What is the Biggest Intangible Benefit of WAN optimization?
WAN optimization technologies have many benefits, some easily measured and others that are intangible. The latter might be more important to the organization. Many customers tell us that they realize both tangible and intangible benefits from deploying Cisco WAAS. Tangible benefits include reduced or avoided bandwidth costs, reductions in branch office servers and a reduced branch office equipment footprint. These cost savings are realized since Cisco WAAS eliminates duplicate data transmission, enables branch office server consolidation and integrates with the Cisco ISR router. These tangible benefits can be fairly easy to measure as we shall see. Intangible benefits can be more difficult to measure, but they can often be more compelling. Let’s look at an example of a customer who has experienced both types of benefits.
Recently a customer told us that they expect to save $400,000 per year by deploying Cisco WAAS. Brisbane Australia based mining and heavy equipment supplier Hastings Deering says they achieved a rapid ROI with their WAN optimization project that connects their data center and remote office locations. The Hastings Deering Group sells and supports Caterpillar heavy equipment used in the mining and construction industries across Queensland, the Northern Territory and the South Pacific region, including Papua New Guinea. With a network of 65 nodes connecting to corporate applications in Brisbane, CIO John Birch says there was a constant battle to keep branch response times low for all its applications. “About 18 months ago we decided to take a look at network options other than just increasing bandwidth and we started exploring WAN optimization products”
Hasting Deering’s network is based on Cisco equipment, but initially they looked at other products and then came back to Cisco which “seemed to offer more options” he told us. They saved tangible costs by leveraging existing routers. “The Cisco devices attached to the local router so it leveraged existing infrastructure,” Birch said. “We’ve been seeing somewhere between 150 to 400 per cent improvement in network performance and we haven’t had to upgrade the bandwidth,” Birch said. Birch said the international links are expensive so the estimated savings make the ROI for the project as fast as 3 months.
Bandwidth savings is a tangible benefit that many customers say they are realizing. You can use the Cisco ROI tool to calculate the potential bandwidth savings as well as potential server consolidation savings. Here is the link to the WAAS ROI tool. These tangible savings are also well documented in a paper by Forrester “Total Economic Impact of Cisco WAAS”.
But what about intangible benefits? Hasting Deering is also in the middle of rolling out VoIP to number of its branches, using Cisco CallManager for VoIP for their call centers in their branches. Many customers tell us that they see a reduction in dropped calls once WAAS is deployed and an increase in call quality, which leads to greater user productivity and customer satisfaction when customers are contacting the call centers.
John said that they also do overnight backups of the local branch servers to Brisbane. For Papua New Guinea they were struggling to complete the backup overnight, but now they are doing it easily without having to upgrade the bandwidth. This means that they have better regulatory compliance for control over data and they have reduced time to recover in the case of a server failure, which means enhanced business continuity.
By consolidating branch office servers to the data center customers realize savings for branch office IT staff and by deploying fewer larger servers in the data center they reduce server administration costs. What this means is that IT the staff resources can focus on projects that are important to the organization instead of spending their days doing routine and repetitive work.
Hasting Deering recently moved to a Telstra private IP network from frame relay. Telstra and many other Service Providers offer a managed service on WAAS which is another option that can reduce capital outlays and ongoing management costs. See this link for a list of Service Providers who offer Cisco WAAS as a managed service.
From this customer example we can see that the intangible benefits of Cisco WAAS can include better regulatory compliance, enhanced business continuity, increased customer satisfaction, reduced IT administration costs, and increased employee productivity.
To answer the question that that I first posed John Birch said that for them the biggest intangible benefit of the WAN optimization project results from the faster application response time, which increases user productivity. Isn’t that what it is really all about, making your employees successful at their work? Here is a link to the article that appeared in CIO Magazine, Australia.