Alfa Laval is a leading global supplier of products and solutions for heat transfer, separation and fluid handling equipment. Its key products include heat exchangers, steam boilers, separators, pumps and valves. Alfa Laval technologies are used in areas such as energy optimization, environmental protection and food production. Alfa Laval has customers in around 100 countries, with sales of more than $4,2 billion (2011), and has some 16,000 employees.
Challenge: To find a cost effective solution for improving application performance and employee productivity
Alfa Laval is a global manufacturing company with a presence in almost 60 countries, which include branch offices, production facilities and service centers. In order to improve its IT management and efficiency, Alfa Laval embarked on a strategy of server consolidation, which resulted in the company moving most of its local servers in the Scandinavian region to its main data center in Sweden. The next phase involved centralizing a number of key applications, such as ERP, to the data center.
In order to improve access to files and data, there are two additional data centers in the US and India, which support each region. In addition, around half of the companyís sites use local servers for functions such as file sharing, printing and local applications.
Centralizing key applications helped improve efficiency, but it also highlighted a major network issue: latency. In some cases, the latency was a long as 400 milliseconds, resulting in slow access to mission critical applications over the wide area network (WAN).
Finn Nyman, platform manager at Alfa Laval Corporate IT, describes the challenges this created, “A delay that is measured in milliseconds can seem like minutes when you are sitting in front of a screen and waiting for an application to open. Sometimes, applications were so slow that they would be timed out. This had a business impact on our employees - not only were they frustrated by the delays, but productivity levels were beginning to suffer.”
Nyman says that increasing bandwidth was not the solution, “We have a major branch office in Sweden, which has a 100 Mbps link. We discovered that we were only using 40Mbps, even during peak periods, so adding more bandwidth didnít make sense. We knew that we had to solve the issue of latency, which was the real killer.”
Solution: Riverbed WAN optimization technology offers the most effective solution to network latency
Alfa Laval decided that WAN optimization was the best solution for overcoming network latency, and the company examined solutions from all the major vendors in this market, including, Riverbed Technology, Blue Coat and Cisco. “Our net experts Thomas Fransson and Stefan Strand opted for Riverbed because the Steelhead appliances were the most reliable, which was important for us.”
Engineers from Alfa Laval tested the Steelhead appliances at various sites across the company, and users were asked to evaluate its effectiveness. “The evaluation showed an improvement in application performance which made a big impact to employee productivity,” notes Nyman.
Alfa Laval has deployed Steelhead appliances at strategic points across the company including, the data centers in Sweden and the US. The Riverbed Central Management Console (CMC) was also installed at the data center in Sweden. Riverbed CMC simplifies the process of deploying and managing Steelhead appliances making it easy to configure, monitor, report on, and upgrade groups of Steelhead appliances through a single web-based interface. “The Steelhead appliances were up and running in no time at all, with no issues during the deployment and integration phases,” adds Nyman.
By deploying Riverbed, Alfa Laval has been able to reduce network latency significantly and improve application performance, which in turn has improved employee productivity, “Riverbed supports many of our major sites” says Nyman, ìand many services have benefited from the Riverbed solution. For example, our intranet system is SharePoint-based, which can be document-heavy, and so in many sites, it’s essential that we have an acceleration solution in place.”
Alfa Laval has also seen a quick return on its investment, “Deploying Riverbed at a typical site is a similar cost to installing a mid-size server, so my return on investment has been very simple to calculate: as soon as I get rid of one server, then we break even,” notes Nyman, “and once Riverbed is installed at a site, there’s no need to purchase any new servers for that site, so we don’t have the additional cost of upgrading or replacing servers. Cost is important, but our philosophy has always been that any IT savings should not have a negative impact on the end user. Riverbed has not only reduced our costs, but it has improved the end user experience.”
Nyman continues, “Riverbed is at the forefront of improving IT performance and its solutions are very reliable. They always work – we’ve never had any hardware or software issues. It’s important that I have confidence in the technology we use. I trust Riverbed completely.”
Alfa Laval centralized its key applications at its main data center Sweden. However, high network latency resulted in poor application performance over the WAN, resulting in reduced productivity and user frustration. After considering various WAN optimization solutions, Alfa Laval selected Riverbed, and deployed Steelhead appliances across its organization. The result is that latency has been greatly reduced, application performance improved, employee productivity increased, and the company has seen a quick return on its investment.
“A delay that is measured in milliseconds can seem like minutes when you are sitting in front of a screen and waiting for an application to open”
“Riverbed is at the forefront of improving IT performance and its solutions are very reliable”
“The Steelhead appliances were up and running in no time at all, with no issues during the deployment and integration phases”