Manufacturer Gets Into the Network Flow

Today, no business is exempt from the pressures of operating in a highly competitive marketplace. In many cases, what differentiates winners from losers is the ability to move and manage data over a network.

At Flow International, which sells ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) waterjet technology cleaning and cutting systems in more than 100 countries, the need for greater network efficiency across 22 global locations and four data centers led the firm to deploy a new WAN optimization-as-a-service solution.

“With most of our data hosted in central data centers in the U.S., we were heavily reliant on our MPLS [Multiprotocol Label Switching] network,” explains Jason Dickens, enterprise infrastructure manager. “Unfortunately, in the past, our technology requirements and network demands grew faster than our ability to keep up with the technology. As a result, we couldn’t perform certain functions that we required. We couldn’t do things that we needed to do, and that was impacting the business.”

But the challenges didn’t stop there. Deploying service and boosting the bandwidth at various locations had become increasingly expensive.

Flow International made the decision to switch to an approach that offered more sophisticated features and capabilities. After surveying the marketplace, analyzing different vendors, conducting live testing and measuring the results, the company opted to switch over to a WAN optimization-as-a-service solution from Aryaka.

A key consideration in the purchase decision was an ability to get locations up and running within a few hours, as well as to be able to adjust bandwidth faster and more dynamically across the network. “In the past, the MPLS provider was managing our Internet access over a single circuit,” Dickens says. “Now we own our own circuits.”

The transition to the new network took about a year from start to finish. After setting up demo sites and running the systems for a couple of months, Dickens and the IT department expanded the systems to other locations.

Along the way, “We had times where we were running the Aryaka WAN technology in parallel with the MPLS network,” he recalls. “We ran traffic between the two U.S. data centers over the new solution, while using the older technology to manage everything else.” That allowed the integration team to work out bugs and fix other problems.

The system switchover was completed in June 2014, and the company is pleased with the results: Flow International has doubled or tripled the effective bandwidth at the various locations—all while adding another half a dozen sites to the enterprise network. What’s more, Dickens says that the company has lowered its overall costs by nearly 50 percent.

“We set out to do something different,” he says. “We didn’t want to follow down the path of a conventional MPLS. We wanted to take a more powerful and flexible approach.”

Dickens says that the cloud-based approach balanced the firm’s requirements for reliability, redundancy, high availability, elasticity and security. We have introduced a far more efficient and powerful way to manage bandwidth and network performance across numerous international sites,” he reports. “We are now far better equipped to manage the challenges of today’s business environment.”