The Key to a Happy Network and Customers: Follow that Data


Your IT infrastructure probably isn't dedicated to keeping chemical plants from exploding. But that's just what Baker Engineering and Risk Consultants, Inc. (BakerRisk) is up against: their engineers create models for their client sites to keep danger at bay and figure out what went wrong when accidents do occur.

And whether they're in the field, at branch offices, or at the central office, those engineers rely on four Riverbed solutions to manage, optimize, and back up the extremely large data sets those models generate:

You can read all the details in a new case study published by Riverbed that shows how BakerRisk uses Riverbed tools to make their distributed IT infrastructure easier to manage and use.

We spoke to Riverbed Sales Engineer Jason Roeber, who's worked extensively with BakerRisk, to get a sense of the big-picture lessons we can draw from the case study:

  • You need to know where user data lives, and where it flows
  • Sometimes your outlier scenarios are the most important ones
  • To understand business processes, go beyond the IT-focused mindset

Let's dive in and see how you can get the same great results that BakerRisk enjoys.

#1. Data can live anywhere

The key thing to know about BakerRisk's IT needs — the fact that defines everything else — is that its engineers work with extremely large data sets that model industrial processes and facilities (think more than 100 GB per file). These data sets are some of the company's most important assets, but they are also generated at the edge, in branch offices and in the field.

"The big thing is that you need to have local access to this data," says Riverbed’s Roeber. "It needs to be local to the branch office, because that's where the big analytic engines run. Of course, you then need to ensure that all that data is backed up to the central office, but you need to realize that the data flow runs from the branch to the center, not vice versa."

With SteelHead optimizing the WAN connection between the branch and the data center, and SteelFusion providing a zero-maintenance appliance that provides each branch office with a complete network infrastructure, Riverbed is able to meet these needs for BakerRisk while accommodating their data flows at the same time.

#2. Pay attention to the field

BakerRisk's employees are as likely to be out at client sites as they are to be working in the office, and that often means dubious connectivity. "They go to accident sites and collect data, then they need to connect back from there," Roeber explains. "Sometimes they’re connecting through their phones, sometimes they’re connecting back through very narrow circuits or over very long distances, so it's critical to optimize that traffic and provide much better performance to end users."

There are a couple tools in Riverbed's portfolio that help BakerRisk

SteelHead Mobile extends network optimization to desktops, laptops, and other user endpoints. And the SteelCentral Central Management Console can help IT single out the users who need connectivity and optimization the most. These tools might not get used in tandem like this every day, but when they are needed, they're crucial.

Speaking of SteelHead Mobile, Roeber says that it’s truly a must-have product for end users. “Customers need to understand that when it comes to fully delivering services to all their users, having that mobile capability from SteelHead Mobile is a tremendous improvement — even if it’s used just an hour or two a day,” he says.

#3. Listen to the business

What's the underlying theme here? IT needs to understand exactly how users operate and what business processes are important to them, rather than just imposing a top-down structure.

"A lot of times the IT department just wants to figure out the easiest way to say, 'Well, we gave them enough resources,'" says Roeber. "But when you understand the business’s workflows, you can cost-effectively put the appropriate resources in the right place."

And these implementations are a process, not a one-time job: by continuously listening to customers, you can understand how each iterative improvement to IT can suggest the next. "BakerRisk was one of the very first customers to use SteelFusion," says Roeber. "And initially, what they were in it for was that converged edge — that was the goal. But you can see all the other benefits they've built off that."

Benefits for BakerRisk

  • 100-gigabyte files now transfer in one hour versus 8 to 10
  • Centralized applications perform as if local
  • 65% reduction in replication traffic
  • Sensitive data safely stored in data center
  • $20K to $40K savings per remote office

To get more details, and to start thinking about what the Riverbed portfolio can do for your business, download the complete case study today.