Law firm rolls out WAN acceleration

Companies with branch offices should consider consolidating servers and accessing applications over wide-area networks from centralized data centres, says the IT manager of a major Canadian law firm.

“Any business that has multiple sites should put this technology in without question,” said David Komaromi, national manager of infrastructure and network services for Toronto-based Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP. “Even if it’s two sites you’re going to see returns.”

Since July, lawyers and administrators at the company’s Calgary offices have been relying on a national data centre for their IT requirements, including e-mail, voice messaging and an Interwoven-based document management system.

FraserMilner Casgrain has about 1,500 employees, including 500 lawyers. During the next year, the company plans to move its Toronto and Vancouver offices and move their servers to its national data centre.

“Our hope is to reduce our server and rack footprint by 80 per cent,” Komaromi said during a conference call, adding the company currently has 250 servers.

But users have often complained about application response time, so the company uses wide-area application services (WAAS) equipment from Cisco Systems Inc., hosted by Telus Corp.

“As we consolidate these services into the cloud we have to be careful that we don’t introduce latency into applications,” Komaromi said.

Komaromi made his comments during a conference call organized by San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco and Vancouver-based Telus.

FraserMilner Casgrain has a 100 Megabit per second pipe going into its national data centre and each office gets an Internet connection ranging between 10 and 100 Mbps.

“We figured that even with WAAS, we wanted to have 30 Mbps of raw bandwidth available that would allow us to consolidate these services,” he said. “Once we added WAN acceleration we got a 30 to 85 per cent (bandwidth) reduction for all data types.”

Komaromi said as his company consolidates services and uses WAN acceleration, this will free up bandwidth for video conferencing.

Cisco was selected over Silver Peak Systems Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif. and Riverbed Technology Inc. of San Francisco, which makes the Steelhead WAN acceleration devices.

Rather than purchase Cisco WAAS devices, Telus is managing the service for FraserMilner Casgrain.

Komaromi said after the call the terms of the Telus contract are confidential but confirmed the annual cost is between $45,000 and $65,000. He added over three years, paying for managed services costs less than owning the equipment and FraserMilner Casgrain has the option of changing to a different product as vendors develop new technologies.

Companies who consolidate data centres need to install remote monitoring systems, said
James Staten, principal analyst with Forrester Research who was also on the conference call.

Those tools would monitor bandwidth consumption and determine the performance that users are expecting.

“If you’re going to move an application back to the data centre you want to make sure it delivers an acceptable level of performance back to that user,” Staten said. “You want to make sure you don’t have to send a truck to or fly someone to the branch to solve it, or train a professional at the branch office to become part of the IT department.”



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