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BT Assure Managed Virtual Firewall service means secure and failsafe internet access for measurement technology market leader
All employees of Elster Group – a global vendor of measurement technology for gas, water, and electricity – need fast and highly-secure internet access as well as protection against internet-borne cyber threats. To achieve this, expert BT teams in Frankfurt and Atlanta collaborated to design and implement a next-generation firewall infrastructure at strategic Elster Group locations in Germany and the USA.
Using the latest Fortinet cloud-based technology some 7,500 employees and partners can now access secure internet services anywhere to speed their knowledge-intensive work in the development of new measurement technology products and services.
With one central contact person for questions regarding our internet access we are not only saving time but also could decrease costs. The savings of the new virtual firewall compared with an internal solution can be estimated around 30 per cent.”
- Thomas May, Group Manager, Global IT Infrastructure, Elster Group
Energy is valuable because it’s scarce; so technological developments are vital to help in using resources ever-more-sparingly. Elster Group is a leading worldwide manufacturer of measurement technologies for gas, water, and electricity, and one of the largest international suppliers of such services to utility companies.
To meet the local requirements of power companies and provide them with fast customer service, Elster Group is present in 39 countries around the world. It adopted a BT global MPLS network and firewall infrastructure in 2007 so that employees could communicate efficiently wherever they might be.
However, increasing bandwidth demands and the need to be more efficient required a degree of modernisation. Elster Group wished to migrate to a state-of-the-art firewall infrastructure fast and without incurring higher costs. Other requirements were that the firewall should use a redundant configuration for assured availability, and that partner companies should get separate access to internal SAP software, for example, without problems.
Also the continent-spanning Elster Group organisation had to be considered. The company has a significant presence in the USA, where Darnell Smith, vice president of Group IT resides, while the HQ is in Germany, where Thomas May, group manager of Global IT Infrastructure is located.
Its global footprint made BT an ideal partner to continue the relationship and manage the modernisation project. Elster Group chose the BT Assure Managed Virtual Firewall service, which is based on the latest cloud-based Fortinet technology.
“This next-generation BT firewall architecture is able to protect against the most complex internet threats, while companies are kept in full command of their security costs,” explains Konstantin Heldt, Global Security Product Manager BT Assure. “Only a few can meet such requirements, and we have implemented exactly the same service in our data centres in Frankfurt and Atlanta in the USA.”
The two firewall clusters provide a backup for each other so that Elster Group can work with uninterrupted global internet access.
“With part of the solution sited in the USA, Elster Group employees in America benefit from shorter packet latency and faster access,” explains Jörg Zinngräbe, BT account director. “Furthermore, the future-oriented Fortinet technology forming the heart of the firewall means the infrastructure is always up-to-date.”
Changing to the new firewall architecture has been no problem for Elster Group. Its cloud-based nature enabled the company initially to extensively test the solution and get familiar with the technology and its features with the help of an expert onsite team. The feedback from Elster Group employees is clear: everyone’s completely satisfied with the fast internet access and how BT is managing the environment.
New features of the intelligent firewall that convinced Elster Group included application control, which enables granular control of users’ surfing behaviours. The firewall recognises at the application layer exactly which internet facilities employees are actually using. Now, using firewall-based intelligence, the applications themselves – and not just the ports as previously – can be blocked or released.
Internet access can be further controlled customer-specifically with URL filtering and the use of a black-and-white listing mechanism. The register of internet pages with questionable content or prohibited keywords is updated automatically and helps check, allow or block access accordingly to Elster Group policy.
Following the successful BT Assure Managed Virtual Firewall test run, Elster Group and BT migrated all 80 of the company’s worldwide locations onto the two new centralized internet gateways. The solution offers specific third party access for some 20 partner companies, established via encrypted IPSec tunnels in dedicated environments within the Elster Group network. These tunnels allow problem-free remote maintenance of Elster Group software applications, for example by SAP and other consulting companies.
Within only three months the Elster Group network has been transformed with the newest intelligent firewall infrastructure. “A great advantage was that with the deployment of the firewall out of the cloud we could work quickly with the most modern technologies without high initial investments,” says Thomas May. Elster Group can change its firewall and unified threat management rules via a secure portal at any time.
Elster Group benefited especially from the BT Compute and BT Advise teams residing onsite in both Frankfurt and Atlanta, collaborating to achieve a seamless implementation. Daily support of the firewall is carried out directly by BT and, to run the service processes smoothly, customer feedback was included in the design from the outset.
With an identical firewall solution across both continents, fast and stable internet access is provided for all Elster Group employees. That means some 7,500 people are working together more efficiently in the interests of the preservation of scarce resources. “Since 2007 BT has been our trusted supplier for network and security. This long-term relationship has been proved again in this newest project,” concludes Thomas May.
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