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Utility centralized print and files services for 7,000 employees in 30 states with Cisco WAAS

In the human body, the network of blood vessels is 60,000-mile long or 97,000-kilometer, centralized and regulated by a sine qua non organ – the heart. That network reaches 100+ trillion cells and is responsible for delivering blood that carries oxygen and nutrients to nourish the body (Source: National Geographic). When that effortless flow is congested (either genetically or through our own doing as a result of diet and exercise) our ability to perform essential functions becomes less than ideal. In an extreme case, such as the stoppage of blood flow to the brain, it can cripple one’s bodily function permanently.

If the data center is the heart of an organization, then the wide area network (WAN) is its network of blood vessels that carries vital data to multiple systems. For American Water (NYSE: AWK), a publicly traded water utility in the United States, this network services 300+ locations: primary and backup data centers, 275 branch offices, various production facilities, treatment plants, two call centers with between 500 and 600 workers each, and other facilities. A number of remote sites have a few hundred users, while most average 50 users. The network also provides access to applications such as Lotus Notes, MS Office, ERP and CRM, and numerous other applications for data replication, critical operations risk management, access control, and surveillance. 

A near congestion experience. In 2008, American Water’s data replication efforts were overloading its limited 50-megabit connection. If it chose to do nothing, critical backup would have fallen behind schedule, increasing business risks. But, it didn’t. American Water implemented a limited WAN optimization measure by installing Cisco 7341 Wide Area Application Engine (WAE) appliances at both data centers. Immediately, throughput improved by 2 to 2.5 times.

The onslaught of bytes. In its 2010 Predictions report for 2011, IDC states that the “digital universe” of information and content will expand by almost 50% — to almost 2 trillion gigabytes. Just as businesses have begun to drown in data, so had American Water in 2010; a growing volume of lab data and big documents with large amounts of financial information resulted in slow download times and deficiencies in application services at the branches. The firm implemented another temporary measure by installing file servers in the field to speed up file transfer rates (imagine having multiple mini hearts regulating blood flow throughout your body). However,  such solution contrary was to its goal of centralizing computing and storage resources and also complicated maintenance and increased operational costs. It was time to implement an end-to-end solution.

Solution: a broader WAN optimization deployment. After conducting a comparison in their own lab, American Water’s infrastructure architect, Rob Raffaele, chose Cisco WAAS over competitive WAN opt solutions for several reasons. (Read the full American Water case study)

  • Seamless integration – not only will the new equipment work with current infrastructure, it’s also easy to deploy and manage.
  • Flexibility – with a full appliance portfolio supporting virtual blades and scalable deployment platforms, American Water can deploy Cisco WAAS to fit the unique requirements for each site.
  • Transparency to the network – “We have a very mature QoS policy at the router edge of our network,” Raffaele says, “which meshes with our carrier service levels. We didn’t want to make any changes to that.”
  • Ease of deployment and management – Cisco WAAS is software-activated at the router level and centrally manageable and upgradable without manual configuration.

The results. American Water deployed Cisco WAAS to double its WAN capacity, and WAAS did exactly that – “the network’s effective capacity is running two to two-and-a-half times what it was before WAAS.” Centralization of print and files services was done efficiently to 7,000 employees in 30 states. Empowered with the optimized WAN, the firm will now take on an even more ambitious business transformation: deploying new ERP and CRM applications from SAP (scheduled to go live this month).

“With WAAS,” says Raffaele, “we can do it all without major hardware additions or expansions of our WAN. Doing more with the infrastructure we have – that’s the whole idea.”   

So, if your organization is struggling with its WAN capacity, what action will you take? An end-to-end solution that works seamlessly providing optimal flow and investment protection? Or a point-product and run the risk of having cardiac arrest due to arrhythmia?

Products: Cisco 7341 and 7371 Wide Area Application Engines (WAEs), Cisco 4710 Application Control Engine (ACE) Appliances, Cisco 502 and 522 Wide Area Application Engine (WAE) Modules for Cisco Integrated Services Routers (ISRs), Cisco WAAS Service Ready Engine (SRE) 900 Modules for Cisco Integrated Services Routers Generation 2 (ISR G2s).

For more information, visit cisco.com/go/waas

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2 Comments.


  1. Hi, very interesting case study by deploying WAN optimization solutions. However, I would like to see, if possible, how was the ROI calculated since the story tells; “Centralize file and print services without increasing operating costs ● Increase WAN capacity to handle additional centralized services and applications without expanding infrastructure or IT staff”…

    Thanks.

       1 like

  2. Hi Fernando, good question. For us it was mostly the future OPEX avoidance. Not having to add circuits to sites and avoiding those reoccurring costs.

       1 like