Seeing Eye to Eye: How CTDI Leaned on Riedel Networks to Rethink and Rebuild an MPLS Infrastructure

Hubert Martin

Director IT at CTDI Europe

Your network is the core of your business, and this is doubly true if you’re an IT services provider. Any infrastructure change can directly impact operations, for better or worse. The best way to guard against the worst-case scenario is to select the best partner.

While it’s tempting to default to a big-name provider, size does not guarantee service, and sometimes your best choice is a smaller company that shares your values.

A Growing Family Company with American Roots and European Branches

I’m the Director of Information Technology at CTDI Europe and have been with the company since 2013. CTDI provides engineering, repair, and logistics solutions to the communications industry, as well as network deployment services, IT systems integration, product engineering, sourcing and supply, mobile and consumer electronics, and set-top boxes. We are headquartered in Malsch, Germany, and are a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pennsylvania-based CTDI, a family-run company founded in 1975 by Don Parsons and his children Jerry and Richard. Today CTDI is managed by Leo Parsons.

Size does not guarantee service, and sometimes your best choice is a smaller company that shares your values.

My team comprises 90 IT engineers and technicians who oversee IT for our 20 European branches. Every day brings a different challenge because CTDI Europe has grown from 1,500 to 4,500 employees in the last decade through mergers and acquisitions. The IT team has worked tirelessly to integrate the facilities of acquired companies into our existing network. We are also responsible for securely connecting our branches to the data centers at our US and European headquarters and ensuring network continuity, as CTDI relies extensively on hosted apps for our day-to-day activities.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Our European offices are connected to each other and our American headquarters via an MPLS network managed by an external partner. For years, the network was operated and managed by a major carrier with an enormous footprint in Germany. But as our business grew, so did the headaches. As we discovered, bigger isn’t always better. Our network operator had a lumbering resolution process and took days to address technical issues, resulting in two or three significant outages a year.

One network failure lasted three days because that previous partner had leased a line from another big carrier who outsourced network provision to a smaller local provider. When the outage occurred, it took days to coordinate three ticketing systems to resolve the issue. Our SLAs typically require fast turnarounds. For example, our logistics team promises next-day fulfillment. It was bad enough when our network went down for six or seven hours, but four days was catastrophic. We failed to meet our service targets and KPIs and couldn’t let it happen again.

Our previous contract would soon expire, so we issued an RFP for a new MPLS provider and we wanted to explore all options. We contacted five companies, several replied, and one stood out.

Sharing the Same Wavelength

Riedel Networks is a privately held global network services provider founded in Butzbach, Germany that serves industrial, business, sports, and entertainment customers. They offer managed WAN and SD-WAN services across their global MPLS, and, most importantly, they know how to listen and respond to customers’ needs.

CTDI and Riedel are both mid-size companies with similar corporate cultures, values, and business approaches. It is a family-owned company like CTDI, and they impressed us from the start. During the sales phase, our European CEO, Dieter Hollenbach, met with Riedel Group CEO Thomas Riedel to better understand how our two companies could work together. Mr. Riedel is a hands-on executive who understands every aspect of his business, and he zeroed in on how his company can help CTDI achieve our goals.

It was clear during those initial discussions that we saw eye-to-eye. Leadership teams were on the same page, and Riedel’s account management and technical teams offered the best response to our proposal. Riedel is not a conglomerate or a Fortune 500 company who treated us as another number. Instead, they always treated us as partners who they wanted to help succeed.

We were confident we could move forward and forge a partnership with Riedel to revitalize our MPLS network.

A New and Improved MPLS Network

Revamping our network meant taking a new approach. The biggest change was opting for a single MPLS line and a backup network on the public internet. Our previous setup had our primary and backup MPLS lines on the same physical connection, so both often failed simultaneously. Since most of our outages happened in the last mile—close to one of our branches—it made sense to choose an external secondary network instead.

To make this possible, Riedel installed routers at all of our branches. These devices manage traffic across our MPLS infrastructure and divert it to secure public infrastructure in the event of an internal network failure. This setup allows us to leverage Riedel’s global MPLS network and route traffic across local wired and wireless public networks simultaneously, depending on the application and our primary network’s status.

