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When BankWest launched a major program to expand its retail banking operations, it discovered that its existing IT infrastructure couldn't scale appropriately or deliver acceptable performance.


IN BRIEF

Industry

  • Banking

Challenges

  • Business expansion required new High-Performance IT architecture
  • Poor application performance across the WAN made this very difficult & potentially expensive

Solution

  • A range of Steelhead appliances deployed at over 200 small, medium and large sites across Australia
  • High-end Steelhead 6020s installed at the Bank’s two data centres in Perth

Benefits

  • Reduced WAN traffic and costs
  • Improved application performance at all sites
  • Increased visibility of network to better monitor and manage issues

HBOS Australia

HBOS passes milestone of 200 live Riverbed Steelhead appliances, supporting corporate growth, IT agility and competitive strength

Overview

HBOS Australia comprises four diverse financial services companies — BankWest, Capital Finance, St. Andrew’s and BOS International. The retail arm of HBOS Australia, BankWest, was originally a Western Australian operation and is now expanding on the east coast of Australia.

Challenge: Older IT architecture could not support HBOS Australia’s ambitious business expansion plans, mandating deployment of WAN acceleration

“The big driver was application performance and consistency of performance,” explained Adrian Cowman, networks and telecommunications manager, IT Infrastructure, HBOS Australia. “We wanted to get consistent LAN-like performance for all our applications running across the WAN. Our old IT architecture simply could not support this, so we knew we needed a new solution.”

“Business agility demands reliable communication among offices and the ability to quickly and easily share information,” Cowman said. “We needed technology that could do more with our existing network, support new applications as well as our aggressive business growth plans.”

“While planning the new IT architecture in 2006, we found that running our east coast branches from the Perth data centres would lead to unacceptably slow response times. But we did not want to build another multi-million dollar data centre on the east coast just because applications ran slowly across the WAN!”

Solution: Massive deployment of 170 Riverbed Steelhead appliances conducted at all existing sites in only 45 days; ongoing deployment has passed 200 units

After comprehensive testing of multiple vendors, HBOS Australia selected Riverbed to supply WAN optimisation and application acceleration via the Riverbed Steelhead appliances. Centralized management of the Steelhead appliances is done via the Riverbed Central Management Console.

At the start of 2008, HBOS first deployed 170 Steelhead appliances to their existing branch locations on the west coast of Australia. The implementation took just 45 days to complete, with systems integrator Dimension Data installing the Steelhead appliances at up to five sites per night. The second stage of the rollout, including the new branch locations is now ongoing, with the number of deployed Steelhead appliances recently passing 200. In order for a deployment of this speed and scale to be possible, simple configuration and management of the technology was critical.

 “The Steelhead appliances, with their auto-configuration and centralised management capability, are incredibly easy to deploy, meaning we could roll out several branches each night,” Cowman said. “This quick implementation was thanks largely to the simplicity of the products and the Steelhead appliances’ ability to integrate into a complex, multi-vendor IT environment.

“The Professional Services team from Riverbed, together with Dimension Data’s technical expertise, helped make this one of the most successful, large-scale IT rollout projects the bank has undertaken. It was well planned at a technical level and, most importantly, the rollout didn’t cause any problems to the business.”

HBOS Australia has installed Riverbed Steelhead 6020s in its data centres, while the branch offices contain Steelhead appliances ranging in size from 520s to 3520s. The scalability of the Steelhead appliances and their ability to meet HBOS Australia’s requirements was a deciding factor.

“We determined that Riverbed was the only vendor with a technology that could meet the needs of our large deployment,” Cowman said. “We considered other vendors but, after extensive multi-vendor testing, concluded that Riverbed products were robust, secure and the easiest to implement with a high probability of success across our large network of 200+ offices.”

“The fact that Riverbed is the recognised global market leader in this field was also important for us as we are a very risk-averse organisation.”

As HBOS Australia grows, it plans to deploy Steelhead appliances to approximately 350 offices in total. HBOS Australia is also testing the Steelhead Mobile PC client acceleration software, as well as additional high-end Steelhead appliance platforms to assist with network based backup & recovery operations between data centres.

Benefits: Improved application performance, reduced WAN traffic and increased network visibility

As part of the new IT architecture, HBOS Australia is using new applications like VoIP, which operate best on high quality networks. In addition to improving application performance, deployment of the Riverbed Steelhead appliances has reduced WAN traffic volume enough to allow VoIP traffic to run better across the HBOS Australia network.

“We perform regular network capacity reviews and the Steelhead appliances definitely reduce the volume of traffic and provide a more acceptable performance to end users,” Cowman explains.“ The new Riverbed RiOS Services Platform (RSP) also gives HBOS Australia the potential to embed future services — such as print servers, unified threat management and video streaming server functionality — into the existing Steelhead appliances, further reducing branch office IT costs.”

The RSP is an extensible data services platform that enables the delivery of virtualised edge services without the need to deploy additional physical servers at remote or branch offices. In a typical RSP deployment, companies can run “serverless” branch offices by simplifying IT infrastructure to include just a router and a Steelhead appliance. This allows customers to deploy best-of-breed services from their choice of vendors onboard the Steelhead appliances in a self-contained partition to minimise the hardware infrastructure footprint at the branch office.

An unexpected benefit of the project has been the increased visibility HBOS Australia now has into its network. For example, in one instance HBOS Australia was having connectivity issues with a Lotus Notes server. Because the Steelhead appliances have full monitoring capability, they were able to monitor what was happening between the server and the client and analyse the problem.

Cowman believes features like this will make WAN acceleration technology a mandatory part of the landscape of modern IT infrastructure.

“You know when WAN acceleration is doing its job because you don’t hear anything about it. It’s one of those things that sit in the background and end users really appreciate. But you don’t hear about it unless it goes wrong.”

“It’s a bit like having a turbo charger on an engine — you really know when it’s not working because you lose power,” he concludes.

SUMMARY

HBOS Australia wanted consistent, LAN-like performance for all its key applications at its 200+ BankWest branches across Australia. It also needed a WAN Acceleration solution which could support its rapid expansion plans to open 160 new branches on the east coast of Australia over the next three years without blowing out IT costs.

Since deploying the Steelhead appliances at over 200 sites, HBOS Australia has reduced its WAN traffic and improved application performance. The Bank has also increased the visibility of what traffic is running across its network, increasing its ability to troubleshoot any potential network issues all while reducing total IT costs.

We needed technology that could do more with our existing network, support new applications as well as our aggressive business growth plans.

The Professional Services team from Riverbed, together with Dimension Data’s technical expertise, helped make this one of the most successful, large-scale IT rollout projects the bank has undertaken.

You know when WAN acceleration is doing its job because you don’t hear anything about it.

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