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Flughafen Zürich AG is a private company that operates Zurich Airport, Switzerland's national and international transport hub. It has around 1,500 employees and works with more than 270 airport partners, and their 25,000 employees. Almost 90 domestic and international airlines operate from Zurich Airport, serving over 22 million passengers annually.


IN BRIEF

Industry

  • Aviation

Challenges

  • Resolving network issues was difficult and time-consuming
  • Troubleshooting involved several network engineers and could take hours

Solution

  • Riverbed Cascade Shark appliances and Cascade Pilot software

Benefits

  • Network issues resolved in minutes rather than hours
  • Troubleshooting now done by a single employee
  • Faster network configuration
  • Improved customer service
  • Zurich Airport Airport operator resolves network issues quickly and efficiently with Riverbed

Background

Flughafen Zürich AG is a private company that operates Zurich Airport, Switzerland’s national and international transport hub. It has around 1,500 employees and works with more than 270 airport partners, and their 25,000 employees. Almost 90 domestic and international airlines operate from Zurich Airport, serving over 22 million passengers annually.

Challenge: To find a fast, efficient network monitoring solution for resolvingnetwork issues

Companies based at Zurich Airport include airlines, retailers, hotels, and restaurants, all having their own respective wide area networks (WANs) that connecttoand rely on the airport local area network (LAN) for accessing mission-critical applications. Airlines, for example, require specialized applications for operations such as bookings, reservations, check-in, and electronic ticketing. As a result, the airport LAN connects to roughly 150 national and international networks and has more than 14,000 network connection points (access ports).

“With such a complex network infrastructure, issues invariably arise, and we were spending a lot of time and manpower trying to resolve them,” explains Stefan Thoma, senior network engineer at Flughafen Zürich AG. “Sometimes, a customer would report that an application wasn’t running properly, or that a server wasn’t responding to a request. It was very hard to find the root of the problem. Many of our customers’ data centers, for example, are based on another continent, so it was difficult to know whether the problem was due to our network or theirs.”

Configuring the airport network for new applications was also a complicated process because there was no comparable network monitoring system in place. This made it difficult to determine whether connectivity issues originated at the airport LAN or the customer’s network.

As part of the network troubleshooting process, Flughafen Zürich AG network engineers used Wireshark network protocol analyzer to capture traffic data, but the procedure was both complicated and time-consuming. “A network engineer would have to walk around the airport with test equipment to set-up traces at hot spots, such as a data center.” says Thoma. “Other engineers might be working on the same problem in other parts of the airport, and the customer’s own engineering staff could be coordinating with us from another continent. Solving an issue would take hours. We needed a solution that was faster and more efficient.”

Solution: Riverbed Cascade integrates seamlessly and quickly troubleshoots complex performance issues

Flughafen Zürich AG wanted to make network configuration, monitoring, and troubleshooting more efficient, and initially considered a solution from a competitor. However, a well known IT partner recommended Cascade® Pilot® software from Riverbed Technology.

Cascade Pilot is a network analysis and reporting solution that uses an easy-to-read graphical user interface and rapidly isolates the specific packetsneeded to diagnose and troubleshoot complex performance issues. It alsoseamlessly integrates with Wireshark, for deep packet analysis and decoding. “The ability of Cascade to integrate with Wireshark was an important factor because we use it extensively,” says Thoma.

“The competitors didn’t offer this level of integration with Wireshark, and because Cascade Pilot was more cost-effective, the choice was clear.” Flughafen Zürich AG conducted a two-month proof-of-concept (POC) using Cascade Shark appliance and Cascade Pilot software. “As soon as we deployed Cascade, we had a good feeling about it,” continues Thoma. “It was simple to install and use, and we knew it would be much quicker for us to identify problems. It’s sometimes surprising the packets that can be found on the network.” As a result of a successful POC, Flughafen Zürich AG deployed Cascade Shark appliances at strategic points around the airport network, including its two data centers. “We also know a trusted partner who has been working successfully with Cascade Shark (and its ancestor) for a long time, which gave us even more confidence.”

Benefits: Streamlined troubleshooting, faster resolution times, improved employee efficiency, and enhanced customer service

The combination of Cascade with Wireshark has transformed the network troubleshooting process. “We no longer have to walk around the airport with test equipment. Now, one person can sit at a workstation and trace the source of a problem within minutes, explains Thoma. “The much improved time-to-resolution process has enhanced our customer service. If a customer has a problem, we can investigate it and quickly email them the results. Customers really appreciate the fast response time.”

Cascade Pilot also provides Flughafen Zürich AG with a powerful way for resolving configuration issues. “Now, if an airline rolls out a new application and there is a connectivity issue, I can very quickly see whether the issue is with our network or theirs,” says Thoma. Flughafen Zürich AG can also deploy its dozen network engineers more efficiently because the company no longer needs several people to collect and analyze network data. “The rest of the network team can focus on other important IT tasks. Cascade Pilot provides us with real-time information and historical data which is very useful as it helps us to understand how our network behaves,” says Thoma.

Cascade has helped resolve a variety of network issues. For example, when the airport’s wireless network suffered from connectivity issues, the source of the problem was soon detected and fixed. In addition, Flughafen Zürich AG quickly found that there are certain moving clients, such as passenger buses, which have trouble roaming from one access point to the next. With Cascade Pilot, the source of the problems can now be discovered promptly.

When an airline reported problems with its check-in system, using the solution, the cause was rapidly traced to the interface between the airline WAN and airport network. And when server requests from one of the airport’s data centers were failing; a domain name server was identified as the source of the problem. The powerful network monitoring capabilities offered by Cascade Pilot also means that potential network issues can be detected and resolved before they affect application performance. “This is a feature that we intend to make good use of,” says Thoma, “because it’s critical that our network runs smoothly and efficiently, and Riverbed helps us to achieve this.”

SUMMARY

Flughafen Zürich AG operates Zurich Airport, which has around 270 customers, including some 90 national and international airlines. The airport local area network is connected to more than 250 international networks. Flughafen Zürich AG network staff use Wireshark to collect network data, but the process could involve several engineers and it took hours to resolve network issues. By deploying Riverbed Cascade Pilot software - which seamlessly integrates with Wireshark - network issues can now be resolved within minutes by an employee sitting at a workstation. This has saved time, increased employee productivity, and enhanced customer service.

“With such a complex network infrastructure, issues invariably arise, and we were spending a lot of time and manpower trying to resolve them.”

“Cascade Pilot provides us with real-time information and historical data which is very useful as it helps us to understand how our network behaves.”

It used to take us hours to resolve network issues, now, thanks to Riverbed, we can do it in minutes.
Stefan Thoma
Senior Network Engineer
Flughafen Zürich AG

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