Riedel assigned a team of level two technicians to build our MPLS network and gave us direct access to their team during its deployment. Riedel technicians worked one branch at a time, architecting the network connection at every location, and installing and configuring the necessary hardware and software. The process took 12 months, and every branch migration went smoothly.

An Expertly Managed MPLS Migration

Their professionalism was second-to-none. Riedel project managers took charge of the transition from our old network to the new one from day one. Unlike our previous provider, Riedel was meticulous in their methodology. They had the right tools, the right contacts, and the MPLS experience to follow through on their planned deployment. Their team was also incredibly communicative and met remotely with our Technology Group Leader, Michael Schwarz, every two weeks for updates.

Every aspect of the project was expertly managed. We always knew which branch the technicians were working on and how long before the next facility would migrate to our new infrastructure. When the individual facilities went online, there were no surprises. Riedel also walked us through the actions we had to take to successfully transition each branch from our old provider to their MPLS network. For example, our technicians had to modify our routing rules to reflect our new IP address ranges and reconfigure our routers and firewalls. Riedel communicated everything clearly, resulting in a frictionless process.

When everything was ready on their side and ours, we met with Riedel’s technicians, switched everything over in less than an hour, and migrated the branch to the new network.

Riedel’s Top Priorities: Transparency, Service, and Support

Since partnering with Riedel in 2021, CTDI’s network has been faster and more stable, and service quality is much better. We’ve only had one major service outage and two smaller ones. The smaller ones took less than an hour to resolve, and the larger outage took just two hours. That’s a big difference from the four days it took our previous provider to address an issue.

When we encountered issues or needed support with our previous network, we had to go through an escalation matrix that started with our provider’s level one technicians and made its way up to their CEO before they resolved the problem. With Riedel, we’ve never had to escalate beyond level one because their front-line technicians are exceptional.

Transparency is a top priority. Riedel alerts us when there is a problem and tells us they are working on it. They’re also quick to explain how an outage happened, issuing a report about the underlying causes and the actions taken to resolve them within 24 hours. Our previous provider rarely gave feedback, and we didn’t know what the trouble was, whether they were working on it, or what they were doing to fix it. When they bothered to author a report, we would get it weeks or months after the incident.

Riedel proactively monitors our network and informs us about issues and breaches as soon as they detect them. Because they give CTDI access to the same tools they use, we can see what Riedel sees in real-time. This proactive management has simplified network management and security.

Moving at the Speed of Light

With transparent and efficient troubleshooting, companies can move faster in day-to-day operations.

Riedel’s transparency and efficiency allows CTDI to move faster. In the middle of deploying our new network, our American head office moved its primary data center from Pennsylvania to Virginia. We needed to re-evaluate costs, and Riedel updated their quote immediately to reflect our new circumstances. We didn’t have to wait weeks for updated calculations, as we’ve experienced with other companies.

They also help us move faster in our day-to-day operations. We used SD-WAN connectivity to create a wireless connection between two of our German branches. We recently had to configure a new SD-WAN switch and modify our MPLS routing. I sent an email to our Riedel technician, who made the changes within an hour.

We deployed the new settings on a Saturday morning to avoid workday service interruptions, and everything went off without a hitch. Our previous provider would have taken a week to fulfill this request—and still may not have gotten it right.

A Seamless Migration and a Promising Future

CTDI continues to grow. We’ve added several branches in the last year, and Riedel has quickly connected them to our MPLS network—and it’s all done without disruption. In a recent comment about our branch migrations and additions, our CEO asked,

“Did you change something on the network?” The fact that nobody noticed these transitions is a testament to Riedel’s professionalism and the quality of their network management.

CTDI is a global business with big ideas and international aspirations, and we are always looking for partners with the vision and expertise to help us achieve these ambitions. Our new network was the first step in our overall transformation strategy. Riedel Networks was an invaluable partner in this initiative, positioning themselves well to help us with future transformations.