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Hospital builds WAN redundancy with load balancing and link failover

Investing in a WAN link controller that combines link failover and network load balancing has freed New Orleans researchers from burning the midnight oil just to transfer files.

Dawn Kelly had long accepted that the only way to stop scientists from dragging down the performance of her research institute's wide area network (WAN) with large file transfers was to ask them to ship their heavy-duty data late at night. But her recent investment in WAN link controllers that could combine ISP link failover and network load balancing has meant researchers don't have to burn the midnight oil just to transfer files.

"Any time they would do anything during the day, everything [in the network] would lock up," said Kelly, director of research information services at the Research Institute for Children at Children's Hospital in New Orleans. "They'd be home at 10'o'clock at night saying, 'Let me log on and kick off that transfer.'"

"We literally, at this time, have no Internet downtime."
Dawn Kelly
Director of Research Information ServicesThe Research Institute for Children at Children's Hospital in New Orleans

The institute's WAN performance was volatile because the research institute and its host hospital relied on only one Internet service provider (ISP) for WAN connectivity and shared that link with labs at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and the University of New Orleans. These problems were compounded by the fallout from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which devastated the regional network infrastructure around the research institute.

"You never knew when a power outage was going to hit. You never knew when something was going to blow," Kelly said. "At the time, too, because everything was so uncertain when we first came back, we didn't know if we were going to have jobs … so a lot of people were trying to transfer things to collaborators in other states, and of course, a circuit would blow and the Internet would go down."

Kelly wanted to combine the data streams from two Internet service providers, and enable ISP load balancing and failover to improve reliability and performance. She considered purchasing a class-C IP block from her ISP, but the $50,000 price tag was too steep. Instead, more than three years ago she installed a single Ecessa PowerLink 100 WAN link controllers, which had a more appealing list price of $2,995.

"It has really paid off for us. When one network connection bounces, the other connection stays up," Kelly said. "We literally, at this time, have no Internet downtime."

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Load balancing and link failover build WAN redundancy

Your data center doesn't have to live under the threat of the Gulf Coast, Tornado Alley or California wildfires to benefit from WAN redundancy, said Marc Goodman, director of marketing at Ecessa.

"If a natural disaster or even human error at a service provider causes their Internet connection to fail … [enterprises] really can't do any business," Goodman said. "It's really based on the business itself, and it's not [only] disaster recovery. It's also optimizing your Internet infrastructure by the fact that we are able to monitor those Internet connections for congestion. We're actually improving the [WAN] performance."

PowerLink products monitor Internet connections for congestion and latencies and can move outbound traffic to less burdened connections, if necessary . If one link fails -- whether knocked out by a storm or an outage at the ISP -- the controller automatically shifts traffic to other links.

Meanwhile, inbound traffic is managed by notifying domain name servers to send traffic to the working servers' addresses.

"Customers are looking to products like what we're selling to ensure their Internet connectivity is up and running virtually 24-by-7," Goodman said. "Before they had our product, they would scramble to fix something if the Internet connection went down. They'd find out through someone complaining. … The only way they know after they've installed our product that the connection went down is by an [alert] sent by the product."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer

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