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Engen centralises branch offices with Riverbed

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Riverbed Technology has announced that global energy company Engen is using Riverbed solutions to centralise remote and branch office (ROBO) IT, and improve productivity, back-up and data security across its multi-national organisation.
Riverbed SteelFusion has improved IT operations and information security at branch office locations by taking servers, applications, and data out of the branches and consolidating them in secure data centres.
Additionally, Riverbed SteelHead optimises the company’s wide area networks (WAN) and delivers accelerated application performance across the entire network for an enhanced end user experience at any site.
Founded in 1887, Engen, an African-based energy group that refines and markets petroleum products, is the market leader in South Africa, exporting to more than 30 territories across Sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands. With 3 500 employees working in a vast network of depots, terminals, facilities and warehouses, Engen’s corporate structure is complex, placing great demands on its IT infrastructure.
Engen has two private MPLS networks (one for corporate and one for retail) linking eight data centres and 50 remote offices. Key applications such as SAPGUI, Microsoft Outlook, Word, and PowerPoint are hosted at the Cape Town data centre and accessed via Citrix thin clients. Some specialised applications are hosted locally.
In the past, network latency caused poor application performance and high end-user frustration at remote offices. The network architecture required remote sites to connect to the corporate WAN via regional offices, creating data bottlenecks that also affected performance.
“Our help desk was getting lots of complaints from end-users,” recalls Nicholas Lain, architecture specialist at Engen. “For instance, they had sluggish access to SAP. Screens would freeze and connections were dropped. Ultimately our users were very frustrated and their productivity suffered.”
Data security was another issue at remote sites. Data stored on servers was vulnerable, and backups to the data centre didn’t always go as planned. “Our backup window was short. We often fell behind in getting backups to Cape Town. When we backed up, everything on the network slowed down,” says Lain.
Extensive research and impressive proof-of-concept (POC) results convinced Engen to go with a Riverbed solution. One POC test using Riverbed SteelHead resulted in 75x faster copy filing time and a more than 50% data reduction across the WAN. Another test at a Cape Town data centre saw a 70% reduction in WAN data and a 3x increase in connection speed, which translates into better application performance and overall better business performance.
Riverbed SteelFusion uniquely integrates SteelHead WAN optimization, together with server virtualisation and patented storage delivery technology, into a software-defined edge solution that would now enable Engen to centralize all of its branch operations, bringing backup processes and company data back to the secure data centre.
Engen deployed 33 SteelHead CX devices, 29 Riverbed SteelFusion Edge appliances and four Riverbed SteelFusion Core appliances at strategic points on its South African WAN. “Deploying Riverbed enabled us to re-architect our branch IT, so that all branch offices and depots are now directly connected to the WAN,” says Lain.
According to Engen, an 80% reduction in data across the network has transformed the end-user experience at the remote offices. “Before Riverbed, we were limited in what we could provide end-users,” says Lain. “We’ve now rolled out a full Windows 7 desktop and the end-user experience is the same as if employees were based at our main office. The calls from frustrated users have disappeared.”
SteelFusion has improved data security by eliminating physical servers, storage and backup infrastructure at remote sites, centralizing data and backup processes at the data center, and projecting data and applications to remote locations as needed. Exchange servers have been removed from remote offices, and Exchange data is now delivered encrypted from the data centre at local speed. SteelFusion has also eliminated the problem with back-ups being late to Cape Town since backing up is now centralized and performed as often as necessary.
“The Riverbed solution was very easy to deploy and it is incredibly stable,” concluded Lain, who said that he is also impressed with Riverbed’s service. “Riverbed is the only company I know that can get equipment into South Africa within two weeks. And Riverbed customer support has been fantastic.”