Skip to main content

CNP specializes in all aspects of building and quantity surveying, project management and construction technology. Reporting a yearly turnover in excess of £13 million, expansion has been rapid, with eight offices located in the United Kingdom and Germany.


IN BRIEF

Industry

  • Construction

Challenge

  • To deliver applications from a centralized server without leased lines
  • Reduce network administration overheads
  • Provide efficient file replication and back up

Solution

  • Riverbed Steelhead Appliances

Benefits

  • 5x – 10x file transfer time improvement
  • 5x acceleration of back-up times
  • 50% reduction in bandwidth utilization

CNP

CNP Consolidates Data and Accelerates Applications with Steelhead Appliances

Background

CNP specializes in all aspects of building and quantity surveying, project management and construction technology. Reporting a yearly turnover in excess of £13 million, expansion has been rapid, with eight offices located in the United Kingdom and Germany.

Today, the company’s 110-strong workforce delivers building and project consultancy to a broad client base, including financial institutions, property developers, occupiers, agents and the public sector.

Challenge: Resolving Network Growth Pains

Based in Esher, Surrey and, initially, with two satellite offices connected via a 1 Mbps, ADSL- based VPN, CNP’s original network was designed to meet the needs of a successful regional building & construction consultancy. A Microsoft Exchange Server at each site delivered Outlook email to its 110 staff, and a Blackberry remote access terminal server supported mobile workers. Back-up and storage was via a mixture of in-house tape libraries and third-party online services.

To meet the demands placed on the organization’s data network as a result of CNP’s expanding national and European operations, the company migrated its ADSL WAN to an MPLS-based platform to take advantage of the latest topology. All of this proved to be a short-term solution because within a year company expansion had rocketed. Now, with 110 employees in more than eight offices, CNP found that its network environment was facing a major challenge.

“Sudden growth meant we had to look at ways of providing all the services and the numerous applications that were required without having the cost of installing large servers,” explains Richard Seear, CNP’s Head of IT. “With a server in every site, there’s a lot of overhead for support and maintenance, both in terms of the servers themselves plus the cost of the additional hardware and software.”

File replication using the new software CNP had purchased was also proving difficult. “The back-up solution we originally installed did not work very well and bandwidth limitations meant we couldn’t replicate documents between sites,” he explains. “It was just bottle necking. Documents awaiting replication would simply queue whenever the DSL line was busy.”

To meet the challenge, CNP wanted to explore a major network re-architecture, setting out the key objectives:

·       Facilitate efficient server back up

·       Enable email and file archiving

·       Centralize exchange servers with failover

Solution: Riverbed Steelhead Deployed to Optimize WAN and Application Performance

Consolidating the network via the data center in Manchester was seen as the most effective route of achieving CNP’s aims but, according to Seear, it became clear that a network acceleration solution was also required, if the cost of installing leased lines was to be avoided.

“Our budget dictated that the most viable WAN upgrade was to 1Mbps SDSL. We had to find a solution to the file replication situation without spending a fortune on additional bandwidth,” he continues. “This is when we examined Riverbed’s Steelhead solution and realized that we could put the Exchange Server in the data center as well.”

Riverbed’s Steelhead appliance had been recommended to Seear by an IT contact that had successfully deployed the same technology. “We looked at other suppliers in the market, but there just wasn’t enough background on their options, whereas the Riverbed solution was a proven technology.” Steelhead appliances are designed to accelerate application performance and data transfer over the WAN by employing algorithms that reduce data duplication, optimize TCP and application protocols, and address all the major performance limitations that impact applications over the WAN.

CNP conducted test replication scenarios and some ‘user acceptance’ tests on Steelhead appliances. “We ran several users on the new system and didn’t tell them that we’d changed servers just to see whether the phone would ring...it didn’t. This proved that the user experience was unchanged,” says Seear. Following the successful pilot, CNP deployed seven Steelhead appliances at its busiest sites and is now planning for rollout of further units.

“Obviously there was some IP addressing to be done,” Seear comments. “But given the time IT systems now require to configure, it was quite refreshing to install 6 Steelhead appliances in just a day and a half. The only challenge was in addressing some existing small overlapping subnets that previously had been on CNP’s network. “Once we’d removed these subnets, we re-routed the static routes and they all found each other.”

Management of the Steelhead appliances, according to Seear, was very straightforward using the browser short-cut to access the GUI. “It’s very easy to use with good reporting capabilities. The statistics are all on screen and I can see immediately how much traffic is being optimized.

There’s also an option to change the way applications function and maximize their usage via the Steelhead appliances.” Steelhead appliances’ management GUI can display optimization statistics both by time period and transmission protocol, enabling management of the traffic and of the network itself.

Benefits: Riverbed Steelhead Boosts Bandwidth, Removes Bottlenecks and Consolidates Network

CNP’s new network comprises Cisco 1841 routers, HP ProCurve switches and HP ProLiant local file servers, with the larger offices fitted with network attached storage (NAS). It also installed XOsoft’s WANsync (now CA) software that allows file replication of all documents from each office to the NAS at the data center, which is then backed up again. “We’ve just replicated 80 Gb of documents across our WAN in less than a week while using only 512kbps of physical bandwidth. It would have taken a month or two with the old system,” says Seear. “This will soon run in real time, as changes in the documents are replicated directly to the data center.”

Speedy replication is possible because Riverbed’s algorithms store all WAN traffic in a proprietary form, on disks inside the Steelhead appliances either side of the WAN link. Thereafter, the Steelhead appliances monitor all TCP traffic going out across the network, to ascertain if any data is being duplicated over the network by an application. If so, then only the new data is sent, along with references to any existing data already sent.

Furthermore, by centralizing applications at the data center, CNP has realized significant savings. MS Outlook, for example, can be provided to users in cache mode — thus emails are downloaded automatically and traffic is optimized by the Steelhead appliances. “We’ve removed some 50% of Exchange Servers from the network — previously this would not have been possible,” states Seear. Typical performance enhancements delivered by the Steelhead appliances include:

·       5x – 10x file transfer time improvement

·       5x acceleration of back-up times

·       50% reduction in bandwidth utilization

CNP is now considering additional opportunities for enterprise-wide networking enabled by the Steelhead appliances — including deployment of a project management portal that would make a central store of contacts available to the whole business, and the introduction of VoIP using the Steelhead appliances’ QoS enforcement features to ensure bandwidth availability.

SUMMARY

Building and construction project consultancy firm CNP was seeking to consolidate its server and backup infrastructure, reduce management overhead and implement file replication. With remote sites located throughout the UK, it also wanted to provide high performance business- critical applications from a central site, while avoiding the use of expensive leased lines.

By deploying Riverbed Steelhead appliances, CNP has reduced both its network management overhead and infrastructure costs, while realizing significant improvements in WAN performance. The Steelhead appliances paid for themselves within the first year of operation.

“We looked at other suppliers in the market, but there just wasn’t enough background on their options, whereas the Riverbed solution was a proven technology.”

“We’ve just replicated 80 Gb of documents across our WAN in less than a week while using only 512kbps of physical bandwidth. It would have taken a month or two with the old system.”

Related Products

SteelHead

SteelHead offers industry-leading secure optimization of all applications across networks. Learn how Riverbed can help improve your hybrid WAN performance.
learn more

Ready to get started?

Download a trial, contact us for more info, or find out how to buy. We’re here to help you get ahead.