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Flow International Corp, Riverbed and Citrix

Flow_logo Flow International Corporation is the market leader in a space that I had never come across before.  Their web site says:

Flow International Corporation provides technologically advanced, environmentally sound solutions to the manufacturing and industrial cleaning markets. Were the pacesetter in the development and manufacture of ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) waterjet technology, and a leading provider of robotics equipment.

The shorter description is that (among other things) they produce equipment that generates ultra-high pressure water cutting devices that can (among other things) precision-cut almost any material.  Their jets can propel a spray of water thinner than a human hair at Mach 3.  The jets are especially useful in applications where blades and other cutting devices dont work (like cutting a 12 piece of granite), and where laser and plasma cutters cant do the job (like cutting metal, where the heat can cause the metal to deform).  They are also cleaner and more environmentally 2010-12-22_1139 friendly than blades, lasers, or plasmas since they dont produce dust or other debris as part of the cutting process.  (You can watch some very cool videos of Flow devices cutting some really interesting things here like an iPod and a laptop.  You can also see their cutters in action on the US TV show American Choppers.)

Until late in 2009, Flow International ran their ERP system on AS400s, but by then they had outgrown it, and began to look at alternatives.  They eventually settled on Microsoft Dynamics AX 2009 with Terminal Server running over RDP to connect their data center in Kent, WA with their facility in Bretten, Germany.  Primarily due to network latency, the performance was, in a word, awful.  Screen refreshes were so slow that users would type before the screens were ready, often causing incorrect changes to data entries, adding to user frustration.  The system was unusable.

At this point, Jason Dickens, Enterprise Infrastructure Manager at Flow International, began to look for ways to improve performance within the current implementation through tuning and other basic enhancements, but was unable to improve things significantly.  So he explored WAN Optimization solutions, and specifically Riverbed, since he had used Steelhead appliances in a previous position.  He learned, to his dismay, that RDP could not be accelerated by Steelhead appliances or any other WAN Optimization appliance.  So he further broadened his search, and learned about Citrix ICA and led a trial of Riverbed and Citrix together.

He and his team were blown away by the performance improvement. The system became more than merely usable; performance was quick and snappy.  They were so impressed that within two weeks of the start of the trial in December 2009 they bought the three trial Steelhead appliances, rather than disturb them, plus six additional boxes.  Less than a year later, they bought four more, to bring their total to 13 (six in Europe, three in Asia, and two each in the US and South America). 

The results have been nothing short of remarkable.  While Riverbed and 2010-12-22_1135 Citrix tell their customers they can expect 40-80% bandwidth reduction, Flow consistently sees better than 80%.  As for implementation, it could not have been easier; to quote Jason, We just turned them on, and they worked.

Theyve also seen remarkable side benefits from the implementation, since Steelhead Appliances optimize all network traffic, not just Citrix.  Their EMC RecoverPoint and Microsoft DPM replication traffic, which regularly send terabytes of data across the WAN have been optimized by better than 95%, further freeing large amounts of network bandwidth for their global DFSR data to flow easily across their global network infrastructure. 

The performance enhancements delivered by Flows 2010-12-22_1133 Riverbed Steelhead appliances have enabled them to provide application service, data replication, and disaster recovery on their existing virtualized network infrastructure at a level that would not otherwise be possible.  As a result, Flow can focus on implementing new technologies to further enhance business goals and user experience without having to be concerned about network latency and bandwidth limitations.

(By the way, if you like looking at and sharing Riverbed performance numbers and graphs, be sure to check out the Riverbed Performance Hall of Fame!)

2 Responses

  1. Steve McGhay

    Dec 22, 2010

    Jason recently did some work for us on our server and network infrastructure including our Riverbed appliances. He is a top notch network guy and comes highly recommended - i wish we had more budget available this year but we will certainly use him for advice and his expert assistance on future projects These are some very impressive results but considering his knowledge and understanding of networking and server technologies I can't say I'm surprised! Koodo's to Jason and his team at Flow. You guys are top notch! -- Steve

  2. Michael Paynter

    Dec 22, 2010

    Flow International worked with Tier3 Technologies headquartered just across the river in Louisville, KY on this project. They have been a Riverbed partner for almost six (6) years. Tier3 Technologies has worked extensively with both Citrix and VMware as tools for process improvement as a part of their Eveready Services Platform TM. Jason and his team have been great to work with on this project and we look forward to partnering with them on future projects.

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Riverbed delivers the most complete platform for Location-Independent Computing, turning location and distance into a competitive advantage. The Riverbed Application Performance Platform™ allows IT to have the flexibility to host applications and data in the most optimal locations while ensuring applications perform as expected, data is always available when needed, and performance issues are detected and fixed before end users notice. At more than $1 billion in annual revenue, Riverbed has 25,000+ customers, including 97% of both the Fortune 100 and the Forbes Global 100.

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