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Gristede’s, a New York-based grocer in business since 1888, has enhanced customer experience and greatly reduced the time it takes to set up the IT infrastructure for new stores by implementing the Virtual Branch Networking (VBN) solution from Aruba Networks Inc. The food retailer additionally plans to deploy increasingly advanced applications over its Aruba secure wireless access network.
With 35 stores and counting, Gristede’s found replacing appliances and WAN links with Aruba’s Remote Access Points (RAPs) to be easier, faster and less expensive. Aruba AP-105 access points at each store let the grocer run everything from digital signage to inventory control over its in-store mobile network, ensuring PCI compliance for business transactions.
“We deployed wireless network initially for inventory control,” said Gristede’s IT infrastructure manager Shawn Winters. “Now we have added wirelessly-enabled digital signage at all 35 stores, allowing us to increase our personal engagement with customers, and we plan on selling advertising in the windows and on the aisle end caps. My vision for some of the newer stores is to just go wireless because it significantly lowers the cabling costs and cuts down setup time from weeks to hours. The zero-touch provisioning functions mean a field tech can take an off-the-shelf Aruba RAP-5WN access point and provision it by just knowing the IP address to enter in the simple Web setup. It doesn’t get much easier than that.”
With the Aruba RAP, all configuration, management, authentication and reporting are performed centrally by an Aruba Mobility Controller in the company’s data center. Processor-intensive network services such as content security are handled in the cloud, optimizing performance without leading to further costs. Aruba’s VBN can lower capital expenditures by as much as 60 percent and operating expenses by as much as 75 percent vs. existing branch router solutions, according to the vendor.
Failover to 3G/4G is a further advantage that Aruba’s VBN offers Gristede’s. “Aruba’s VBN allows us to operate entirely over the USB 3G/4G connection when the primary T-1 link is down,” noted Winters. “True POTS line connections don’t exist in many of our locations, so this was a huge benefit that we didn’t even consider at the initial phase of our Aruba implementation. When the wired side goes down, it usually kills all connections to the stores, because most of the dial-tone service is channel banked. I’ve been able to leverage this to provide centralized wireless management, PCI compliance, WIDS and wired IDS to a degree, and centralized wired management. We plan to implement and seamlessly integrate Aruba’s Virtual Intranet Access (VIA) agent to secure our mobile endpoints soon. As I add features, the ROI increases exponentially.”
“Gristede's is a great example of a company driving customer-facing innovation by evolving its wireless network from inventory control to much more powerful use,” observed Manish Rai, head of retail marketing for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Aruba. “The opportunities that retailers have to engage their customers more directly and impactfully using in-store mobile networks have never been greater.”