Revel POS network requirement confusion

Recently I had a client replacing their existing point of sale equipment (POS) from Microsoft’s old RMS which is no longer supported to Revel’s tablet based “cloud” POS.  They have several retail outlets in the region.  They work with other firms in various aspects of their IT infrastructure like routing and switching, “cloud hosting”, web hosting, etc.  They rely on Express IT Solutions for general IT consulting, daily operations support and other miscellaneous IT related needs although we too could help in these other areas if needed.

The project was a bit of a train wrecked from the beginning because the big expensive firm they use for routing and switching where everyone is called “engineer” couldn’t interpret Revel documentation from a certain perspective.  The Revel team didn’t help because their representative kept talking about the equipment coming “pre-configured” and that it was a pain to reconfigure.  This was not a totally accurate statement in many respects as we uncovered.  Revel is a “cloud POS” company.  You have probably seen other vendors like Breadcrumb, Square, Quickbooks, etc where you install an app on a tablet allowing you to do transactions for selling goods or services.  These systems can integrate into commodity hardware like tablets (Android or iPads), they have printer and other peripherals you can buy to turn that commodity hardware into an inexpensive point of sale system allowing you to sell things to your customers.  Revel seems popular in the restaurant business like coffee shops.  POS’s like Micros, Aloha and others are costly and a bit outdated but still around in droves.  Those POS’s as the time of penning this post typically have a local “server” at each location much like the Microsoft RMS solution we are replacing.  Those are costly and a bit complicated to maintain.

Back to the Revel confusion.  Everyone in IT should have an “IT philosophy”.  Every company should have a non-biased third party IT company like ours they can bounced ideas off of and to keep others  honest.  The big networking company’s IT philosophy is one of overkill and complexity in my opinion.  It eventually comes back to bite them.  Everything needs to be complicated, intertwined and expensive.  They focus on having everything highly managed, highly visible and they promote “enterprise class” or “business class” hardware.  That might work at a fortune 500 company but for 98% of businesses it’s not necessary nor is it practical.  We’ve written another blog post about this type of philosophy here with respect to “RMM” (Remote Management & Monitoring) and that it’s mostly a waste of time.  Non-enterprise class or business class hardware exist for a reason.  We typically find that the more complicated of a setup the more expensive it is and potentially the more that can go wrong.  Revel’s philosophy is not dissimilar in approach.  Revel likes to sell you a “system”, they call it the “Revel System”.  I call these the “everything in a box systems” where they sell you the router, the switch, the iPad, the printer, the register drawer, etc and what this does is guarantees everything will work together well (interoperability).  Revel wants to do this so they can “manage the system” and have visibility, troubleshoot things if there is a problem, etc.  Makes sense right?  It’s not a terrible philosophy on Revels part as it can guarantee quality although their setup is quite flat.  They just need to get Internet!

The problem with these philosophy’s though is they can cause problems if you have existing infrastructure.  That’s what the big networking company will tell you so they can do work to create a new network just for Revel equipment.  They suggest that’s what the Revel documentation says is the preferred setup and that Revel wants to “manage everything”.  This might be true but; you can indeed use Revel gear on a non-Revel managed network.  Revel knows this but their documentation to the casual reader with certain philosophy’s makes it seem like:

1 – You have to buy “the system” and let Revel manage it.

2 – If you have an existing IT company where everyone is called “engineer” they want to over engineer a solution to meet what they think are Revels requirements.

When working with big firms everything becomes a big production with meetings, pre-sales engineers, project managers and so on.  We’ve now had at least two hour long meetings to discuss this deployment, perhaps three and there will be a fourth soon with multiple company’s getting on these calls.  The number of people involved is now something like…a dozen.  This entire thing should have taken a half hour of discussion in sum total!  In our experience there are more problems when working with big firms for a number of reasons, far too many to list here but know that when working with Express IT Solutions our IT philosophy is pragmatic, practical, simple, flat, easy…typically the path of least resistance.  The less complicated something can be the better because less will go wrong and if it does it’s far simpler to fix.

The big engineering firm wanted to shoehorn “The Revel Network” onto the existing infrastructure with a vlan (Virtual LAN).  This would require work on the switches and routers.  Depending on what that firm did with the VPN infrastructure it might interfere with the VPN’s so they’d have to do more work adjusting how “The Revel Network” interacts with routing over the VPN, etc, etc, etc.  As it turns out they were just shadow boxing 🙂

Lets get to it then, what are Revels networking requirements and setup?  Know this…THEY JUST NEED INTERNET!

