Case Study

Driving high performance and millions in savings for AutoNation


Industry-leading automotive retailer AutoNation replaces MPLS with Palo Alto Networks CloudGenix next-generation SD-WAN, reduces telco costs by 25%— and gains blazingly fast and uninterrupted connectivity.


In brief

Customer

AutoNation

Industry

Automotive

Country

United States of America

Products and Services

Automotive retail and services

Organization Size

22,000


Challenge

AutoNation seeks to replace MPLS with fast, reliable, and cost-effective SD-WAN across its 350 locations and two colocation data centers.

Requirements
  • Reliably access and secure applications
  • Reduce telecommunications cost and complexity
  • Gain Layer 7 visibility
  • Deploy rapidly without disruption
Solution

They selected Palo Alto Networks CloudGenix® next-generation SD-WAN over solutions from established networking and virtualization vendors.

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Bandwidth fuels opportunity

Just ask AutoNation. For the largest automobile retailer in the United States, more bandwidth goes a long way toward boosting sales, productivity, customer satisfaction, and new sources of revenue.

That’s why Adam Rasner, vice president of Technology Operations at AutoNation, has spearheaded continuous network improvements over the last four years as part of the company’s ongoing digital transformation journey. It became apparent to Rasner and his team that AutoNation’s complex, slow, and often unreliable multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) network had outlived its usefulness at the company. Even after they moved from unreliable, low bandwidth bundled T1 circuits to higher-bandwidth fiber connections, they found their legacy MPLS network still couldn’t keep up with their performance and reliability requirements.

CloudGenix SD-WAN
Repair teams leverage service technology enabled by Palo Alto Networks CloudGenix SD-WAN

CHALLENGE

Industry leadership calls for uninterrupted network connectivity

AutoNation needed a higher-performance, more reliable way of accessing and securing applications, databases, and processes, according to Rasner. The infrastructure improvements were vital for the company to continue earning its annual revenue of over $21 billion.

More bandwidth and resiliency would also help grow the business. AutoNation employs over 22,000 people in over 350 locations across the U.S. at its auction houses, repair facilities, warehouses, and hundreds of dealerships. The staff need network reliability for tasks ranging from completing sales of new and used cars of almost every make to handling inventory, pricing, repair, and helping customers with financing and insurance options.

What’s more, Rasner and his team wanted to reduce the high maintenance and carrier costs that resulted from using multiple vendors for telecommunications services in different regions across the country. “The value MPLS brings for the cost we were paying—it simply wasn’t there,” says Rasner, adding, “At the end of the day, MPLS is a low-bandwidth and high-cost connection.”

REQUIREMENTS

Effective networking is also cost-effective networking

To achieve more reliable and cost-effective networking, Rasner and his colleague Joe Paxton, senior manager of Network Services, began to look at software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) solutions.

“A few years ago, there wasn't a big appetite for SD-WAN here because we didn't believe we could run our entire network over the public internet,” recalls Paxton. He continues, “But as time went on, it became obvious that issues like latency were a thing of the past—with the right solution in place.”

The right SD-WAN solution, as per Rasner, needed to provide high availability and significantly increase AutoNation’s WAN bandwidth to power more applications. Any SD-WAN solution they chose also needed to provide a significant return on investment because all other capital projects at AutoNation had been put on hold during the early days of COVID-19.

quote

The value MPLS brings for the cost we were paying—it simply wasn’t there. At the end of the day, MPLS is a low-bandwidth and high-cost connection.

– Adam Rasner, Vice President,
Technology Operations at AutoNation

SOLUTION

Best-in-class SD-WAN quickly becomes apparent

Rasner and Paxton considered solutions from leading networking and virtualization vendors, but were most impressed with Palo Alto Networks CloudGenix® next-generation SD-WAN, which delivers critical branch networking and security services from the cloud. Designed for high performance as well as cost effectiveness, CloudGenix SD-WAN uses machine learning (ML) to deliver ROI of up to 243%, eliminate up to 99% of network trouble tickets, and provide a tenfold increase in WAN bandwidth for lower cost than legacy solutions.

Reliability was also essential for Rasner and his team. “One of the things I really liked was the fail-to-wire on the WAN circuits where you could lose a CloudGenix SD-WAN appliance and keep the network up and running,” he maintains. “That’s a big deal, because when you lose a router in designs with two circuits and two routers, you also lose the WAN link. With CloudGenix SD-WAN, if one circuit fails, the second link stays up—and network traffic keeps moving.”

