WAN acceleration helps retailer avoid IT infrastructure overhaul

New Zealand retailer avoids an expensive redesign of its wide area network by installing Riverbed's Steelhead WAN acceleration appliances at its U.S. and U.K. offices.

New Zealand-based children's clothing retailer Pumpkin Patch made its workers more productive on two continents...

by installing Steelhead WAN acceleration devices from Riverbed Technology.

The retailer had been getting complaints from employees in its regional offices in the United States and United Kingdom about system response times. Pumpkin Patch turned to Riverbed to avoid the more costly step of redesigning its global IT architecture.

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"The U.S. and U.K. markets have grown for our company over the last year to 18 months," said Leeann McCallum, infrastructure services manager for Pumpkin Patch. "Our sales offices need more information and quicker sales reports."

According to McCallum, application response times in the U.K. were up to about 500 milliseconds and U.S. response times were about 350 milliseconds. The company investigated options including using Citrix Systems devices to distribute services over the WAN, as well as redesigning the network completely to give the branch offices their own local infrastructure and IT staff.

But beefing up the branch office would have required adding a domain controller, file and print servers, and application servers at both remote offices, and the retailer would have had to provide remote employees with 24x7 support because of time zone differences. "The ongoing management and capital expenditure costs of that would've been very high, and difficult to support," McCallum said.

McCallum had researched Riverbed's products while at a previous job, and contacted them in March. Riverbed offered Pumpkin Patch a free three-month trial of its Steelhead 200 device for the remote offices, and the Steelhead 1020 for the main data center. "We turned it off when the trial was over, and we got a lot of feedback about the dramatic difference users were seeing in PC performance," McCallum said. In June, Pumpkin Patch installed the Steelhead devices and the Central Management Console (CMC) in production.

Riverbed's data deduplication and caching of recently accessed files locally has cut the amount of traffic over the WAN to two gigabits per week, down from three to four gigabits per week. About 60% of the data in the U.K. office and 56% in the U.S. is stored locally rather than going over the WAN. McCallum said the cost was 40% less than redesigning the global network.

Pumpkin Patch hasn't installed Steelhead in its Australia office, McCallum says, because "the latency there is only 30 milliseconds—there wasn't a compelling distinction there with the performance compared with the others."

Pumpkin Patch may still decide to overhaul more of its local infrastructure in the U.S. and U.K., according to McCallum. Half of the remaining traffic over the WAN is for file and print, so local file and print servers may be necessary.

McCallum also said she also needs something that will optimize and speed application performance within the data center. "There are probably solutions for that," she says, "but I haven't come across them yet."

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