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Posted: 1/14/2013
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Telkom SA SOC Ltd Telecom Provider Reduces Network Latency and Storage Needs with Server Upgrade

Telkom wanted to speed up data access and improve response times at its 58 distributed server sites and remote locations in an effort to increase employee productivity. Telkom deployed the Windows Server 2012 operating system and used the BranchCache feature to deliver content to remote employees. The company optimized its wide area network, increased data speed, reduced storage requirements, and boosted productivity—without the added cost of bandwidth.

Business Needs
Telkom is a communications provider that offers a rich portfolio of telecommunications and IT services to residential and business customers across the continent of Africa. The company’s 21,000 employees work in South Africa at both primary office locations, in addition to 58 distributed server sites and remote locations, where 30 percent of the employees report to work. To support this dispersed environment, Telkom has 1,600 servers in its main data centers and 58 distributed server sites.

The Telkom 58 distributed server sites are connected through a wide area network (WAN)—18 of which are primary sites that connect to the network through high-speed links. However, the company struggled with slow data access at its secondary locations, which relied on lower-bandwidth connections. The company increased the branch office connection to a minimum of 2 megabytes (MB), but it still experienced slow data access during high-utilization periods.

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* We can deploy software updates to PCs at remote sites 65 percent faster by using BranchCache. *

Pierre Le Grange
IT Specialist, Telkom

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For instance, during the first three hours of the day when employees arrive to work, log on, and access popular network resources at the same time, some sites experience slow connections. Similarly, because the IT division frequently deployed software updates over the weekend, employees would install these updates on their computers first thing on Monday mornings, which resulted in a sluggish network at remote sites. “These latency issues have a negative impact on employee productivity and do not contribute to the kind of efficiency we want to achieve,” says Pierre Le Grange, IT Specialist at Telkom.

Telkom sought an alternative solution to its slow data access issues in order to avoid the cost of adding more bandwidth. “It sounds like an easy solution to just add more bandwidth, but bandwidth can be limited and expensive in densely populated areas of South Africa,” explains Chris Lombard, IT Specialist at Telkom. “It is difficult to justify the use of Telkom bandwidth internally as opposed to using it to service our customers.”

Solution
Telkom needed a data-caching solution—a technology that would copy data from its primary locations to its higher-utilization sites—to optimize its bandwidth. It tested network solutions from third-party companies, but the features that Telkom needed came with added costs. The company decided to participate in the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) for the Windows Server 2012 operating system, specifically to take advantage of BranchCache—a built-in feature that copies content, including software updates, from the data center or primary locations and caches that content at remote sites. Employees at Telkom remote locations can then access content locally, rather than over the WAN. “We tested network-based solutions from other companies previously, but there were added costs for the caching technologies,” says Le Grange. “With Windows Server 2012, the capabilities to optimize WAN bandwidth are already included.”

Telkom started with a pilot project with 50 users at five secondary sites that have heavy bandwidth usage. The company worked with Microsoft Services Consulting to deploy one instance of Windows Server 2012 at each site, and to configure BranchCache for its environment. Telkom also moved from a file-share system to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, which Microsoft Services Consulting helped to configure as a cache-aware server. “You can deploy a technology and have it work—but that doesn’t mean that it will meet future goals. Microsoft Services took into consideration our business goals and our technology environment,” explains Lombard.

In addition to BranchCache, Telkom tested the data deduplication capabilities in Windows Server 2012. By using data deduplication, Telkom can compress data and eliminate data redundancies that might otherwise slow down the network at its remote locations. “We can store more data in less space. This will speed up the rate at which employees can access data,” says Le Grange.

Telkom plans to increase its deployment of Windows Server 2012 to at least 46 servers in January 2013.

Benefits
Telkom optimized its WAN and reduced latency issues at its remote office locations to boost employee productivity without adding extra bandwidth to its network. Specifically, the company:
  • Increased delivery speed of software updates. By using the BranchCache feature of Windows Server 2012, Telkom delivers software updates to its remote office employees quicker than it could previously over highly utilized network connections. “We can deploy software updates to PCs at remote sites 65 percent faster by using BranchCache,” says Le Grange.

  • Improved employee productivity. Employees at remote office locations no longer experience sluggish performance when accessing data from the primary data center because the content is cached locally. “The sheer speed of data access with an optimized WAN makes employees more productive,” explains Le Grange. “We opened a 40 MB spreadsheet cached to SharePoint Server and simultaneously opened the spreadsheet on multiple computers at various sites. Previously, there were noticeable delays to open a spreadsheet of that size, but with BranchCache, it was instantaneous.”

  • Reduced storage requirements by 46 percent. As a result of eliminating data redundancies, Telkom reduced its storage requirements by almost half. “In one test, we deduplicated 120 gigabytes of data by using Windows Server 2012, and reduced our storage requirements by 46 percent,” says Lombard. “That’s storage space we can use for other data—we don’t need to purchase more.”

  • Avoided costs associated with added bandwidth. By using the built-in capabilities in Windows Server 2012, Telkom optimized its WAN and reduced network latency issues at its remote offices without investing in additional bandwidth. “Even though we’re a communications company, we don’t have access to unlimited bandwidth,” explains Lombard. “With Windows Server 2012, we can use what we already have, optimize our WAN, and avoid additional bandwidth costs.”

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Solution Overview



Organization Size: 21000 employees

Organization Profile

Telkom is a premier provider of telecommunications services to customers across Africa. The company reported annual operating revenues of R33.1 billion (US$4.3 billion) in March 2012.


Software and Services
  • Windows Server 2012
  • BranchCache
  • Microsoft Consulting Services

Vertical Industries
Communications and Network Service Providers

Country/Region
South Africa

Business Need
Cloud & Server Platform

Languages
English

Partner(s)
Microsoft Services

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