Riverbed WAN Optimization Solutions Helps EGPAF Improve Worker Productivity
Market Watch | September 11, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Sep 11, 2013 (Marketwired via COMTEX) -- Riverbed Technology RVBD +0.45%, the application performance company, today announced that the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) has deployed Riverbed(R) Steelhead(R) wide area network (WAN) optimization appliances in 12 of its African offices and in many field offices. With the Steelhead appliances in place, the Foundation has seen application performance from its consolidated data center improve by as much as 24 times, resulting in increased employee productivity and better allocation of IT resources. As a result, the non-profit organization has seen communications with donors improve, donations rise and ultimately, more of its time focused on its mission of saving lives.
Today, transmission of HIV from a mother to her newborn is very rare in North America and Europe thanks in large part to EGPAF's work providing HIV testing and care and treatment for expecting mothers. Now the Foundation is focused on transferring this successful care and treatment to other parts of the world with high mother-to-child transmission rates, particularly sub-Saharan Africa. Currently, EGPAF operates in 12 African countries with a main office in each country. Each main office oversees a number of field offices, which in turn direct the activities of nearly 5,400 local healthcare sites that provide testing, treatment, and patient education services.
The main offices and field offices are equipped with computers and Internet access, which employees use to communicate with each other and with EGPAF offices in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Geneva. Employees in Africa also use the Internet to access centralized applications such as a contract management system, a reporting system called Global AIDS System for Evaluation and Reporting (GLASER), and an HR performance evaluation system. As the Foundation continued to grow, poor application performance over inconsistent WAN links heavily impacted productivity and donor communications.
"When we first put these web-based systems in, they ran very slowly," said Mark Reilley, director of information technology at EGPAF. "In our office in Rwanda, it took employees eight minutes to download a user manual for the contract management system. In Swaziland, people would log in to use the performance evaluation system, then complete other assignments while the page loaded."
EGPAF had more than 1,000 employees trying to work this way. The time spent waiting for the computer took time away from the real work they could have been doing to combat HIV. In addition, the number of people in need of services was growing each year -- from approximately 4.5 million in 2008 to 6.2 million in 2012 -- putting even more pressure on the non-profit to run more efficiently.
The slow connections also made it difficult to collect data from the field, which is critical to the Foundation's funding. "Donations are really the lifeblood for us to receive funding," added Reilley. "We report quarterly to our donors, so we need to upload field data frequently to compile data and understand where we are being effective and where we need more resources."
Similar to other non-profits with limited IT budgets and staff resources, EGPAF needed an affordable solution and remote management capabilities. Equipping the sites with more bandwidth was one approach considered for addressing the slow Internet performance, but it would have been very expensive and still would not guarantee a consistent user experience. Instead, working with VistaOne Corporation, Reilley identified WAN optimization technology as a more cost-effective approach. Reilley evaluated a number of solutions before ultimately deciding to deploy Steelhead appliances for its ease-of-installation, management and its broad number of optimizations.
During its proof of concept, EGPAF tested the Riverbed WAN optimization solution in its Rwanda office where it had taken eight minutes to download a user manual. After the Steelhead appliance deployment, the download took only 20 seconds, 24 times faster than before.
"The Steelhead appliances had a huge impact since day one," added Reilley. "We can actually use our web-based systems now. For example, our performance evaluation system, which used to take up precious time as staff waited for pages to load, now loads pages in five to eight seconds. We've also noticed the process of gathering the data needed for quarterly reports has been similarly transformed. The Riverbed WAN optimization solution has made this information available so much faster, and it's also more accurate, which helps us reassure our donors that we're doing the work we're supposed to do. It builds trust and it has also resulted in an increase in donations."
With Riverbed, the Foundation spends less time and money on administrative tasks and more on its life-saving work. For example, the Foundation's contract management system was previously so cumbersome to use over the Internet that employees in Africa gave up on entering their own data and emailed it to the United States, requiring someone else to enter it in. Since the Steelhead appliance deployment, workers in Africa now upload their documents themselves, reducing the number of people needed in the United States for data entry and document uploading.
"The fact that we don't have to hire additional admins or temps to do data entry work means that we can hire more technicians or epidemiologists or experts in data analysis," said Reilley. "The enhanced efficiency in the IT department lets us focus our limited resources on bigger value results."
In addition to allowing people to work more efficiently on activities that really matter, the Steelhead appliances are saving EGPAF money that was formerly spent on hosting sites. For example, the Foundation had set up a site in London to host its intranet because it was a shorter hop from Africa. Once the Steelhead appliances were in place, it became possible to host the intranet in the consolidated data center in Washington, D.C., saving the $1,400 per month cost of the London site. Similarly, the Foundation is saving several thousand dollars per month through the elimination of another hosting site in Canada.
As a result of the Steelhead appliance deployment, EGPAF has improved communications with donors, greater IT efficiency, and more productive workers in the field to continue the success of the Foundation in Africa and other parts of the world.