Revel provides its clients a pre-configured, turn-key system which includes a router, switches, access points, etc. in addition to the Point of Sale stations and their peripherals.

Revel understands that, in some situations, our clients may already operate a network and it makes sense for them to leverage that infrastructure for their Revel Point of Sale system.

While Revel cannot directly support these custom configurations, we do want to see our clients succeed by leveraging their own infrastructure or by working with a third party infrastructure provider. This document outlines how to configure a network suitable for Revel’s Point of Sale in a way that facilitates simple and reliable operation.

    Revel Networking Guide

I’ve put in bold the key statement on Revels site, they understand their customers might have existing networks!  The confusion then comes into play when someone sees that Revel goes on to discuss all their networking “requirements” which aren’t requirements in the sens that if you don’t do this it won’t work…it’s more of a “preference” and only one that fits inside “The Revel Network” when you purchase “The Revel System”.  Revel routers, switches, 192.168.22.x/24 network, gateways, subnets, vlans, etc…oh my.  That’s one option but you don’t need it.  Notice how it says that you may already operate a network (or have one).  That means you already have existing infrastructure!

You don’t need Revel equipment, you don’t need to match their IP addressing schemes, you don’t need to have them manage the network.  If you have a switch, access point, router, etc…USE IT!  You simply configure the Revel equipment to go into your existing network.

For example if you have a 192.168.0.x/24 network, slap the revel POS equipment onto your network with static IP addresses (their recommendation) and you’re done.  The key here is your Revel equipment ONLY NEEDS INTERNET!  That’s the point of “cloud” based applications.  Revel doesn’t need a “clean network”, dedicated network, a special vlan or anything.  You don’t need to buy anything from them including iPads if you don’t want to, it’s an app so you just install the app.  I’d recommend buying their peripherals though as they’ve been tested to work.  As long as an iPad and other equipment like their printers can connect to your existing wireless network you’re good to go!  Revel uses Ubiquiti and Cisco WIFI access points but Netgear switches so I think this is just a price point thing and you can use ANY WIFI including whatever you happen to have on your “existing infrastructure”.

More confusion comes in when Revel itself calls the 192.168.22.x/24 network “The Revel Network“.  It’s NOT NOT NOT called “The Revel Network”.  Staff in their support center when you call them ONLY KNOW IT AS THAT TERM but it’s simply a “class C private network“.  NOBODY and I mean NOBODY in the world…except maybe citizens in Fantasy Land; calls it “The Revel Network” except for Revel support people.  This is where the marketing department try’s to “brand” things and make terms up to be cute.  Revel isn’t the first one to do this.  We’ve written other blog posts pointing this out.  It’s like Watchguard (a firewall company) making up the word “SNAT” which they coined as “static NAT” except that the term everyone else uses is just “NAT”.  NAT is static, so to “differentiate” their products they have to make up new tech words just like Revel calling a class C private network “The Revel Network”.  There is no such thing :P.  It’s so irritating when company’s do this.  It causes nothing BUT CONFUSION even to the “experts” at the big IT engineering company where everyone is called “engineer”.

So the ONLY REQUIREMENT for Revel is that the equipment can get to the Internet unencumbered.  Done…simple right?  YES IT IS THAT SIMPLE!

Now…said networking company where everyone is called “engineer” wanted to bill for about 40 hours of work at about $185 per hour for the work.  After Express IT Solutions took a lookie lou at the Revel requirements, after letting everyone talk it out we suggested simply using their existing network and do you know how much time the big IT company needed to spend re-engineering the wheel in the end as a result of our recommendation?  Zero.  The invoice to the client from the big IT company…zero.  They didn’t have to do any work.  We saved this client almost $7,500 dollars.

The value EITS brings to the table for any client is a different perspective, a different philosophy and a different approach.  We often find; as do our clients, that we pay for ourselves over and over.  At times we’re almost “free” to a certain extent or net zero depending on the project.  That’s not always the case but when it comes to projects like this one…we paid for ourselves without a doubt and the client is net positive.

If you’ve got a project you’d like us to review it would be interesting to see if we could flatten it, simplify it and perhaps save you thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars with our perspective.  We’ve done that before!

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