The company was impressed with CloudGenix SD-WAN Layer 7 visibility, providing them the ability to see user and application traffic—not just Layer 3 network packet traffic, which helps provide consistent service for end users. Plus, cloud networking delivery and minimal manual operating requirements would allow the organization to reduce IT labor costs by simplifying time-consuming WAN management. “CloudGenix was totally engineered towards SD-WAN, while products from other vendors were not purpose-built for what we needed,” states Rasner.

quote

CloudGenix was totally engineered towards SD-WAN, while products from other vendors were not purpose-built for what we needed.

– Adam Rasner, Vice President,
Technology Operations at AutoNation

CloudGenix SD-WAN
CloudGenix SD-WAN simplicity provides continuous application availability across locations.

BENEFITS

Phenomenal test performance leads to seamless, cross-company deployment

Rigorous testing during a proof of concept at three dealerships exceeded expectations— including a 95% reduction in the amount of time needed to deploy and connect a store location, compared to AutoNation’s legacy WAN solution.

“We were able to deploy CloudGenix SD-WAN at a dealership location in thirty minutes,” asserts Paxton. “We were accustomed to that process taking three days with our old MPLS system. Now we can simply change over to SD-WAN after business hours without interrupting sales and services.”

The pilot went so well, Rasner and his team decided to move forward with the plan to deploy CloudGenix SD-WAN across all company locations. The AutoNation team chose CloudGenix ION 3000 high-performance hardware devices designed to support branch offices and retail stores with throughput of up to 500 Mbps per appliance and purpose-built redundancy for uninterrupted operations.

Massive OpEx reductions leaves MPLS far behind

By removing network complexity with CloudGenix SD-WAN, the AutoNation team dramatically reduced telecommunications costs by $3 million—or 25% of its annual telecommunications budget. Cost savings came from disbanding the MPLS network, as well as consolidating telco carriers.

“Now we can reliably budget carrier pricing in a way that we couldn’t before,” Rasner sustains. “Plus, we’re heading toward reducing internal network team expense by having one set of documentation and a single escalation process through one carrier instead of several disconnected processes with many carriers.”

Other immediate cost savings were found in equipment cost avoidance, such as bypassing the need to refresh the company’s expensive, traditional WAN routers.

Increased reliability further lowers costs for critical applications

Thanks to the increased reliability CloudGenix SD-WAN provides, Rasner and his team have been able to ensure ongoing operations of applications and databases essential for company operations. Rapid and dependable connections to the company’s colocation data centers allow uninterrupted access to AutoNation’s CRM system.

AutoNation also benefits from continuous access to the National Dealer Database (NDD), a vital inventory of all vehicles across the company’s 350 dealerships. The company uses this business-critical tool to speed sales, assess pricing, and understand buying trends.

SD-WAN supports
SD-WAN supports a seamless mobile-enabled experience for AutoNation’s customers

Faster performance helps increase customer satisfaction—and boosts productivity

New gains in network performance now allow AutoNation to confidently use digital customer service options—from iPad-enabled check-in to mobile-delivered videos of service recommendations—helping to boost revenue through improved customer satisfaction and retention.

“All this speeds the repair process and provides the customer with confidence that repairs are actually needed—whether it’s a cracked muffler, broken transmission case, or tire treads,” offers Rasner. “It really inspires customer confidence that what we’re doing is the right thing.”

With CloudGenix SD-WAN, AutoNation can depend on other advanced applications, such as virtual reality (VR) headsets, that let the company’s technicians view and resolve problems with their auto manufacturer counterparts.

Unparalleled bandwidth goes a long way toward growing the business

VR-based automotive servicing isn’t the only advancement that the speed and reliability of CloudGenix SD-WAN will power for AutoNation. The company is working on more digital, self-service opportunities to guide customers further and further along the sales path without entering a store—and these opportunities require reliable, high-speed bandwidth.

“Without the network, there is nothing, and that’s why we took our decision to move to CloudGenix SD-WAN very seriously,” assures Rasner. “Now we have the highest performing network we’ve ever had, just from the bandwidth change. It gives us the option to introduce more applications into the environment, which is a huge business-enabler for us.”

See CloudGenix in action

Find out more about how Palo Alto Networks CloudGenix next-generation SD-WAN can help power opportunities for your organization.

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