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SteelHead appliances help DFSCU reduce bandwidth and gain flexibility for future applications.


IN BRIEF

Industry

  • Finance — Credit Unions

Challenges

  • Support 64 retail banking locations with client-server applications and end-user devices
  • Transition retail banking computers from a thin client architecture to a desktop platform
  • Manage bandwidth constraints

Solution

  • Steelhead appliances were deployed to maximize bandwidth, help roll out new desktops, and accelerate applications to 64 branch offices

Benefits

  • Reduce annual bandwidth costs by optimizing the existing WAN infrastructure and deferring circuit upgrades
  • Allow IT staff to manage 64 sites remotely
  • Improve application performance for end-users in branch offices
  • Achieve bandwidth reduction of 60% to 80%

Desert Schools Federal Credit Union

Riverbed Steelhead Appliances Improve Bandwidth Speed for Major Federal Credit Union

DSFCU is Arizona’s largest credit union with $3 billion in assets, more than 350,000 members and 64 locations. As a not-for-profit cooperative, DSFCU has been serving members since 1939 with stellar service, innovative products, community outreach and education. DSFCU has been named “best places to work in the valley” for four consecutive years and winner of 2007 Business Ethics Award from the Better Business Bureau Ethics Committee.

Challenge: High cost and complexity of applications for branches

DSFCU has experienced exponential growth over the past five years. Maintaining a centralized IT management strategy has facilitated that growth, while maintaining high service levels to the end user. Today, DSFCU has 64 branch locations throughout the Phoenix, AZ metro area and surrounding communities. Looking to the future, DSFCU plans to increase service capabilities in these retail banking locations. These applications and end user devices require local computing power and bandwidth connections to centralized data centers.

“We are running a core processing system that provides business-critical sales and service functions in the retail branches. Thin clients powered by a Citrix infrastructure have facilitated a centralized model to this point. In 2007, our IT team recognized that a full desktop platform would be necessary to support business plans over the next three years.

Increased sales and service application capability and end user devices such as scanners, printers and card devices would require a desktop platform,” noted Chris Kearney, AVP of Information Technology.

Managing bandwidth and trouble shooting the WAN can be a daily challenge. Today, adding bandwidth to individual locations is fairly inexpensive in the United States, but still does not address latency between sites, and software applications being chatty across the WAN. Scaling up DSFCU’s bandwidth connections to their branch offices was not in their budget. However, end-users still needed to access applications and files from centralized file servers.

“The challenge was how do we not upgrade our bandwidth to 64 branches and still roll out new desktops and applications across the WAN. And we knew we could not justify an additional $62,000 per month in bandwidth. Looking at WAN acceleration vendors became a necessity to support our business strategy,” continued Kearney. “Plus, we wanted to keep our consolidation strategy in place.”

IT Environment: Cisco Routers and VoIP

To support their many branch office bank applications and their main office in Phoenix, DSFCU chose Cisco as their primary network partner. “We are a Cisco shop; our branch offices are outfitted with Cisco’s Catalyst 3750 switches and Cisco 2821 integrated services routers.” Desert Schools recently migrated from a traditional PBX phone system to a voice over IP (VoIP) solution from Cisco.

Kearney remarked, “We have quite a complex network and manage our QoS through our Cisco routers. The Steelhead appliances do not speed up our voice traffic, or other forms of data communication, but make our bandwidth connections more efficient providing breathing room for voice.”

Solution: Riverbed enables strategy without additional cost

Kearney decided to research the WAN optimization market even though Cisco is their trusted partner. “Initially, we did research on WAN optimization on the Internet. We looked at both the Riverbed and Cisco offerings,” said Kearney. “We tested both alternatives, and the installation of Cisco WAAS took significantly longer than Riverbed Steelhead appliances. With Cisco, it took days to configure our routers and tweak our QoS. With Riverbed we just deployed it in-path, quickly configured the router, used a pass through rule for our VoIP traffic, and in hours we were up and running with our evaluation tests.”

