A functional network, information security and fast adaptation to new services are important for rail transport. VR Group chose Cisco’s intent-based network, provided as a service by Cinia, as its new company network. This is the first large-scale implementation of an intent-based network solution in Finland and one of the first in Europe. The new, faster network brought many improvements, such as better visibility of the status of the network, stronger information security, quicker implementation of new services and predictive troubleshooting.
In May 2018, VR Group’s head office moved from Helsinki Central Station to the Iso Paja building of the Finnish Broadcasting Company in the Pasila district of Helsinki. The new facilities accommodate around 800 employees and about 1500 network connected end-points on six floors. Mobile work requires a reliable wireless network services. VR Group chose Cisco’s intent-based network as a service to be provided by Cinia.
“Uninterrupted data communications are crucial for rail transport. The move offered an excellent opportunity to replace outdated equipments and improve network connections. Cisco’s new intent-based network technology and its open programmable capabilities, which are provided in the form of a service, seemed good and cost-effective, so we decided to update our network in cooperation with Cinia,” says Erkki Honkanen, IT Technical Lead at VR Group.
This is the first large-scale implementation of an intent-based network service in Finland and one of the first in Europe. The new, faster and secure network has worked well.
“We have new LAN and WLAN equipment from Cisco’s selection. This solution is provided by Cinia as a service. We are now using a next-generation Software Defined Access (SDA) network solution that offers high performance and information security, as well as supporting the mobility of around 800 employees,” says Honkanen.
VR GROUP´S COMPANY NETWORK PREVENTS AND ENSURES
The intent-based network solution brought many changes to VR Group´s company network. With a consistent LAN and WLAN network platform and IP-independent network segmentation, users and devices can move seamlessly from one workstation to another. As part of Cisco’s intent-based network solution, role-based access control has been implemented on an Identity Service Engine platform to ensure secure access to services for the users and all compatible devices.
“We no longer have designated workstations. Instead, our work is based on mobility and the use of a wireless network. Even if the user moves from one location to another during a Skype call, for example, the network space remains the same, as it is based on the device identifier. In our day-to-day work, this means better network stability and higher efficiency, as the capacity of the data communication network has multiplied,” says Honkanen.
Cisco’s intent-based network solution includes various modules. VR Groups´s network access control is managed on the Cisco Identity Service Engine platform in cloud service. The platform is used to determine user paths: which devices a user is able to connect to the network and where they have access.
The intent-based network also improves network maintenance, which is provided by Cinia as a service. The intent-based network forms a software-driven infrastructure where new services are quicker and simpler to implement, with fewer errors. The intent-based network collects real-time data about the network and is able to predict possible fault situations, which enables Cinia to implement the necessary corrective measures before any faults occur. The intent-based network also enables Cinia to provide VR Group`s IT unit with full visibility of the system that is being maintained.
“The current data communication solution is managed through a single system in DNA Center, and the same software also provides information about the status and health of the network. Network problems typically take several days to resolve. In the new system, however, such problems can be resolved even in an hour. Sometimes problems are resolved before users report or even notice them. This is a property of the intent-based network that truly improves the quality of work,” Honkanen explains.
THE INTENT-BASED NETWORK IS BEING EXPANDED INTO REGIONAL NETWORKS
In addition to its head office, VR Group has ten regional networks and over 7500 employees.
“Each regional network operates in a similar manner to the head office. In the future, we will have intent-based networks everywhere and will be able to accelerate the implementation and maintenance of regional networks across the country. The regional networks will be updated one network at a time as their equipment becomes outdated and is no longer supported,” says Honkanen.
The renewal project with Cinia has progressed well. The customer has been kept up to date, and matters related to the project have been discussed together.
“I absolutely recommend Cinia’s expert services. Their knowledge of networks is top-notch. They know what they are talking about,” says Erkki Honkanen, IT Technical Lead at VR Group. Honkanen is responsible for VR Group`s company network.
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