The Wagner Project - An orchestrator at the heart of Wifirst’s strategy

Sarah Battoue (UK)
05 May 2020

Through the revolution of managed networks, Wifirst has become a fundamental partner in the age of digital transformation in the tourism and collective accommodation sectors, in addition to retail & B2B markets.

A pioneer of “WiFi as a Service”, Wifirst has always aspired to stand out from the crowd. By investing in intelligent systems and software development, exceptional uniformed service has consequently arisen, regardless of the utilised hardware (All hardware is however rigorously tested and must meet specific criteria before approved for deployment into the Wifirst network.

Wifirst’s Network Operation Center (NOC) supervises and maintains over 200,000 active devices, such as Wireless Access Points, switches and gateways installed within customer premises throughout EMEA, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To support the operational teams in managing such a large enterprise while gaining efficiency and continuously offering customers new network functionalities improving the quality of service, Wifirst concentrated efforts in the development of a configuration repository and automation tools to enable efficient service delivery.

Wifirst intends for all network deployments and modifications to soon be managed exclusively by these groundbreaking tools. David Berkowicz, Wifirst’s CTO explains some of the benefits of this revolutionary approach.

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1. David, can you briefly explain the role of the Wifirst technical management team?

Our primary role is to design and develop the product that we offer to our customers. Our team is made up of engineers who specialise in the core & backbone network, and in Information System infrastructure, network architects, and developers, who work closely with the marketing teams to deliver all of our solutions. We ensure that the operational teams (deployment, NOC operations and support) are provided with all of the tools and procedures required to deliver, produce and operate our networks efficiently.

2. One of the most extensive programs this quarter is the launch of the “Wagner” project, what is it exactly?

Wifirst works with many hardware manufacturers, notably Cisco, Ruckus, Huawei, Dell and Juniper. Our engineering teams are continually carrying out technical analysis studies to test and integrate the best solutions on the market (WiFi Access Points terminals, switches, routers and servers) to meet the diverse challenges of our industry. We decided to design a configuration repository in addition to an automated orchestration tool for the provisioning of hardware, and this is the “Wagner” project. In just a few weeks, all of our deployments and modifications will be performed by this new tool.

3. How will the “Wagner” project help Wifirst on a day-to-day basis?

It is a step towards the complete automation of our delivery chain, which will save considerable time for our deployment and operations teams. Therefore every single configuration made becomes much more consistent and stable. These orchestration tools will also allow us to accelerate the integration of new manufacturers into our operational chain, and thus respond favourably to potential customers needing the use of specific equipment.

Additionally, the tools also enable us to further improve our SLAs by delivering more reliable incident troubleshooting thanks to numbers of algorithms which regularly analyse and detect any malfunctions or inconsistencies in the configuration of network equipment. For example, if a VLAN had not been correctly propagated throughout our network infrastructure, this would be identified and automatically fixed.

Furthermore, our customers directly benefit as the functionality of the Wifirst Center is also extended. The Wifirst Center is our Cloud-based extranet, enabling customers to monitor network devices or raise support tickets amongst a variety of other tasks.

4. How was it possible to complete this project throughout the restrictions put in place due to Covid-19?

A team of multi-skilled developers with exceptional network knowledge have dedicated several months to the project. Working alongside Product Owners, our engineering team have been able to design the tools with precise and detailed focus while also adapting to our home working contingencies.

5. Finally, how does this project fit into Wifirst’s strategy?

Wifirst is a leading provider of managed services, offering customers the opportunity to build and operate class-leading networks, enabling them to focus on their core business. In other words, we are not merely hardware resellers or installers of computer equipment. The added value lies in the software layer that we’ve built and improved upon over the past 18 years.

We differentiate ourselves from other suppliers and manufactures as we believe the key to our success lies not in just the human intelligence of the women and men who maintain and operate our networks. But also artificial intelligence integrated into the framework of our software. Collectively, this is, in essence, the Wagner Project.

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