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WAN acceleration allows law firm to share SAN data across distances

Law firm uses Riverbed Steelhead WAN acceleration products to replicate data and share storage and networking across three continents. WAN optimization helps firm reduce bandwidth.

The director of engineering for an international law firm with NetApp storage in seven sites around the world calls WAN acceleration the "key enabler" that allows his firm to replicate data and share documents between offices and data centers on three continents.

Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP is a best-of-breed IT shop, according to director of engineering Searl Tate. The law firm uses NetApp Inc. storage, Brocade Communications Inc. Fibre Channel (FC) switches, Cisco Systems inc. Ethernet switches and Riverbed Steelhead WAN accelerator appliances from Riverbed Technology Inc. to connect its worldwide offices in a hub model. For data protection, Paul Hastings uses Symantec Corp. NetBackup and Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. LTO-4 tape libraries for disk-to-disk-to-tape (D2D2T) backups.

"We have an interesting landscape of different providers," Tate said. "We evaluate technology, and like to do it on a best-fit basis rather than one-size-fits-all."

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Tate said WAN optimization is the technology that ties it all together. The firm has been a Riverbed customer for five years. Each office has a Steelhead device, ranging in size "from top to bottom" of the vendor's platform, Tate said. Paul Hastings has data centers in its dual headquarters in New York and Los Angeles, as well as in Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo. It uses NetApp's SnapMirror for synchronous replication between them.

"It's really the key enabler," Tate said of WAN optimization. "It revolutionized the way we use the WAN and manage quality of service."

Paul Hastings uses an Autonomy iManage document management system, which Tate said requires "a lot of chatter across the WAN" to send documents from office to office around the world. Microsoft Exchange is another key application for the firm.

"Between messaging and document management tools we have what we call a timekeeper — an attorney who needs to interface with clients," Tate said. "You need a lot of bandwidth without something like this. WAN application is directly responsible for revenue generation. We view our attorneys as autonomous factories that can't bill without interfacing with clients. And if they can't bill, they can't optimally affect revenue."

Tate said Riverbed helped the firm reduced bandwidth requirements for SnapMirror replication by more than 90% while providing LAN-type access to documents from any office and reducing the recovery point objective (RPO) from one hour to 30 minutes. Paul Hastings also avoided upgrading its WAN connection between New York and Los Angeles, and reduced reliance on courier services between offices.

Paul Hastings still has some EMC Symmetrix, according to Tate, but has mostly transitioned to NetApp FAS systems. The firm uses NetApp NAS, FC and iSCSI protocols, storing an "aggressively virtualized VMware environment" with 700 virtual machine (VM) guests.

The firm evaluated WAN optimization products from Permabit Technology Corp. and Silver Peak Systems Inc., as well as from Riverbed, and Cisco has also pitched its WAAS WAN optimization product. But as an early Riverbed customer, Tate found the vendor "scrappy" during the evaluation process although he said there's room for improvement with its support.

"We've been aware of the Cisco WAAS, and we're a happy Cisco customer," Tate said. "But because Riverbed has established this niche early on, we haven't had the need to look elsewhere for WAN acceleration. We regard Riverbed as the best for WAN acceleration, but there are things Riverbed can learn from Cisco. We told Riverbed, 'If you want to emulate somebody's support model, look at Cisco.'"

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