Knight Frank optimises WAN efficiency

Juniper WAN acceleration deployed to cut down on performance bottlenecks

Faced with performance bottlenecks and a restrictive wide area network (WAN) global real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank was forced to look for a product that could boost operational efficiency.

The company began a consolidation of its IT infrastructure into two data centres located in Sydney and Melbourne in 2007, in an effort to reduce IT power, space and maintenance costs. The data centres provide business applications and data to the company’s 22 Australian offices, in addition to branch locations across the Asia Pacific region.

Knight Frank national infrastructure manager, Russell Proud, told Computerworld Australia it was once the consolidation began that the impact on the company's WAN services became clear, prompting the company to look for a solution. Initially, the company considered purchasing more bandwidth to address bottlenecks, says Proud, due to a continuing long-term WAN contract.

“It was a matter of coming to that point two and half years ago and going, ‘right we need to extend the lifetime of our WAN to be able to give the users the performance’,” Proud said. “We also wanted to settle things down and do a consolidation of our server infrastructure as well.”

Following a two month trial with devices from the likes of Riverbed, Knight Frank deployed Juniper Networks’ WXC acceleration platforms and routers at its data centres, based on an assessment of licensing costs, performance gains and user perception.

“Ultimately it came down to the performance it offered us, so the actual compression and acceleration we were seeing on the traffic across our WAN was greater with Juniper than with the other devices,” Proud said.

“Further to that the licensing perspective was a lot more simplified for us as it was limited to a bandwidth amounts whereas the other vendors were about TCP [transmission control protocol] connections and understanding how many connections you had running across your WAN, which was something we couldn’t gauge at the time due to constant growth.”

According to Proud, the most significant gain has been the visibility and management of the WAN, indicating what the most demanding applications are and where the company’s priorities lie; information that has been “invaluable” in aligning IT goals with business requirements.

“From a user perspective, the ability to operate day to day without performance bottlenecks and the ability to consolidate our data centres into two instead of having a distributed network, which we did previously, has allowed us as an IT department to simplify our management and simplify the running of the systems," Proud says.

“We've achieved up to 12 times data compression and 25-fold improvement in Windows file server acceleration and application responsiveness,” he said.

Following the implementation, the company has experienced cost savings and productivity gains for users.

“More work is able to be done due to the performance of the systems, guys are no longer waiting 5-10 minutes for a file to copy, but instead it’s 5-10 seconds, so increasing the performance of the staff members themselves has been the greatest benefit from a business perspective.”

Staff underwent a three to four day course to learn how to run and manage and configure the systems which Juniper provided as a part of the deal.

Proud is quick to recommend the trial process, which allows a company to take the time to evaluate the product’s benefits for both business and IT, which he says will far outweigh any cost associated with the product.

“If I could go back I probably would’ve expanded it further. We limited the rollout to our core sites. If we had have had the opportunity at the time and the budget as well, I would’ve expanded it to all of our 25 sites within Australia.”

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAu

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