Case study: CSR boosts WAN with SilverPeak

How WAN optimisation from SilverPeak has helped the international operations of CSR, the private sector winner of Computer Weekly’s European User Awards for Networking

CSR may be headquartered in the UK – specifically Cambridge – but to compete internationally, it needs its sites spread around the world and connected with a strong network.

The semiconductor company designs chips based on location, connectivity and audio technology found in a number of mobile accessories.

It currently has 27 sites, spread across 11 countries in every region, and houses 2,300 employees under the company roof. Such an operation demands a network CSR can rely on.

“The challenge is always providing quality of service in our outlying offices,” says Mark Taylor, senior support analyst at CSR.

He says the company had always focused its strategy on having centralised services for all its different offices to access, rather than separate servers for applications at each location.

“When you grow organically out of one base – ours being in Cambridge – it is quite common to have everything centralised,” explains Taylor. 

“Then, little by little, you may end up with services in other parts of the world too. This has happened to us through acquisition, but the aim has always been to keep everything centralised. This does create a challenge, though, for those sites that are far away or have a connection that is not very good.”

Selecting a WAN optimisation provider

CSR had already employed wide area network (WAN) optimisation technology to try to improve access to applications such as Perforce, Microsoft file services (CIFS) and computer-aided design (CAD) tools for its more far-flung operations, but knew it needed work.

“We already had WAN optimisation from Expand Networks, and this had fairly reasonable performance and they were good at their job,” says Taylor. “But when Expand was taken over by Riverbed, we needed to look at alternatives as we didn’t know if we would have the support we then needed.”

A number of issues had arisen during Riverbed’s acquisition of Expand, with Taylor claiming later iterations of the WAN optimisation software were full of “killer bugs that were very hard to pin down”.

He decided to try out an alternative – and SilverPeak came out head and shoulders above its predecessor.

“Quite simply, SilverPeak outperformed them,” says Taylor. “Part of the attraction to SilverPeak was that it just works when it comes to the IP layer. It looks at the most basic layer and performs tasks like deduplication and compression simply.

“It is also application independent, so it works with everything. It was a doddle to install –  you could just whack it in and you were off. Other solutions have blades for every app, which can be all well and good, but we just didn’t see the benefits for us.”

When you work in IT, no news is good news and the reaction so far has been no complaints

Mark Taylor, CSR

SilverPeak implementation challenges

After a month of testing – two weeks waiting for the correct hardware and two weeks trialling the software provided by SilverPeak – CSR decided to go ahead and roll out the VXOA software solution across its network.

“Deployment took three months and it wasn’t that straightforward,” admits Taylor. “It was not just about accelerating the network, but ensuring it coexisted with the network and that different configurations worked in parallel.

“That did have its own challenges. For example, with our small sites in Asia, where we couldn’t really justify sending out a member of staff, we had to engage with local people, and sometimes had non-technical people finishing the deployment.”

However, despite a slightly bumpy road to roll-out, CSR completed the deployment in January 2012. A year on, the company is pleased with the changes it has seen.  

“When you work in IT, no news is good news, and the reaction so far has been no complaints,” says Taylor. 

CSR has received positive feedback from customers it has specifically contacted about the service. 

“All those previous bugs have been eradicated, backup across WAN is 10 times faster and the ability to check out depositories has been sped up. Add the compression and deduplication features, and I can see the benefits without asking,” he says.

Productive plans for the future

Taylor and his team are now able to look to the future, and with an optimised network, he already has plans to boost productivity and cut costs.

“We are looking at trying to deploy connections over VPN links, which obviously require a highly reliable and high-quality service,” Taylor concludes.

“We can really reduce costs by having VPNs from small sites, so I will be looking at this year, trying a couple of offices, and seeing what the experience is like before trying to roll it out further.”

Image: Thinkstock

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