Sep 16, 2014
Delivering quality application and IT services to remote offices presents a challenge to any IT organization. The lack of local IT personnel makes it difficult to deploy hardware appliances or perform even mundane management tasks. Software can change all of that — just ask the IT team at Perkins Coie LLP.
With 19 offices and 950 attorneys worldwide, Perkins Coie knows all about the complexities of managing remote offices and servicing discriminating users. The IT team thought it had solved the problem by deploying WAN optimization appliances at each office. But as network demands grew, the capacity limitations of those appliance’s problems became clear. Users complained about waiting for documents to open from the company’s centralized document management. Replication times took longer and eventually exceeded the company’s 90 minute recovery point objective (RPO).
A WAN optimization upgrade was needed, but instead of deploying new hardware, Perkins Coie chose Silver Peak software. “Silver Peak’s software was the best product of this caliber that we’ve implemented. Other vendors need to sell you several products to get to where you get with Silver Peak,” says Frank Riordan, director of infrastructure technology at Perkins Coie. “There have only been a few products over the past several years whose support have really impressed me and Silver Peak was one of them.”
The Perkins Coie network spans two data centers and 19 offices in the US and Asia. Every location had been equipped with another vendor’s WAN optimization appliance and a VMware ESX host for running core branch services, such as print, DHCP, and local file services. As Perkins Coie became more successful and its network grew, so did the problems. Attorneys began receiving error messages when checking out documents from the firm’s document management system, which led to more service desk tickets. Replication times also started to increase, eventually exceeding their committed RPOs.
“It got to the point where even the attorneys knew our incumbent WAN optimization provider by name — not a good thing,” says Riordan.
The problem was that there simply were too many concurrent sessions for the WAN optimization appliance. Some traffic was being passed through unoptimized, degrading replication and application performance.
The IT team conducted a head-to-head test of several WAN optimization solutions, including Silver Peak software. The performance of Silver Peak matched or exceeded that of other vendors’ proprietary hardware appliances while still delivering the intelligence and scalability Perkins Coie needed to run their network. Silver Peak software optimizes up to 256,000 concurrent sessions on an off-the-shelf server, by far the most in the industry.
“Other vendors tried to sell us more hardware and more product. At the end, you’d have this sort of cobbled together Lego set,” says Chad Conrow, Perkins Coie’s Systems architecture manager. “You need five or six products from some of the other vendors to get the functionality you get with one Silver Peak.”
And whereas WAN optimization hardware can take days to deploy, on average Conrow and his team deployed a Silver Peak software instance in a different location in just two hours. “We piloted the heck out of the Silver Peak, it was one of the few products that was plug, play, and forget,” says Riordan.
Gone are the complaints and calls to the service desk about application problems. Riordan added, “Some replication jobs that previously took hours to complete are finishing in under thirty minutes. More importantly, tickets to our service desk have reduced dramatically.”
Remote office performance problems were solved, and by leveraging the Silver Peak software to build out the Silver Peak Unity WAN fabric in the future, Perkins Coie can extend WAN control and optimization to Software as a Service (SaaS) applications.
“The idea that you could download and install this software by yourself with everything virtualized — it was an eye-opener for us,” continues Riordan. “Now, when an office needs more bandwidth, it’s just a matter of licensing up in the field. We don’t have to worry about hardware not being sufficient or the normal refresh cycle. It’s really an appealing model.”
Perkins Coie also found new uses for the Silver Peak software. Silver Peak is unique in optimizing applications that run over the TCP, UDP and even proprietary, IP-based protocols. As such, Perkins Coie found it could use Silver Peak to improve its VoIP system, which relies on UDP. By optimizing VoIP traffic, Perkins Coie was able to back up their remote Cisco VoIP server, improving branch survivability.