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With a centralized ERP system and three-quarters of its business coming from outside the United States, Flow International Corporation needed to improve ERP access for remote users. By deploying SteelHead WAN optimization appliances along with Citrix thin client technology, the company has eliminated the frustrating 70-second delays that remote users formerly experienced. Average response time today for remote ERP users is two to three seconds. By leveraging the SteelHead appliances to optimize Citrix desktop and application server traffic, Flow International has been able to centralize its applications as well as streamline its disaster recovery process to successfully compete in a global economy.



  • Industrial machinery Challenges


  • Goal of replicating ERP data within 30 minutes
  • Terabytes of EMC RecoverPoint and Microsoft Data Protection Manager traffic
  • Prohibitive cost of additional bandwidth


  • Steelhead appliances deployed world- wide to optimize WAN traffic
  • Riverbed technology complements RecoverPoint’s native compression capabilities


  • 98 to 99 percent WAN efficiency for DR traffic
  • All RecoverPoint traffic replicated within five seconds
  • Optimized bandwidth capacity increase of 7.94x
  • RPO and RTO targets met without increasing WAN costs

Disaster recovery in near real time

Flow International Corporation provides technologically advanced, environmentally sound solutions to the manufacturing and industrial cleaning markets. It is the pacesetter in the development and manufactur- ing of ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) waterjet technology.

Flow’s core markets include aerospace, automotive, job and machine shops, paper, food, art and archi- tecture, industrial cleaning, surface preparation, food processing, and other specialty applications. With corporate headquarters in Kent, Washington, Flow International now has approximately 600 employees in offices in Indiana, Canada, Brazil, Germany, UK, Spain, Italy, France, Taiwan, Japan, and China.

Challenge: Terabytes of replication data

Flow International relies on an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to manage its global opera- tions. Replicating the ERP data is a critical element of Flow International’s disaster recovery (DR) strategy. This data is replicated from the main data center in Kent, Washington to a disaster recovery facility in Jeffersonville, Indiana using EMC RecoverPoint, which enables continuous remote replication and recovery to any point in time.

In addition, Flow uses Microsoft Data Protection Manager (DPM) to replicate data from some of its other applications. Between the two DR applications, terabytes of replication data needed to travel over the company’s wide area network (WAN). Purchasing additional bandwidth was not considered due to the cost.

Solution: Optimize all network traffic

When Flow installed Steelhead®  appliances from Riverbed Technology®  to optimize the WAN the original pur- pose of the move was to speed access to the ERP system for users in remote offices. This was very important because more than 50 percent of the company’s revenue comes from outside the US. The solution was hugely successful, according to Jason Dickens, enterprise infrastructure manager at Flow International.“It was like somebody plugged a cord into the wall and our systems started working,” Dickens explains.

Flow installed a total of 13 Steelhead appliances: six in Europe, two in the US, three in Asia and two in South America. The Steelhead appliances optimize all network traffic as well as dramatically improving disaster recovery and replication operations.

Riverbed Steelhead appliances have received EMC E-Lab qualification for RecoverPoint, and Riverbed’s tech- nology complements RecoverPoint’s native compression capabilities. In this way, Riverbed WAN optimization technology enables Flow International to protect more data more frequently across larger distances.

Benefits: Excellent WAN efficiency for DR traffic

Today, Flow’s EMC RecoverPoint and Microsoft Data Protection Manager (DPM) replication traffic is optimized by more than 95 percent, freeing large amounts of network bandwidth for the company’s business-critical applications.

With the Riverbed solution, recovery point objective (RPO) and recovery time objective (RTO) targets can be met and/or exceeded without increasing the monthly cost of the company’s WAN infrastructure. Flow International started with the goal of eventually replicating ERP data within 30 minutes. The company now replicates all RecoverPoint traffic within five seconds. “Our replication is now near real-time,” Dickens says.

“For our initial implementation, we set Recover-Point for maximum compression and deduplica- tion, but a few months after deployment we played with the settings to tune WAN optimization and reset RecoverPoint for maximum throughput,” Dickens adds. “I decided I’d turn off all the RecoverPoint features that help bandwidth optimization and rely solely on the Riverbed appliances.

This allowed RecoverPoint to focus its resources on processing more raw input/output operations while we offload WAN optimization to a specialized appliance. The result is that we’re now seeing about 98 to 99 percent WAN efficiency for our disaster recovery traffic.”


With a centralized ERP system and three-quarters of its business coming from outside the United States, Flow International Corporation needed to improve ERP access for remote users. It also needed to ensure the integrity of its disaster recovery processes, which use EMC RecoverPoint and Microsoft Data Protection Manager and generate terabytes of data that must travel over the company’s WAN.

By deploying Steelhead WAN optimization appliances at its headquarters, disaster recovery center and major regional data centers worldwide, Flow International ensures speedy access to the ERP system from its international offices.  The Riverbed solution also optimizes the company’s disaster recovery operations.

The data compression performed by the Steelhead appliances complements that done by RecoverPoint. Replication traffic (both RecoverPoint and DPM) has been optimized by 95 percent. Originally, Flow set a goal of replicating the ERP data within 30 minutes. The company now replicates that data in five seconds. Overall Flow International has experienced a total data reduction on the WAN of 86 percent and has realized a 7.94 times optimized bandwidth capacity increase.

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