Poor WAN performance? Try virtualisation

One rural accounting firm got fed up with poor broadband connection and WAN performance, so it turned to WAN virtualisation appliances that combine multiple forms of access.

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Like many rural businesses and towns in the UK, accounting firm Whiting & Partners was struggling to find reliable broadband connectivity to ensure WAN performance.

Based in eight East Anglian market towns in the counties of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, the firm had relied on a Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) network with a single DSL-based tail circuit that connected each site. But the MPLS network connection was consistently unreliable, with sites sometimes going down for a week at a time. That simply couldn’t continue, considering the network had to support 16 partners and around 130 staff members.

Chris Haydon, IT manager with Whiting & Partners, said: “Due to our rural locations and the low broadband availability, we wanted a solution that would effectively be a back-up offering. In the past, if the MPLS went down, we were unable to access the diagnostics of a router to repair the problem, and the service provider also had trouble getting to the root of the problem. This meant we had to wait for a call-out. For a busy accountancy practice, this delay was unacceptable.”

So the firm turned to Talari Network’s WAN Virtualisation appliances to solve the dilemma. Talari’s adaptive private network appliances aggregate two or more types of network connections -- including fibre, Ethernet, copper and DSL -- into a unified logical network so that there is a backup if one type of connection goes down.  The appliance also continually monitors performance of network paths between remote sites and their head office to check for loss, latency and jitter. Using this information, the appliance can then make real-time engineering decisions.

In Whiting & Partners’ case, the IT team chose to negotiate a deal with service provider TalkTalk to provide 10 Mbps Ethernet in the First Mile (EFM) to all of the office sites. Additionally, DSL connections have been added at each site. Then the organization began converting the MPLS circuits over to Talari’s Mercury T730 and T200 appliances to combine the circuits and ensure resiliency.
Implementation required days of testing as TalkTalk proved out its Ethernet capabilities in the rural setting while the firm used Talari appliances to accurately track all the traffic moving across the circuit without disruption. Considering how much disruption in service the area generally experiences, testing the circuit switch came about easier than expected and users were able to carry on working throughout the process.

Haydon said: “The most important thing for us was that we justified the expense of EFM by having multiple lines available. So now, all outgoing traffic is typically directed by Talari over the DSL circuits and should the MPLS connection go down, all traffic is instantly diverted.”

The Talari appliances also make it possible to leverage network bandwidth from multiple sources, using both high-speed Internet connections at central locations and broadband connections at branch locations, in order to ensure reliability for applications such as VoIP and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI).

“We needed to really think about introducing concepts like VDI and VOIP,” Haydon stressed. “Just continuing on the ADSL lines and MPLS alone would have seen us struggling to meet customer needs for our expanded business. We had to look to the next generation of network management to ensure our failover time drastically falls from days to seconds.”

Already, using the technology, the firm of general practice chartered accountants claims to have increased bandwidth by a factor of five, cut the cost per Mbps in half, and made the network more reliable for their real-time and interactive applications.

The newfound resiliency captured via these new circuits means that once VDI and VoIP are deployed, Whiting & Partners will have the flexibility to open a new office much more easily with less cost and will open the door to the possibility of further remote working.

“Our ambition is for our node-to-node transfer to work well enough to support remote access across a secure VPN from locations outside of just the offices, making use of other networks like mobile 3G,” Haydon said. “Being able to access diagnostics for ADSL line problems and solve them without needing to wait for a service provider engineer was the first goal of this, but it has so much more potential for the future.”

About the Author

Joe Fernandez is the news editor for Searchnetworking.co.uk

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