The DSFCU engineering team thoroughly conducted on-site tests during product selection. They tested a typical regional branch office that had an estimated 18 teller stations, and a back-office department with approximately 15 stations. These branch offices typically have a bandwidth allocation of 1.5 mbps, their test results showed an 80% bandwidth reduction for main applications including a loan servicing platform , Adobe, and Excel.

Cost savings for DSFCU were crucial. “We knew, we could not deploy desktop computing to 64 branch offices with the network in place to support thin clients,” commented Kearney. “The scope of the desktop project was getting expensive. So, we were looking for the best partner to implement a WAN optimization solution easily and efficiently.”

With the Steelhead appliances in place, the DFSCU consolidation strategy never changed. IT administrators at their operational site could manage the WAN optimization platform centrally using the Riverbed Central Management Console (CMC). The CMC allows the network administrator to have visibility into how applications are performing across their WAN. Reports of the Steelhead appliances can be pulled into one report giving the network administrator insight to diagnose problems, and maintain more control over applications across the WAN.

Benefits: Consolidation efficiencies and bandwidth cost savings

By deploying Riverbed Steelhead appliances, DSFCU has seen significant bandwidth reduction, which has helped IT justify the cost to the business. “Typically with Riverbed, we see 60-80% bandwidth reduction overall on our WAN. That’s like having three times more bandwidth for our applications. That bandwidth reduction gives more flexibility for future applications needed at the branch,” commented Kearney. “We can implement new banking systems, running SSL traffic and branch to data center replication over our existing WAN links.”

In addition, DSFCU has a progressive virtualization environment that has allowed them to reduce 50% of their servers in their data center. “We were early adopters of VMware and we started to consolidate servers, especially in our data centers. Riverbed is just like VMware — a technology that has allowed IT to increase business capabilities and to provide cost savings.”

Looking forward, DSFCU expects to extend the efficiencies gained in branch-to-data center communications to streamline data center-to-data center communication. Kearney said, “Today, we use the Steelhead appliances to manage branch communication to both our production and backup data centers. Tomorrow, the same technology can be applied to communication between our data centers.” At present, the credit union has an overall RTO objective of 24 hours for mission critical systems. Production data is either replicated nightly or near real-time based on application capability to the backup data center. The Steelhead devices minimize the branch traffic and congestion that may inhibit replication needs.

SUMMARY

In the fall of 2007, Desert Schools Federal Credit Union (DSFCU) decided to add more customer banking services at their branch offices. DSFCU needed to provide a computing platform that could support ATM card readers, check scanners, and receipt printers at every bank teller’s kiosk.

To support these peripherals, DSFCU chose to move away from their Citrix thin-client environment to a desktop computing model that would provide enough computer processing, memory, and storage to run banking applications and peripherals.

However, DSFCU had a consolidated IT infrastructure and knew the rollout of a desktop computing environment would affect user performance. DSFCU considered upgrading bandwidth to its 64 branch offices to overcome performance issues, but instead decided to look at WAN optimization solutions. By deploying Riverbed Steelhead appliances, DSFCU was able save hundred of thousands of dollars by not upgrading bandwidth, while at the same time delivering LAN-like performance to remote sites.

“The challenge was how do we not upgrade our bandwidth to 64 branches and still roll out new desktops and applications across the WAN.”

The installation of the Cisco WAAS took longer than Riverbed Steelhead appliances...it took days to configure our routers and tweak our QoS. With Riverbed we just deployed it in-path, configured the router, used a pass through rule for our VoIP traffic, and in hours we were up and running with our evaluation tests.

“The Steelhead appliances make our bandwidth connections more efficient providing breathing room for voice.”

Typically, we see 60-80% bandwidth reduction overall on our WAN, that’s like having three times more bandwidth for our applications. That bandwidth reduction gives more flexibility for future applications needed at the branch.

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