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International law firm enhances virtualisation performance

Watson, Farley & Williams to tackle data growth and reduce server footprint through a Brocade data centre networking solution.


Date: 25 Apr 2012

To address IT challenges resulting from business growth and international expansion, Watson, Farley & Williams has turned to Brocade  to deliver a high-performance data centre networking solution based on Brocade® VDX® 6720 Data Center Switches. Deployed at the law firm’s London headquarters, the new infrastructure delivers 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) performance and underpins the firm’s virtualised data centre strategy.

Watson, Farley & Williams employs 630 staff located across 13 worldwide offices that provide a wide range of legal services in various industry sectors such as finance and investment, maritime, energy, natural resources, transport, property and technology. The firm has seen a strong rate of growth over the past three years and has, on average, opened one new office every 18 months since 2006. The new data centre network deployment will provide the performance and resilience needed to support higher traffic and daily data volumes, but will also give Watson, Farley & Williams the long-term flexibility and capacity it needs as the business expands.

Richard Latham, the firm’s IT manager, explains, “Every three years, we replace our storage to add more capacity given we are supporting more users and more locations. During this particular cycle, all three elements were upgraded - storage, servers and the network - in order to improve the performance of our virtualised data centre.”

Watson, Farley & Williams’ virtualisation programme has reduced its hardware footprint and saved cost with five physical IBM servers installed - and associated Net App fabric-attached storage – running 88 virtual servers using VMware vSphere. However, the law firm was finding that the 1 GbE links between servers and associated storage were reaching their capacity.

Watson, Farley & Williams network analyst Graham Kirk says, “A solution could have been to trunk four Gigabit Ethernet connections together to solve this, but we wanted to avoid this by going straight for 10 Gigabit Ethernet, which means we don’t have to address the server/storage network equipment for the next three years, which is our typical refresh cycle.”

The importance of this is considerable as the infrastructure is common to all IT services provided to the firm’s staff both locally and internationally. This includes Watson, Farley & Williams’ e-mail solution, electronic document management, office applications, knowledge management and CRM systems, time recording and practice management software.

Data growth in the business has been vast. Latham says, “Our data vault is now about 44 terabytes of which a huge proportion is e-mail, which is the lifeblood of any law firm given documents are sent to and from clients all the time. We use a multilayered, clustered solution, which is mirrored offsite to ensure availability, the knock-on effect being servers and their storage need to be high-performing.”

The firm deployed two Brocade VDX 6720 switches for resiliency. Kirk explains, “We did a side-by-side comparison with [a competitor] and the Brocade VDX 6720 switches won hands-down given they deliver far better price/performance benefits and are much easier to install. We estimate time savings of 30 to 40 percent on the whole project of six weeks.”

Latham concludes, “We are obsessed with removing risk. If the core server/storage infrastructure in London had become unavailable, then all 630 staff worldwide would be impacted in some way. The [Brocade VDX] upgrade could have been a risk, but it simply wasn’t, which is a credit to Brocade.”

Marcus Jewell, country manager UK/Ireland at Brocade, stated, “The Brocade VDX 6720 Data Center Switches have solved Watson, Farley & Williams’ storage network performance issues with the virtualised servers now responding much better. The firm’s requirements have been met and the feedback we have received is that the installation has practically been an ‘install and forget’ process – a perfect outcome given law firms can’t tolerate any systems downtime.”


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