Radio killed the internet star – until builder downgraded quality

When a critical hosted app was slow to load building giant Perini looked to network traffic management products for the answer.

When users at Perini, a US-based global construction company, complained earlier this year about slow performance when using project management software, IT managers scratched their heads and did a little detective work.

“When people say the internet is slow, you have no idea what’s going on,” Perini IT director Kim Holden says. “There are a lot of finger-pointing exercises.”

More than 250 Perini workers at the company’s headquarters use project management software called Expedition, which is hosted by application services provider LoadSpring Solutions on servers accessed over T1 links in a WAN. “With third-party hosting you’re never sure if the problem is at their end, so you have to eliminate some of the causes and make sure you’re not just shooting in the dark,” Holden says.

Perini’s small IT staff looked first at intrusion-detection software, then eyed packet shaping to improve network performance. The Expedition application itself, which is widely used in the construction industry, wasn’t thought to be the culprit.

The IT staffers then investigated several traffic management software products, eventually choosing Converted Traffic Manager (CTM) from Converged Access.

Holden says she liked the Converged Access philosophy, which is to help create traffic categories based on a company’s business priorities.

The software, installed in August for less than US$10,000 (NZ$14,100), helped categorise the priority of WAN traffic as high, medium and low, based on Perini’s input on what the most critical traffic streams were, Holden says. Email was judged to be the highest, along with VoIP between the company’s Boston headquarters and other Perini offices around the world. FTP traffic was judged to be medium-low and the lowest priority given to user access was to internet radio sites.

“We discovered people were listening to radio online more than I thought and that was taking most of the traffic,” she says. After CTM software relegated internet radio traffic to a low priority, performance dropped — and so did the number of people listening to it.

“I didn’t have to slap anybody’s hands and say, ‘No, you can’t listen to internet radio’,” Holden adds. In fact, she never had to tell anybody what was happening because the users simply stopped using internet radio when performance lagged.

“We haven’t heard a boo from anybody since CTM was put in place and the user community isn’t calling us with complaints that it took 20 minutes to enter information in the project management software,” she says.

Next year, Perini is considering using other Converged Access products to compress VoIP traffic between global offices, especially between Iraq and Afghanistan and several US offices, she says.

The market for WAN traffic management is growing, since customers can see sizable results from a relatively small investment, says Matthias Machowinski, an analyst at Infonetics. The market for such products is small compared to the overall routing market and is worth in the “low hundreds” of millions of dollars annually, Machowinski says.

In addition to Converged Access, other vendors in the space include Packeteer, Allot Communications, Expand Networks, Peribit Networks (which was recently purchased by Juniper Networks) and Swan Labs, which was recently purchased by F5 Networks.

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More about AllotAllot CommunicationsExpand NetworksF5F5 NetworksHolden- General MotorsJuniper NetworksJuniper NetworksPacketeerPeribit Networks

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