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Case Study

SD-WAN network solution delivers joined up policing

Surrey and Sussex police forces have been working together since the introduction of the Emergency Services Collaboration Programme (ECSP) in 2013. The programme involves close collaboration between six emergency services to re-design how services are delivered. The main focus is helping to ensure best practices are followed, squeezing more value from assets and resources, as well as improving agility and responsiveness.

Both forces share a joint technology department, Surrey & Sussex Police Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) and aim to improve policing outcomes in line with the UK-wide National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) policing Vision 2025 policy. One of DDaT’s strategic goals is to leverage public cloud services. However, the current network relied upon existing on-premise infrastructure for sharing data, content and resources. To evolve the service in line with its ambitions and the force’s wider strategy, it needed to find an alternative solution.

Police office

Key facts

  • Approximately 8,000 full time staff across two forces
  • Shared technology and other services model under ESCP
  • Focus on Digital Policing in line with NPCC policing Vision policy

The Challenge

Both forces share a Wide Area Network (WAN) connecting around 100 branch sites and thousands of users to policing services and resources. The existing network infrastructure was approaching end of life and lacked the agility and bandwidth needed in an age of evolving digital policing. Innovations such as body-worn video (BWV) and the increasing adoption of Microsoft 365 technologies meant the existing infrastructure, built on traditional office routers, couldn’t provide the capacity, agility and functionality required.

Surrey and Sussex DDaT needed a professional services partner to deliver an alternative public cloud network solution. The new network had to be capable of coping with progressive policing practices and the huge increase in demand for access to resilient IT services they create. Softcat has extensive experience working with UK police forces and a deep understanding of the strategies that are driving change within the service, including the NPCC 2025 Vision. When Surrey and Sussex DDaT got in touch, Softcat knew exactly what it needed.

Critical success factors

  • Replace ageing WAN infrastructure
  • Ensure resilient network capacity to match increasing demand
  • Enable access to public-cloud services to improve operational efficiency

The Solution

As with every Softcat engagement, extensive preparatory work went in to understanding Surrey and Sussex DDaT’s strategic objectives and how the network would need to adapt to changing working practices and increasing demand. Merging each force’s disparate networks into a single entity controlled by the DDaT department was a key objective. A site discovery exercise took place to quantify each site’s requirements and Softcat proposed a Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-

WAN) to replace the existing legacy routers. It would provide the connectivity required, using MPLS and Internet services, between sites.

Softcat, working alongside trusted partners Breeze Networks and VMware, recommended a VMware SD-WAN solution based on Velocloud technology, co-managed by Breeze Networks. It would complement the underlay network by delivering a next-generation SD-WAN overlay network leveraging a mixture of physical and virtual appliances and cloud management services. From the initial consultation onwards, Softcat and its partners liaised with Surrey and Sussex DDaT’s architecture, design and delivery teams to agree high and low-level designs and establish project governance. It also worked with the forces’ project management office (PMO) and connectivity partner, Virgin Media, to deliver the solution.

In all, around 150 SD-WAN hardware edge appliances were deployed. Softcat proposed and completed a pilot project to minimise risk to the forces and public. Once proof of concept had been achieved, the forces’ new cloud-based BWV resources could be deployed with confidence thanks to the enhanced bandwidth aggregation provided by the SD-WAN’s unique feature set.

Dr Steve Conn, Technical Project Manager, Connectivity and Security, Surrey and Sussex Police Forces, said, “We’re proud to be one of the first forces in the UK to adopt SD-WAN. Softcat in partnership with Breeze Networks have been very flexible, supportive of our goals and able to work with us at pace to put this solution in place. Not only is it helping to bring our policing up to date with modern technology, but it has also made it more efficient.”

Solution highlights

  • Five-year contract to supply SD-WAN equipment and support
  • Installed across all Surrey & Sussex police sites within the project timescales
  • Provides access to on-premise and public cloud applications and services
  • Single pane of glass console for management and monitoring

The Benefits

Softcat and its partners completed the end-to-end implementation of the SD-WAN network within a nine-month timescale. With the solution now in place, Surrey and Sussex DDaT can now confidently access the bandwidth needed to bring its policing activities right up to date. Officers on the front line now have seamless access, through a public cloud provision, to the resources they need to police effectively.

It has enabled both forces to harness innovative technologies like BWV, creating terabytes of data every week, without negatively impacting the network’s performance or resilience. Network segmentation enables both forces to deploy kiosk devices to quickly and securely provide officers with access to critical information and resources without putting core infrastructure and applications at risk.

The forces’ DDaT service desk now has enhanced visibility and control of traffic passing through the network thanks to the solution’s single pane of glass management function. It provides enhanced capacity to monitor and troubleshoot issues in real time and reduce the ongoing workload on second line teams.

Both forces can now quickly and simply deploy branch sites and provide direct access into their public cloud presence and consume cloud services like Microsoft 365 much more efficiently and 

securely. The solution will also provide 50% year-on-year OpEx savings compared to the legacy infrastructure.

Brent Wild, Surrey and Sussex’s Infrastructure Manager, said, “I think one of the main benefits is being able to see real time, granular information that shows exactly what the network is doing in one pane of glass for the first time. It also gives us flexibility and speed to prioritise traffic almost instantly. Enabling cloud service consumption was also a big factor.”

Benefits at a glance

  • End-to-end solution implementation completed within nine months
  • Enabled roll out of innovative policing solutions, including Body Worn Video and access to Microsoft 365 applications
  • Enhanced network visibility and control
  • 50% year-on-year OpEx savings.

Why Softcat?

Softcat’s knowledge of the wider UK policing strategy and the operational demands it places on IT infrastructure played a critical role in the solution implementation. James McGrath, Surrey and Sussex Network Architect, said, “Softcat is a disruptive player in the networking market. It provided true innovation while understanding policing and its critical nature and, in turn, the importance of delivering a stable network.”

Dr Steve Conn, Surrey and Sussex Technical Project Manager, said, “Softcat, in partnership with Breeze Networks, has been very flexible and supportive of our goals. They worked at pace to put the solution in place. It’s not only helping to bring our policing up to date, it’s also made it more efficient.”