By Rachael King | Wall Street Journal | CIO Journal | 

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NEW YORK–The Gap Inc. is in the process of changing how it connects stores to one another in a corporate network. The company can now route traffic over the public Internet by using encrypted connections.

The retailer is taking advantage of software-defined networking, which moves to software functions previously handled by networking hardware, such as switches or routers. To do this, the company is installing new software-defined routers from Viptela Inc. at each store.

Snehal Patel, network architect at Gap

The Gap Inc.

So far this year, Gap has installed routers at 860 retail stores, said Snehal Patel, network architect at Gap, speaking at the Open Networking User Group conference here Thursday at New York University. The company plans to connect about 1,200 stores in this way in its first phase of rollout, he said.

Mr. Patel said Gap is able to connect 25 or more of its stores per night, a pace that previously would have been unimaginable. Each store also has connections with about 10 to 15 times the bandwidth it had previously. Network upgrades or changes can all be done remotely which makes administration much easier. The routers let Gap segment its network, a security technique.

This software approach is about 50% less expensive than the conventional method of connecting stores together in a wide area network, Neal Secher, managing director and head of network architecture at BNY Mellon, told CIO Journal. Mr. Secher said he was speaking in his capacity as a board member of the Open Networking User Group and not specifically about BNY Mellon.

Companies with many stores or branch offices are beginning to look at this type of software-defined network, but Gap is one of first to implement this technology at scale and make public its efforts, said Mr. Secher. The one thing holding some companies back is making sure the technology is secure enough, he added. On the plus side, it’s possible for companies to save several million dollars per year when they stop using circuits, he said.

Original Article: http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2015/11/05/gap-connects-stores-over-the-internet-with-software-defined-networking/