Providing better visibility across traffic and network from a centralized dashboard
Using SD-WAN features to route the traffic when something goes wrong, which is critical in maintaining availability of services
Securing the workplace with Meraki to protect traffic and equipment—wherever users are
Meraki solution deployed in more than 900 physical locations nationwide
More than 25,000 IT appliances connected to the network
Close to 7,000 mobile devices managed via Meraki Systems Manager (SM)
The leader of the pharmaceutical retail market in Romania, Catena has established itself not only as an authentic brand with over 22 years in operation, but also as the most trusted pharmacy network in the country.
The Catena brand has a mission of encouraging healthy, harmonious lifestyle choices while also meeting essential criteria for their customers such as proximity and accessibility, good prices, and a wide range of products.
With more than 25,000 IT appliances connected to the network, we needed to be able to quickly see when something goes wrong—and fix it. By partnering with Meraki, we’ve gained visibility into traffic, the resources allocated, and the usage patterns—all key to offering an exceptional service.
IT Infrastructure Manager, Smart Soft Power
Catena has over 900 physical locations nationwide, more than 6,500 employees and over 25,000 IT appliances connected to the network. Operating both as an essential retail and pharmaceutical business, the biggest challenge is to keep all the services up and running 24/7 all year.
Catena was experiencing a time of accelerated growth, and their network solution was not able to handle added locations. Smart Soft Power, the IT company responsible for managing Catena’s infrastructure, was encountering a variety of challenges to scale the solution.
”When we had to make some configuration changes, we needed to update each router individually as we did not have cloud or centralized management. We had essentially no visibility across traffic, sources, or destinations, and also no security features were available on that solution. We have to be online 24/7 all year, so availability is critical. We needed security, visibility, and availability,” said Cătălin Burla, IT Infrastructure Manager, Smart Soft Power.
In 2018, Catena began intensive market research for a better solution and analyzed Cisco Meraki as well as other vendors. After an extensive analysis and real-life equipment testing, Catena embarked on a partnership with Meraki, choosing the license with the best security features available and the solution that could be implemented in the shortest period of time.
Catena selected Meraki following a proof-of-concept process that lasted three months. During this period, Meraki met the needs the client was looking for: security, traffic visibility, and ability to scale out to more locations. The IT team anticipated that Catena would continue to grow, and they were right. The project started in 2018 with 615 locations, and by the end of that year there were already over 900.
Due to good planning, the IT team was able to migrate all the locations to the new solution in only three months. The process was easy because they used templates and could migrate locations from one solution to another in 10-15 minutes—without downtime or having to close any of Catena’s many retail locations.
“We delivered the router to the retail location where the field technician connected it to the internet. A colleague simply assigned the router to the correct template. It was that simple! In just ten minutes we were able to move a location from the old solution to Meraki. With the prior solution, this process would have taken up to three months and thousands of kilometers driven to change equipment, given the difficult-to-reach location,” added Burla.
Catena is using Meraki MX security and SD-WAN appliances, where they get the benefits of unified firewall, switching, and wireless LAN in over 900 locations—all easily managed through an intuitive cloud-first dashboard.
One particular benefit of the Meraki partnership is the managing and securing of close to 7,000 Android devices, believed to be the third largest Meraki Android deployment globally. Catena is able to remotely optimize these Android devices for retail pharmaceutical work and utilizes Meraki Systems Manager (SM) mobile device management (MDM) to secure their extended network and derive more robust endpoint visibility.
Burla explains that “the most significant benefit of using Meraki routers and SD-WAN is our independence from internet service providers. We can connect to our network without restrictions regardless of technology, location, or line type. With 900 locations in different towns and cities and differently sized buildings, we can now communicate over any type of infrastructure where this was previously a technical challenge. Finally, secure data connections in the workplace are a priority for us, whether data is routed between the retail location and our headquarters or to the data centre. Meraki’s advanced security features make it possible for us to protect our data and equipment, no matter where our users are.”
Since partnering with Meraki, the technical support team at Smart Soft Power can quickly and easily see when something is wrong and address the issue remotely though the dashboard instead of physically traveling between locations. Before partnering with Meraki, the field technicians responsible for the maintenance services visited each location monthly—costing the team both time and money. Now, thanks to the Meraki dashboard, the team visits the same location no more than once every three months.
With the previous solution, the Smart Soft Power team did not have any measurable uptime for the equipment or other centralized assessment. The Meraki dashboard helps the IT team see everything, allowing Catena to focus on providing better services to its customers. Quality services mean higher availability, lower cost of operation, and increased visibility for the technical team to solve the issues. Ultimately, Catena now has a more intuitive, comprehensive solution with a moderate impact on costs and operation.
In 2018, AnyConnect integration was not available, but after three years, this feature was incorporated in the Meraki suite. We did not expect to be able to move our VPN clients to the Meraki solution at the beginning, but this came as a bonus.