Volta Charging deployed Netsurion’s SD-WAN technology across its network of free electric vehicle charging stations in the U.S.
Volta Charging has around 500 of these stations. It was founded in Hawaii in 2010 and moved its headquarters to California in 2014. While the company initially focused on building its stations in Hawaii and California it has started to expand into the Eastern United States and the Pacific Northwest. Each station has a number of “smart” components including a media player, the charger, and additional features that need to be connected and be online.
Prior to deploying Netsurion, Volta was using cellular modems at its stations to provide connectivity to the devices. “They didn’t have much functionality. There was a cellular connection and that was it,” said Jon Michaels, Volta’s senior vice president of operations. The modems lacked security and visibility into what was happening at the charging stations. “We realized that as we grew and got more mature as a company we needed to change our approach.”
While Volta did shop around for an SD-WAN service, it landed on Netsurion because of its price, value, functionalities of its cloud orchestrator, and it was rugged enough to withstand the varied climates where its stations are located. Volta started its SD-WAN deployment in the winter of 2017, beginning with a small deployment at a handful of stations to test the service. However, it quickly accelerated its deployment and now has over 400 of its 500 electric vehicle charging stations using the Netsurion product.
Volta is using the Netsurion Connect SD-WAN service based on proprietary software that runs on a Netsurion-branded device. The device supports wired and wireless connections, including LTE and WiFi.
The service includes Netsurion’s CXD edge device, service gateways, and cloud orchestrator. All of these features, including a stateful firewall embedded in the edge device, are embedded in the SD-WAN router so each station only requires a single device. It is using the device as an LTE router.
The Netsurion cloud orchestrator gives Volta the visibility into its network that it was missing in its previous connectivity technology. The centralized management capabilities of the orchestrator enable the company to troubleshoot remotely and gain insight from its headquarters — rather than drive out to each station when a problem is reported as it previously had to do.
Any challenges or suggestions with the deployment or its network, Michaels said, Netsurion took seriously. When Volta engineers asked about streamlining API key generation, Netsurion accommodate this need; and when they inquired about a capability to confirm device configuration, Netsurion added it to its roadmap.
For Netsurion, this is a growing use case as IoT and SD-WAN start to work together with more frequency. As Netsurion builds its still new SD-WAN service, IoT integration is an area it is looking to move into.
Netsurion Finds Its Niche
While Netsurion was formed in 1989, specializing in security technology for multi-tenant enterprises, it acquired some SD-WAN intellectual property a few years ago and re-tooled it to launch its SD-WAN.
However, since its launch Netsurion has found its niche in the crowded SD-WAN market. “We’ve now really zeroed in on what we consider to be an integrated, secure connectivity solution that allows customers to optimize their edge with the right security segmentation,” said John Ayers, Netsurion’s VP of product management. “We’re able to deliver now what we consider to be a tailored, right-size solution of capabilities to meet the small- to medium-sized branch offices that are leveraging or needing support of a distributed environment.”
In essence, Netsurion sees this offering as a “network-based security solution with SD-WAN functionality,” Ayers said. The SD-WAN edge device contains the company’s stateful firewall at the edge, enables microsegmentation, and offers deep-packet inspection.
Netsurion’s SD-WAN service also added a layer of security as it comes compliance-ready, particularly with regard to PCI (payment card industry) compliance.