Law firm relies on traffic shaping for WAN performance

Packeteer gear tracks whether applications are behaving well

A project to consolidate servers in a central data center highlighted the need for international law firm Reed Smith to use traffic-shaping technology to ensure that its most important applications perform well on its now-critical WAN.

So far Reed Smith has used Packeteer PacketShapers to prioritize key flows, limit or block unnecessary traffic and adjust the size of its WAN links to make the network as cost-effective as possible, says Frank Hervert, senior manager of network and messaging services for the firm.

Hevert doesn't have a quantified return on investment, but the Packeteer appliances enable him to cost-justify increases or decreases in bandwidth, Hervert says, so the firm doesn't pay for bandwidth it doesn't use. "Over a six-month term that will easily save me money beyond the cost of the PacketShaper," he says.

The equipment also provides monitoring and records that enable Reed Smith to double-check carrier services and ensure that service providers meet service-level agreements and configure the network in accordance with its design, he says.

The Pittsburgh-based law firm has 15 offices in the United States and six offices overseas. Each used to have its own Internet access and servers, but for the past two years, the firm has been consolidating its servers and Internet access at a leased secure data center.

The centralization is about 60% complete for the U.S. offices, Hervert says. In June, the firm plans to switch its foreign offices to a new European data center based on the same model.

The U.S. data center contains 180 Citrix servers that host the law firm's key applications, including common office applications such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint and e-mail. "All of that processing is centralized out of one data center," he says. "That affords us with LAN-like access anywhere."

The company bases its fully meshed primary WAN on MPLS services supplied by AT&T. That network is backed up by an Ethernet WAN from Yipes. Connections into the data center from the carriers are separate OC-3 fiber links.

With the MPLS network, each large office is connected to the service with DS-3 lines that have committed access rates (CAR) less than the 45Mbps capacity of the connections. But traffic on these pipes is allowed to burst up to the full bandwidth. Smaller offices are connected via T-1s or multiple T-1s, he says. This primary network is used for critical business applications.

The backup Ethernet network also has DS-3 backhauls to a Yipes Layer 2 Ethernet network. Some sites that sit on Yipes metropolitan networks have 1Gbps connections but have a CAR for only a portion of them. This network is routinely used for traffic such as FTP traffic among offices.

If an MPLS link to an office fails, business applications run over the Ethernet network, and the PacketShapers enforce policies that give the applications priority over file transfers, Hervert says.

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