BARTLESVILLE, Okla.-The computer network at 66 FCU here was sluggish at best; in the early morning business hours, tellers began to struggle with routine tasks such as retrieving e-mail or pulling up member accounts.

But 66 didn't call AT&T to buy more bandwidth. Instead, the $590-million CU made the most of its existing wide-area network (WAN).

"Our nightly back-up was eating into the time when we open up our branches," explained Marty O'Connell, SVP and CIO at the CU. Though the backup from the CU's Symitar core system kicked off at 8:00 the previous evening, the session would still be running nearly 12 hours later.

"The back-up to our disaster recovery location was considerably slowing down one of the branches, enough so that they couldn't function well for the first half-hour," he said. "If the back-ups continued that way, it would affect all branches. We needed all heavy WAN traffic done before opening hours."

66 FCU tried to manually delete files but just couldn't keep up with the growing mountain of data, O'Connell added. "File purging helped for a couple months, but we're expanding, and we keep adding data."

The obvious solution was to pay AT&T to expand the CU's bandwidth. "But we would have needed to double our bandwidth to get results," O'Connell continued. "And we'd have had to change hardware and circuits. Once I'd looked at the monthly cost for additional bandwidth and the changes to infrastructure, I didn't need to make any further calculations."

That's when 66 FCU discovered WAN acceleration from Silver Peak Systems of Santa Clara, Calif. Just two days after deploying the acceleration appliance in July 2008, the CU's disaster back-up time dropped to less than four hours, said Joe LaSpisa, network specialist at the CU. "Silver Peak greatly reduced the time it takes to transfer our data overnight."

Acceleration is achieved in large part with "Network Memory," a deduplication technology that inspects inbound and outbound WAN traffic in real-time. Network Memory eliminates redundant data on each appliance and compresses the remaining data, according to Jeff Aaron, Silver Peak VP-marketing.

The result is that the amount of Symitar data transmitted every night has been reduced by 93%, said LaSpisa. "We don't have to move the same data over the WAN again and again. We've made our 5MB MPLS network link work like a 60MB link."

WAN acceleration helped Silver Peak "avoid a nightmare of network slowness and a seriously unproductive branch environment," said O'Connell. "And we spent way less money than if we had added bandwidth with AT&T." O'Connell could not provide a calculation of the costs avoided, but said Silver Peak charges a one-time cost and annual maintenance fees as opposed to AT&T's one-time and monthly fees.

Geographic Challenges

Additional bandwidth might have been affordable if 66 FCU weren't spread across several states, said LaSpisa. "It gets very expensive to replace bandwidth three or four hundred miles away."

WAN acceleration is more than data deduplication for back-ups, said Aaron. Silver Peak can also improve network quality and overcome dropped data for any application that runs over Internet Protocol, he said.

Data resides on the Silver Peak appliance under the 128-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Clients can also choose to encrypt data in transmission across the WAN under 128-bit AES Internet Protocol Security (IPsec).

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