Glen Dalgleish, vice president of infrastructure services at global perfumer Coty, well remembers why he and his staff had implemented WAN acceleration technology last January: to improve download speeds for some 6,000 users world-wide.
With the devices from Riverbed Technology in place, users in Europe or Asia could download a 50MB multimedia presentation on a hot new fragrance in less than five minutes - a big improvement over the 30 minutes it had taken before the acceleration fix.
"It is extremely potent technology," Dalgleish said. "People were calling and saying, 'This can't be right.... Is something wrong? The downloads are too FAST.' With a smile, we said, 'It is what it is...'"
Dalgleish, who started working for New York-based Coty nearly a year ago, credits Riverbed and Orange, the network provider that has worked with Coty for more than seven years, for the improvements.
In all, Riverbed and Orange spent about $500,000 to install about 50 Riverbed Steelhead appliances of various sizes in offices around the globe. The devices talk to one big Steelhead at Coty's data centre in North Carolina, Dalgleish said. Coty expects its investment should be paid back in 18 months.
The big advantage? Coty didn't need to expand network capacity to handle exploding amounts of video and other multimedia data, he said. While adding bandwidth might not be too expensive in New York, trying to boost throughput by even a modest amount in some countries in Eastern Europe can be exorbitant, he noted. With the Riverbed technology in place, the loading on some network links dropped from 90 percent to 60 percent.
With the improved efficiency, Dalgleish has been able to remove about 12 caching servers around the world, saving money on the software licensing costs for those servers. Now, when a user needs a file, the data comes straight from the data centre, ensuring that they get the most recent version.
One problem Dalgleish encountered involved several legacy applications that did not work with the acceleration software and would time-out. The applications were not mission critical and affected very few users, so they were excluded from the acceleration pathway and still transmit at their older, slower pace. Because the issue was minor, Dalgleish did not investigate the problem.
Coty chose Riverbed's technology over several others, including Cisco, Dalgleish said. Orange had recommended Riverbed after using the technology itself; Dalgleish praised Orange for recognising that the acceleration market is growing and offers clear benefits for network users.
"Because of what Orange did, it helps me want to stay with Orange," he said.
Now, he wants to test Riverbed's Steelhead mobile application to provide optimisation to several hundred employee laptops. "You could use it from your hotel room," he said.
Coty's experience with acceleration is not unusual, analysts said. Since WAN optimisation technology began appearing five years ago, it has continued to gain popularity at least in part because of success stories like Coty's.
"The market is still growing, and we have not seen a slowdown in end-user demand for WAN optimisation," said Robert Whiteley, an analyst at Forrester Research. "As IT [departments] look to trim the fat from budgets, they often turn to consolidation projects, which increases the need for WAN optimisation to accelerate connections to centralised data centre resources."
Whiteley said Riverbed is in the top tier of WAN optimisation vendors, along with Cisco, Blue Coat Systems, Juniper Networks and Silver Peak Systems.