Bandwidth Creates Room for Growth
With Blue Coat, Makro immediately improved application performance across its network without making any additional investments in network bandwidth. As a result of better-performing applications, employees at its headquarters and in the stores are more productive with highly responsive CRM, ERP, and finance credit applications.
In addition, ProxySG appliances helped Makro address an issue that couldn’t be solved by increasing network capacity: The network latency that is a result of the physical distance between Makro’s data center and its retail locations. The effects of latency are particularly visible with time-sensitive applications, such as transactions, voice and video.
With Blue Coat WAN optimization, Makro can ensure critical business traffic has priority access to the WAN bandwidth. It can also identify and control unauthorized network traffic, such as inappropriate Web surfing, malware and recreational applications. At the same time, the company reduced its security risk by controlling and blocking Web threats, attacks and other traffic that doesn’t conform to corporate policy, such as recreational video and Web surfing.
Makro reduced its bandwidth consumption across its MPLS network by 93 percent, thanks to the ProxySG appliances. And importantly, employees are more satisfied with the performance of their applications over the network, as the latency issues have been addressed. In fact, calls to the support desk decreased from 150 to just less than 10 per month.
Deploying Blue Coat was very cost-effective: Deploying ProxySG appliances cost 25 percent less than upgrading network bandwidth to achieve the same effective bandwidth.
Makro now has better visibility into the applications and protocols across its distributed network. “With the adoption of the WAN optimization service, we know our network and its applications better,” Souza said. “For example, we now know that 5 days before the end of the month, the network is stressed by our CRM information due to having to finalize revenue information for each branch.”
As a result of having 10 times more effective bandwidth, Makro can easily accommodate new applications, such as voice over IP (VoIP), even over a 256-Kbps network.
“Right after we implemented the solution, we opened a new branch in Costa de Cacao in the state of Bahia utilizing a 256-Kbps satellite link,” Souza said. “This was our first real test, and it didn’t disappoint. The implementation was perfect. We didn’t perceive any issues, and the branch worked from the first minute of operation. The so-called ‘opening effect’ was not felt in the WAN for that store.”
In the end, it’s not just thousands of Makro’s employees who benefit from more secure, better-performing applications. Customers, whether placing orders through the call centers or in person, are better served when employees have speedy access to critical retail applications.