Erickson Retirement optimizes bandwidth with policy management

* Retirement community needed to optimize traffic and prioritize bandwidth

Some may not expect retirement communities to have challenges allocating bandwidth and speeding application traffic - after all they aren't the first group of people that comes to mind when thinking of heavy users of peer-to-peer file sharing and music downloading - but that was the case at Erickson Retirement Communities.

And the bandwidth limitations threatened much more critical applications. The provider of senior housing and healthcare found it needed a better way to optimize performance and prioritize bandwidth for medical records, mobile patient care and ERP financial applications.

"We had major issues with bandwidth and our WAN circuits were too congested," says Scott Erickson, CTO for the organization. "Our culture at this organization is that we wanted to allow our users to be able to use our technology assets without hurting the availability."

Erickson is based on Catonsville, Md., and manages continuing care communities that consist of an average of 1,500 independent living units per campus.

Erickson supports more than 17,000 residents, using applications ranging from Centricity, GE's Citrix-based medical records system, to a patient care system called CareMedX, as well as several ERP and CRM systems from Oracle including JD Edwards, Siebel, and PeopleSoft. The organization also has an "extensive wireless network" to equip clinicians with mobile devices to upload medical record information. The network supporting the communities includes an MPLS WAN with a 3Mbps WAN link connecting the campus to the main data center in Baltimore.

"I am guessing that my aggregate demand for bandwidth at a campus that must have 3Mbps is actually 6Mbps, so I decided I could get Draconian on our users or I could get some powerful tools for prioritization," says Erickson.

Erickson deployed some 35 PacketShaper appliances from Packeteer to get the company's policy management technology working on his bandwidth problems. He says that Packeteer enables him to support some 100 production applications and ensure any one circuit doesn't get over-burdened. Through PacketShaper's compression functionality, Erickson says his organization now experiences a 50% reduction in traffic loads per campus.

Packeteer offers software applications packaged on an appliance to monitor and optimize WAN traffic. PacketShaper targets bottlenecks in WAN application performance, as application traffic enters the enterprise in the last mile between the campus and the WAN cloud.

The hardware sits between LANs and WAN routers and can reserve bandwidth for key applications and queue traffic by application so the top-priority applications get bandwidth over less critical traffic. Packeteer's compression technology uses pattern recognition to compress data, which can optimize the performance of important applications across WAN links where bandwidth is limited.

"Using Packeteer, we can predict our bandwidth needs because it's very clear to me when I really need additional bandwidth for additional circuits," Erickson says. "We don't want to restrict bandwidth as demand grows, but if we do need to, we can use Packeteer to tighten policies."

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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