Principal’s Virtual Move – Dark Fiber, Bright Future

Jul 15, 2021

Principal Financial Group, a large, global financial-services company located in the middle of Iowa, faced a variety of challenges when it came to high-tech communications. The company grappled with high costs, limited disaster recovery options, and challenging international connectivity. It primarily relied on broadband service from a single carrier serving Des Moines, Iowa, where the company’s headquarters is located.

Working alongside Principal’s strategic infrastructure group, FG applied their extensive networking and business expertise to develop options the company hadn’t previously considered. FG’s recommendation: Develop top-tier data centers in large metropolitan cities, enabling Principal to connect these new centers to Des Moines through unused, or dark, fiberoptic networks.

The beauty of FG’s plan was that it not only solved the main communications issues troubling the world-class company but also enabled Principal to improve the way they do business enterprise-wide.

Technical and Financial Expertise from FG

FG discovered available fiberoptic networks leading from Des Moines to Chicago and Des Moines to Denver. They brokered deals with the owners of the networks, developed contracts, helped determine engineering and gear, managed RFPs, and found the right hardware vendors.

In addition to technical planning, FG provided financial expertise. They reviewed options for owning versus leasing, amortizing costs over a period of time, and making the project financially sound. As a result of the data centers in several cities with connecting fiberoptic networks, Principal can access competitively priced network services. They’ve also created redundancy for disaster recovery, and they have direct connections to international carriers.

A Competitive Advantage for Principal

FG continues to work with Principal, running a 24/7 network operations center. FG’s role now is managing the physical, environmental, and maintenance components of the Principal network. This involves monitoring the network’s 1,200 miles of fiber and hut facilities, boxes, and devices. If there are regeneration issues in optical signals, a cut in the fiber, backup generator problems, or any trends that may lead to failure, FG’s field technicians make necessary repairs.

Redundancy and resiliency are especially important for the Principal Financial Group because downtime is tremendously expensive.  Now, if the network connection from Des Moines to Chicago goes down, they can rely on their network connection from Des Moines to Denver.

The return on investment for this project, initially projected at seven years, was realized in less than three years. “We sit with our clients as co-pilots,” Kent Van Metre, FG Vice President says. “Putting in this network changed the way Principal connects to the world. They can run their regular business applications live, in real-time remotely.

This means they can back up and mirror applications in two different locations, so they don’t have any data glitch errors. If a connection to a primary data center goes down, they experience a blip rather than going down.”

Keith Kratochvil, IS, Principal Financial Group Voice and Data Functional Architect, says, “The strategic advantages are significant– it puts us in a whole different position with carriers, both domestically and internationally. We can connect anywhere in the world. FG enabled options and services that were previously unavailable to us. Essentially, we’ve leveled the playing field.”

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