Supporting new applications on an old infrastructure is not easy. It won't always be successful, but that doesn't mean rip and replace is the answer. Network performance tools -- like application delivery controllers and WAN optimization controllers -- can give legacy infrastructures the boost they need to ensure the reliable performance of virtual and cloud-based applications over distance.
New South Wales-based MTC Australia, a nonprofit employment training and services organization that offers programs for adults and youths, wanted to adopt Microsoft Office 365 and Lync in 30 branch offices spread across the east coast of the continent. But the organization's aging infrastructure was not designed to support cloud-based applications. MTC also had a limited budget in which to address this issue. The organization solved the problem by adopting Riverbed Technology Inc. to lower latency and increase the performance of its legacy network, said Branko Ceran, chief information officer of MTC Australia.
"Our staff was complaining that they really couldn't get their jobs done effectively because of the poor performance, so we really wanted a better experience for everyone," Ceran said.
Riverbed Stingray, Cloud Accelerator tools ensure application delivery over distance
Ceran joined MTC about 18 months ago and was warned that the network infrastructure was old and unstable. "I learned that my own home connection was a lot faster than the connections between our branch offices and the Internet," he said. With applications trying -- and often failing -- to run over an outdated infrastructure, Ceran and his team were tasked with transforming the organization's IT processes to improve application performance, and also to facilitate the organization's growth plans, Ceran said.
Each existing branch was outfitted with old servers and PBX systems. At the same time, MTC was expanding, and opening new branch locations. But adopting cloud-based applications like Lync and Office 365 meant MTC would be increasing its Internet usage significantly, and failure wouldn't be an option, he said. "We really had to boost up our network capability and bandwidth." Instead of paying to increase bandwidth -- a costly project for a nonprofit organization -- Ceran and his team turned their attention to network optimization technologies.
"We wanted to be smart about a solution, so when we looked into optimizing our own infrastructure, I also wanted to make sure our very small IT team could implement future versions of [a] product as we expand very simply, and something that is very easy to maintain," he said.
MTC evaluated vendors like Cisco and Riverbed for WAN optimization, and Aruba for its wireless products that are optimized to work well with Microsoft Lync and Office 365, Ceran said. MTC then ran a two-week proof of concept with Riverbed. Ceran and his team noticed "over a ten-fold increase in performance for network optimization and lower latency with Riverbed, so we were sold," he said.
MTC also set up a new Melbourne-based data center about 620 miles away from its existing, centrally located data center. The new data center has been furnished with a Riverbed Stingray traffic manager, Riverbed's Steelhead Cloud Accelerator, and Riverbed Granite for server and storage optimization.
"I could have never considered doing this before because I would have had much slower network performance, but because of the [Riverbed] products, we can set up the technology in one place, which is much more economical for us," Ceran said.
Microsoft's closest data center for its cloud-based tools is in Singapore, thousands of miles from Australia. Riverbed's technology ensures applications perform as if they are on-premises, he said.
Network performance tools improve user experience and enable more collaboration
Prior to implementing Riverbed, many of MTC's branch office locations had data limitations. One office with 30 staff members had a 4 Mbps data connection. Once Riverbed optimization tools were turned on, the data rate increased to 60 to 70 Mbps, which made running new cloud applications possible.
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Now MTC's infrastructure never goes over 50% capacity. As internal network performance is improved, Riverbed Stingray and Cloud Accelerator have allowed for more collaboration and video use among MTC staff and clients who are no longer limited by data restrictions during training sessions.
"When you load or update a document, it just happens instantly," he said. "We are getting sub-second response times from Singapore, and our staff has noticed."
IT is benefiting from a better understanding of their network, too. Ceran and his team can now see that over 80% of MTC's traffic is Internet-based, and it can be further broken down to learn what traffic is secure and what type of ports are open, he said.
"It [has] given IT much more of an appetite for application monitoring, rather than waiting for users to call us with feedback. That's the next step for us."