Betta Stores Limited (BSL) is an international group of owner-operated home appliance stores, with several hundred stores in Australia and New Zealand. For an organisation with stores spread over thousands of miles, instantaneous access to information has become essential. However, BSL needed a group-wide solution that was within the cost constraints of each of the stores (a number of which are relatively small), yet met the Group's need for secure, reliable and responsive data connections.
Until recently, many of the stores were essentially stand-alone, receiving information after hours over dial-up 33.6Kbps point-to-point PSTN connections. This failed to meet BSL's need to provide rapid communication to its stores and between stores and suppliers. BSL evaluated switching to ISDN leased line connections, but the large distances between many of the stores and the national office ruled out ISDN as too expensive.
BSL also considered Internet-based VPN connections, but the unavailability of ADSL at remote stores in the short to medium term, as well as questions of data security and quality of service, led BSL to consider other alternatives. Frame Relay was ruled out because of the relatively high cost of connecting regional stores.
BSL adopted a thin-client applications model in its stores because it delivered low administration overhead in each of the stores and centralised control of data and applications. Microsoft Windows Terminal Server was chosen as the method of delivering client/server data processing throughout the organisation, this promises to deliver significant savings to BSL in implementation and ongoing support costs. However, migrating from in-store systems to a centrally managed server-based system made reliable bandwidth essential.
BSL examined a private IP service offered by Australia's leading telecommunications provider, Telstra. The service, called Telstra Private IP Service (TPIPS), provides a Private Switched Telephone Service (PSTS) dial-up access at up to V.34 speeds to a Frame Relay service that operates over an ATM backbone. As well as being highly secure, TPIPS is available throughout Australia, including remote regional centres. Although TPIPS resolved BSL's cost and reach issues, there was still the question of performance.
TPIPS is available over ISDN and ADSL but at a price premium - and the price jump between TPIPS over PSTS and TPIPS over ISDN and ADSL was considered too great for many of the stores. TPIPS provides no inherent means of bundling multiple connections for scalable bandwidth, and although a single 33.6Kbps private IP connection may be enough for after-hours batch processing, it did not deliver sufficient bandwidth for the Windows Terminal Server environment.
BSL selected an ML-IP access gateway from ePipe. The ML-IP gateway enables the bundling of multiple TPIPS connections to create a wide pipe. The Group is in the process of installing several different models of the ML-IP access gateway throughout the network to provide a wide range of options.
For example, some stores are using models with four serial ports, enabling them to bundle four TPIPS connections for an overall bandwidth of up to 220 Kbps. Other stores with greater bandwidth requirements are using models with eight serial ports, delivering up to 440Kbps. Stores where ADSL services are becoming available chose an ML-IP gateway that provides both serial and ADSL interfaces, enabling the store to migrate to TPIPS over ADSL or an Internet-based VPN connection over ADSL as soon as ADSL becomes available. This also offers BSL a dial-up fail-over alternative after stores switch to ADSL.
BSL is using ML-IP gateways and the Internet to provide VPN connections. ML-IP's optional support for IPSec encryption and authentication will be used to secure these connections.
BSL needed a fast connection in the national office to provide enough bandwidth to feed the stores. Initially a 1Mbps Telstra Frame Relay service, split into two 512Kbps Permanent Virtual Circuits (PVCs), connects BSL to Telstra's TPIPS service (one of the PVCs) and to the Internet (the other PVC). An Intel computer on the head office LAN running ML-IP-based concentrator software terminates up to 2,000 links.
Because ML-IP is both access network- and provider network-agnostic, BSL has the freedom to adopt a 'both-and' strategy throughout the organisation, instead of being tied to a single provider service or connection type. For example, BSL can choose to implement the TPIPs managed service and/or an Internet-based VPN, dial-up and/or ADSL in the stores, and high-speed Frame Relay in the head office.
By combining a dial-up based TPIPS service at each store with an ML-IP access gateway and multiple dial connections, BSL is able to create a viable corporate WAN for its Windows Terminal Server-based network for less than a third of the set-up cost of alternative solutions offering similar bandwidth, and less than half the annual cost of alternative solutions. In addition to the cost savings, ML-IP has enabled BSL to include stores outside the reach of the TPIPS network by using the Internet. ML-IP has also allowed the Group to offer variable bandwidth on a site-by-site basis, based on an individual store's requirements, and to switch to ADSL when it becomes available.
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16 years' experience developing innovative technologies for organisations
throughout the world. Its award-winning family of access appliances pioneered
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