A Better, Faster Way for Retailers to Connect with Customers

NFV smooths the path to digital transformation and solves latency issues along the way

Kunal Handa
A Better, Faster Way for Retailers to Connect with Customers

The pandemic changed everything for brick-and-mortar retail businesses. Retailers had to immediately embrace digital transformation, or risk failing. Initially, moving to the cloud was appealing to some businesses because of the cost savings on hardware. However, they quickly realized that they needed to better manage the total costs of moving to the cloud. These costs could include consuming cloud infrastructure (compute, storage, apps), deploying virtual networking and VPN devices in multiple clouds, and data egress charges, just to name a few. The good news is there is an efficient, cost-effective and secure migration path to the cloud.

Virtualizing the network at the digital edge offers a better way for retail businesses to manage their cloud migration. It provides a central area to deploy virtual devices in each major metro rather than having them sit in each cloud, which cuts costs and makes a hybrid multicloud network easier to manage. According to Gartner, 2021 Strategic Roadmap for Edge Computing, “the amount of data being generated outside of the data center is exploding, with estimates describing 50% of enterprise data being generated outside of the core by 2023.”[i]

Equinix customers can use Equinix Fabric™ software-defined interconnection to provision multiple virtual connections to all of the major cloud providers and edge services via a single physical port. For customers who want to deploy virtual networks or bare metal-as-a-service (BMaaS) in Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers where they may or may not have a presence, Equinix Fabric provides private, secure interconnection to virtual network functions (VNF) devices on Network Edge and automated bare metal services on-demand with Equinix Metal™.  This allows customers to leverage Equinix Fabric to interconnect to these foundational digital infrastructure building blocks in minutes, without the need for additional hardware and CAPEX.

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Many choices, no commitment or hardware needed

Using Network Edge services from Equinix, businesses can select and deploy VNFs (SD-WAN, routers, and firewalls) from world-class partners such as Cisco, Palo Alto, Juniper and Fortinet. They can select and deploy these virtual devices via the Equinix Fabric Portal. From there, they can leverage Equinix Fabric to connect users to cloud service providers (CSPs), network service providers (NSPs) and even other customers on the Fabric all through a single virtual device, avoiding the cost for one-to-one physical connections. Equinix Fabric also allows for private cloud to cloud routing at the edge, reducing latency and egress fee costs compared to connecting multiple clouds over VPN.

How does this play out for retail companies? Retail companies who move to a virtual network benefit from increased flexibility for their workforce and lower latency and increased performance for their customers and their employees.

VNF enables rapid, scalable deployment

When the pandemic hit, many enterprises businesses were forced to immediately transition office workers to remote workers. A supermarket customer who had an existing deployment with Equinix asked us for help with this transition. We were able to create a scalable solution with their existing Palo Alto licensing on top of their existing physical data center deployment. The solution was operational in under 60 minutes, without any additional hardware, and the customer never had to visit an IBX data center.

VNF solves latency issues for retail businesses

Imagine a retail company with an app in the cloud that customers connect to over the internet. The connection between the public app and the company’s infrastructure must be secured to protect both the company’s network and their customers. Retailers can use Network Edge to easily spin up a firewall as needed between the app in the cloud and their corporate network. Also, the company can offer the ability to connect to the application privately for clients via Equinix Fabric by using virtual connections to the firewall.

Without Network Edge, these businesses would have to use the public internet to connect to customers – a network that can be slow and unpredictable. Latency-sensitive apps that require security perform better and are more secure on a dedicated private connection, such as those provided by Equinix.

One of our very large retail customers reached out to Equinix because they had a problem with their centralized data center model. Their network traffic was passing through two private data centers and encountering bottlenecks at each one. This was causing latency issues among their stores, manufacturing facilities and even their clouds. They used Network Edge to move to a distributed model where they could spin up virtual POPs throughout the world and connect them together using Equinix Fabric. All of their stores and manufacturing facilities now use these POPs as local transit hubs, eliminating the need for their own private data centers for routing and security policy enforcement. The hubs also leverage Equinix Fabric for private cloud connectivity to the facilities, avoiding the public internet and greatly improving both network speed and reliability.

Digital Infrastructure is a Hybrid-Distributed Architecture

VNF expands reach into new markets – instantly

Equinix data centers, with our global presence of more than 220 facilities in 63 metro markets worldwide, decrease latency because you can have a presence much closer to your customers, even if they are halfway across the world from your headquarters. This makes breaking into new geographic markets a lot easier.

For example, one of our beauty product customers wanted to quickly migrate from their current data centers into cloud rich metros with more possibilities for interconnection. They used Network Edge and Equinix Metal to completely virtualize their network stack and servers, which gave them the ability to spin up virtual presences immediately, in the metros where they wanted to be. Then, they were able to migrate hardware for the workloads that needed to stay on physical gear, ultimately creating a hybrid physical/virtual solution.

Retail businesses that use Network Edge don’t need to commit to one location, network functions virtualization (NFV) infrastructure vendor or device. The vendor-neutral Equinix Platform provides access to a whole suite of foundational digital infrastructure building blocks, such as virtual networking devices, from all of the leading providers.

Ready to see what Network Edge can do for your retail business? Start a free trial of Network Edge today.



[1] Gartner, 2021 Strategic Roadmap for Edge Computing, Bob Gill, November 3, 2020.

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