Germany's largest consumer retail supermarket with over 250 stores
Easy setup and management of all devices via Meraki dashboard
Use the VPN feature to update and securely deliver content
Setting up a network for one branch is one thing. What happens if you have to set up a network for not only one but 250 sites? The Coop eG was founded in 1899 and is Germany’s largest consumer Cooperative in food retail. Today it consists of around 200 sky and plaza supermarkets as well as of 11 plaza constructions and garden centers in Northern Germany.
In 2015 Gerrit Graf, IT manager at Coop had to restructure the network of all markets but wanted to gain flexibility and a full overview of his network. Read on to find out how Mr. Graf secured a high bandwidth on all locations at no extra cost with Meraki MX security devices and the Meraki dashboard.
Original challenges to the network:
When Mr. Graf started working at Coop in 2010, the starting point of his network was an existing MPLS network of a large telecommunication company with a branch connection based on DSL and smallest bandwidths. He did not have a direct influence on the network back then. The solution was impractical: every change or an increase of bandwidth on the MPLS network was very expensive, so remote maintenance or local internet access relied on additional DSL connections. However, Coop wanted to increase the bandwidth in all locations while bundling all network requirements into one single connection, without adding unnecessary costs.
Coop was looking for a solution that offered many features but, at the same time, offers a highly accessible and intuitive management software. Mr Graf had two options: choose a program of the producer or Meraki’s cloud managed solution.
In 2013, Mr. Graf heard about Meraki for the first time at the NetUSE AG (“NuBit”) tradeshow in Kiel, a city in Northern Germany. At first, he was interested in an application of the WLAN AP. One year later, he urgently needed to find a solution for branch networking, so Mr. Graf learned more about the full functionality of the Meraki solutions at Cisco Connect 2014. Coop then tested Meraki and realized they could set up the network quickly – a key factor in their choice of Meraki.
Meraki’s cloud management is a ready-to-run, incredible practical management interface, which is also easy to manage for non-IT specialists and has supported us in many ways
IT Manager at Coop
Coop mainly works with Meraki’s security appliances, the Meraki MXs. Two MX400s are used in the control center in Kiel, and one of the two devices is used as a warm spare. Coop installed the MX64 in 250 locations and connected them via Meraki’s Auto VPN feature. In addition to merchandise management, e-mail and online information systems, the VPN can now be used to reliably transmit multi-media content for sales promotions and even large software updates to the computers of all branches in a very short time. Firewall settings allow Coop to provide external service providers with remote maintenance access to sites which, however, are securely segregated from the Coop intranet.
Regular software and security updates of the operating systems or anti-virus solutions, which must be installed on the computers in all branches, can use a lot of bandwidth. The Meraki dashboard allows you how the bandwidth is being used at a glance. A QoS layer 7 traffic shaping rule can be set up in a few clicks, limiting the upload to a certain bandwidth. This ensures sufficient capacity for other applications.
Coop is now gradually rolling out the MS220 in its supermarkets, in order to expand the new capabilities locally. Moreover, Coop is planning to purchase access points for wireless LAN in the stores. Interestingly, Coop does not only plan to set up WiFi for mobile devices of employees in shops, but also to offer it as an additional service for end customers. Coop already offered mobile payment options in the past, but some markets had such a bad 3G or 4G reception that they decided against it. : “… if you offer smartphone payment but the customer has no access to the internet, that doesn’t make any sense!”, Gerrit Graf, IT manager at Coop. Offering WiFi in shops could be turned into reality with Meraki MR access points. With the help of the Meraki dashboard, Coop could then analyze visitor streams with the integrated heatmap or location analytics tool.
With Meraki’s mobile device management solution, mobile devices can be controlled very easily in all locations.
With the security features of the MX Security Devices, content filtering or firewall rules can be set up for guests WiFi, so that Coop can protect its network against the abuse or attacks by third parties.
The IT team at Coop consists of 38 members but only has a small number of network experts. With the Meraki dashboard, configurations can be set up as templates before a device is implemented on site. These standardized presets can then be imported from the dashboard into a single device easily. This means that Coop’s reduced team of networking experts can easily stay on top of their deployment.
After Mr. Graf had familiarized himself with the templates, the rest was “… just a walk in the park! It was very pleasant that you could break down all the infrastructure requirements on three to four templates and configure devices with them. When a new market opens, everyone in the IT team can push the configuration to the devices easily, which is very handy.” (Gerrit Graf, IT Manager at Coop)
“I definitely highly recommend Meraki. The functionality of the solution covers everything we need. The configuration and the handling of the dashboard are very, very, very simple, so we can get all devices up and running quickly and easily.” (Gerrit Graf, Head of IT at Coop)
An initial concern to bear the full responsibility for the operational security of the network itself quickly vanished.
Our users notice that they do not notice anything. The network works and is very stable.
IT Manager at Coop
The dashboard allows Coop to push updates automatically to all devices on Sundays without being worried. Monitoring the network on a daily basis is easy too: Mr. Graf only needs to “have a brief look at the dashboard” to get a full overview of his networks, which he did not have before.
The solution is not more expensive than the previous one, but Coop could reach even higher throughput rates because they could use the best available technology. In this respect, it is much easier to control the network and to be able to respond to all technical and site-specific requirements:
For me, the best feature is the full flexibility over all aspects of the network. And, at the same time, the Meraki cloud solution offers all important features to meet the needs of the user. You have to understand what you do, but you do not need a big IT team. You are flexible but can keep complexity away from the team – that was huge improvement for us!