Network-as-a-service lets a shoe retailer take steps toward Zero Trust


Nigel Williams-Lucas, director of Information Technology at Maryland-based footwear retailer DTLR, faced a challenge that most IT execs will recognize: the business was pushing hard on digital transformation, and the IT infrastructure was struggling to keep pace.

Store managers were seeking better data analytics and business intelligence from backend systems like inventory and sales. The business wanted IT systems to support customers ordering online and picking up at a physical store within two hours.

The network needed to securely support real-time, bandwidth-intensive IP security cameras. And Williams-Lucas wanted to roll out beaconing technology, in which the network gathers information about customer in-store activity via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and can send discount offers to a customer’s phone based on where they are in the store and what they appear to be interested in.

There’s another wrinkle specific to DTLR that created challenges for IT. The company, which specializes in sneakers, clothing, and accessories, creates original programming from its own radio station in Maryland. The station also goes on the road. For example, DTLR Radio, which is available on a mobile app, was broadcasting live from the Grammy’s. Williams-Lucas needed to make sure he could safely push that content out to DTLR’s 250 stores.

To address the security aspect of his laundry list of challenges, Williams-Lucas chose a network-as-a-service (NaaS) offering from Cloudflare that puts him on the road to Zero Trust without having to make a capital expense or swap out any hardware. He says NaaS is a somewhat nebulous term that can mean different things to different organizations, but for DTLR, “NaaS is our phased approach to Zero Trust.”

Shifts from IPSec VPN and toward cloud

DTLR’s IT style is to move cautiously and take small steps. Says Williams-Lucas, “I need to be very strict about how I roll things out. I could shut down the business, and nobody wants that.

“We don’t have massive amounts of resources; we don’t have a large engineering team. I want to enable the business to grow, but I need to do that in a controlled and smart way. We need to have a single view for our team to be able to execute changes that take effect across our retail stores without having to go around to each one. We want to be able to audit things to make sure they’re correct. And for cybersecurity, I need to be able to see traffic moving in and out.”

DTLR (formerly Downtown Locker Room) is known for its retro-type sneakers, like Air Jordans. Unfortunately, the company’s IT infrastructure is also pretty retro, with legacy hardware that requires plenty of maintenance and lacks the features and capabilities the company needs. “We still have vestiges of the old infrastructure where everything was on-premises,” says Williams-Lucas.

DTLR is shifting to the cloud, but taking a methodical approach, migrating some resources from its VMware-based data-center servers to a colocation provider, and moving other resources directly to Microsoft Azure.

Until recently, the company relied exclusively on off-the-shelf software—it uses Aptos for core retail systems, like warehousing and point-of-sale.  But DTLR recently hired its own developers and wants to transition to a cloud-first development environment. For the time being, however, the company’s Kubernetes development environment is running on-prem. 

Williams-Lucas was also dealing with a castle-and-moat security framework from the ‘90s that includes IPSec VPNs connecting the stores to a centralized…


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