Cloud WAN optimization keeps global design firm offices in sync

Design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates uses Aryaka's cloud-WAN-optimization service to speed download times and improve workflow between global offices.

Network latency can really inhibit collaboration among a global team of architects, designers and consultants who are designing hotels in Asia or Australia. Time-zone differences and language barriers are one thing, but a network that drags out large file transfers between global offices can bring a project to a halt. Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), a global hospitality design firm, chose a cloud-WAN-optimization service from Aryaka to remove that network latency.

Consultants and designers in HBA's Santa Monica, Calif., headquarters collaborate daily on the interior design of hotels and resorts via email with employees located in branch offices scattered worldwide and on-site architects. A typical day for stateside HBA designers includes working with overseas hotel architects and designers to diagram furniture placement; they generate very detailed drawings of the proposed rooms with Autodesk AutoCAD and 3dsMax design tools, applications that are notorious for producing large files that eat up bandwidth.

"If you are building a hotel in China but working in the U.S., you have to get very clear instructions from the architects on-site in order to create detailed drawings and a very detailed database of these items that will be going into these hotels," said Bruce Difley, IT director of HBA.

Designers in the U.S. would upload the draft design files via an FTP server in order to share them with the global offices. Overseas employees could complete the designs overnight and send them back to the U.S. for further markup or changes to be made the following morning.

Before deploying Aryaka's cloud-WAN-optimization service, employees located at the overseas offices would come in an hour early to begin the download process for the day. The large files crawled over the WAN -- typically taking 30 minutes to download, noted Difley.

"[HBA] really was struggling with the WAN, and we started to have serious growing pains between the email backing up and [employees] needing to send important files that were taking too long to make the trip from overseas offices to the U.S.," Difley said.

Employees would try to bypass the slow FTP file-sharing process via email, but most drawings were too large and would get bounced back.

"We were wasting so much time on this process, and having employees come in early to download files was wasting money," Difley said.

Cloud WAN optimization slashes costs, speeds download times

HBA began shopping around last year for WAN-optimization technology in preparation for 21 new projects slated for 2012. It considered hardware-based products, including Riverbed Technology's Steelhead line. Difley considered a hardware-based product too expensive and inflexible for the design firm, which needed an offering that could scale up and down as business dictated.

"We'll have a project for a year or two, and then it will be completed. Consequently, our office staff will go up and down," Difley said. "When you purchase [a hardware-based WAN-optimization product], you still have to pay those same hardware costs even when you go from an office with 50 employees to 25."

WAN-optimization-as-a-service was the logical solution for HBA, and the firm selected Aryaka's cloud WAN optimization. Aryaka set up a trial with HBA and within weeks, IT hired Aryaka to optimize a link between its California headquarters and its Indian office.

HBA monitored the performance of Aryaka's cloud WAN optimization by having employees transfer files back and forth. Difley could review the daily summary of the traffic crossing the wire. "There is a Web interface I can go to [and] monitor how the traffic is going, and what kinds of traffic are going to certain Web sites."

Cloud WAN optimization has sped download times considerably, from an average of 30 minutes down to three, Difley said.

"The early-morning employee would begin the download and have a cup of coffee while waiting for the files to finish downloading. By the time they take a sip now, the file is there and ready to go," he added.

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HBA has expanded its use of cloud-based WAN optimization into its other branches -- including offices in China and Australia. The next step will be getting the Singapore office online, noted Difley.

The design firm also plans to implement a new accounting system and move most of its accounting applications to the Indian office via an internal cloud to help with the company's data-storage needs. "We will be able to implement some of these applications I was concerned about before through Aryaka's network, without the additional hardware costs to replicate machinery."

HBA has several upcoming projects slated in Asia this year, as the region is experiencing rapid growth in the hospitality industry. HBA would like to use Aryaka's services to optimize its mobile employees, allowing them to access a drawing, file or project any time, from any location, Difley said.

"If an employee is on-site in China and can make changes and updates to a drawing, that is a huge advantage and that's the direction we are trying to move in," he said.

The legacy system of FTP over the WAN had at times cost an office an entire day of work if a file had been uploaded or downloaded incorrectly because of the time-zone differences, something HBA cannot afford in a competitive market.

"Our work requires us to be very quick," Difley noted. "Our users have been impressed by how everything is working faster on the network, and it makes it easier for [the global offices] to stay in sync. We aren't seeing email bottlenecks anymore either; it's all been optimized."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Gina Narcisi, News Writer

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