Software solves network latency problems

Alcan Gove is using Cisco Systems Wide Area File Services (WAFS) software and Cisco Unified Communications to improve productivity and reduce operational costs at its Gove alumina refinery expansion.

Alcan Gove is an aluminum and packaging company, with operations in 60 countries and around 65,000 employees.

It is also a company with big plans: expansion of its 'G3' refinery on the Gove Peninsula in east Arnhem Land will increase production capacity from 2.0 to 3.8 million tonnes per annum by 2007.

During the peak of the G3 expansion in 2005, around 350 engineering staff were generating up to 16 gigabits of CAD files and 3D drawings each day. Those drawings were shared between the Gove site and other offices, creating potential latency problems as massive amounts of data traversed the company's connections.

To help address the latency problem, Alcan worked with Cisco to deploy Cisco WAFS software to overcome wide area network (WAN) latency and bandwidth limitations and offer users at branch offices a local area network (LAN)-like experience when accessing centralised files over the WAN. As a result, large files can be transported on the network 24 hours a day without any compromise to other essential communications.

"The Cisco WAFS solution makes it possible to get the drawings and models from the engineering design office in Brisbane to the construction and implementation sites in Gove and Asia overnight," sad Ian Budd, network administrator for the Alcan Gove G3 Project.

Since Alcan Gove operates a network built from end to end with Cisco equipment, the WAFS software seamlessly integrates into its existing network. As a result, Alcan maintains full access to branch network services such as firewall security policies, accounting, quality of service and visibility and monitoring, without any changes to clients or servers, since the integrity of traffic information is preserved.

The company's network also supports Unified Communications, including internet protocol (IP) telephony and videoconferencing. Around 1500 Cisco IP handsets are in use at the Gove refinery plant, with 200 IP handsets deployed at the company's Brisbane, Thailand and Vietnam project offices.

Allan Croker, network specialist, information and technology service, Alcan Gove, said "The Unified Communications solution has helped Alcan reduce the cost of calls and also cut the costs of deploying, managing and maintaining our phone infrastructure, as well as providing a cost-effective way for plant supervisors to stay in touch across the 23 km plant at Gove."

To enable Alcan's Australian headquarters staff in Brisbane to communicate as needed with their Gove counterparts, Alcan has deployed 40 Cisco VT Advantage cameras for desktop videoconferencing, two Tandberg videoconference units for frequent team meetings and Cisco IP Softphones for travelling users, which operate in conjunction with Cisco Unified CallManager.

The deployment of Cisco Unified CallManager and an Australia-wide Cisco IP infrastructure backbone has also enabled the ability of interoffice calls via the WAN by connecting legacy private branch exchange systems to the Cisco IP backbone.

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