Solarity Credit Union Embarks on Ambitious Network Overhaul with OneTouch AT Network Assistant
At A Glance:
CustomerSolarity Credit Union
IndustryConsumer and Commercial Banking
LocationWashington State, US
Saddled with a mixed bag of post-merger legacy equipment with minimal documentation, Solarity was in urgent need of a network upgrade. Faced with the task of a major network overhaul, the credit union needed a solution that empowered them to troubleshoot network issues and determine the root cause of the slowdowns and information loss that had plagued the company since its merger.
Solarity chose the NETSCOUT OneTouch™ AT G2 tool with 802.11ac functionality to help address its network challenges. In less than a year, Solarity has been able to reengineer its entire network core, transforming it into a fast, reliable enterprise-class system. The OneTouch AT G2, along with several other NETSCOUT tools used by Solarity’s IT team, continue to provide monitoring and troubleshooting capabilities that give the credit union a comprehensive foundation for future growth.
OneTouch AT G2
“We faced a labyrinth of equipment and gear that had been combined from the time of our merger. It worked, but not ideally, not reliably, and not efficiently. My job was to create a truly enterprise-class network; something that’s well documented, well managed, predictable, efficient, and reliable. I needed the right tools to do that, which is why I chose NETSCOUT.” – Jeff Leischner, IT Projects Analyst, Solarity Credit Union
Solarity Credit Union was born out of the merger of Yakima Valley Credit Union and Catholic Credit Union in 2011. Operating six banking locations in Central Washington, Solarity and its 130 employees provide a full range of consumer and commercial banking services for its 50,000 members, including savings accounts, loans, online banking and more.
Jeff Leischner, IT Projects Analyst at Solarity, explained the credit union's approach to business, saying, "We're here for our members. If they come to us with their banking and financial needs, it's not only going to benefit them as individuals, it'll benefit the community at large. We're able to return that investment to the community in the form of lower rates, better fees and better loan offerings and services. It's a win-win situation."
As Yakima Valley Credit Union and Catholic Credit Union began to merge their operations in 2011, their back-end teams started the task of bringing together disparate networks, processes and equipment to transition to the new unified environment.
"A year ago our network systems were functional, but in a state of unpredictable disarray," said Leischner. "Our help desk frequently got complaints from employees about latency issues. It was sometimes taking 15 or even 20 minutes for a branch to retrieve a single image, like a check, from the optical servers at our banking core, and we weren't sure why. Finding temporary fixes was no longer an option, so we decided to undertake several large projects spanning network engineering, systems enhancements and additions, and systems retirement to improve the overall reliability and robustness of our network."
"We faced a labyrinth of equipment and gear that had been combined from the time of our merger. It worked, but not ideally, not reliably, and not efficiently," said Leischner. "We had complaints from employees across the spectrum. My job was to create a truly enterprise class network that is well documented, well managed, predictable, efficient, and reliable. I needed the right tools to do that, which is why I chose NETSCOUT."
Solarity's network overhaul began to take shape at the beginning of 2015 and included a multi-stage rollout of major upgrade projects, such as the deployment of an enterprise-grade 802.11ac wireless infrastructure, a remote access project and a disaster recovery upgrade that equipped the credit union with new backup batteries and generators for additional service resilience. Solarity based its new network on a hybridized hub-and-spoke design, enabling each branch to efficiently access centrally located data at the main branch.
"NETSCOUT tools were instrumental in helping us reengineer our entire network core," said Leischner. "Even in our day-to-day work, we often use OneTouch ATs, LinkRunner™ ATs and a LinkSprinter™ 300. Our helpdesk uses the LinkRunner for troubleshooting, while we use OneTouch AT units extensively for wired and wireless issues. I love these tools."
Prior to upgrading its network, Solarity often encountered random slowdowns and information losses, with no trace of the root cause. "The OneTouch AT Gen 2 played a particularly important role in troubleshooting some of our long-term pain points. We've been using the OneTouch AT tools like surgical instruments to peel back the layers of the onion and discover where problems lie," said Leischner. "The OneTouch Gen 2 has everything I love about the Gen 1 and adds even more benefits with 802.11ac functionality. Best of all, the device is vendor agnostic, so it's not biased toward a particular provider. It does what you expect it to do, and it's highly configurable and granular. The interface is easy to use, even for team members who don't have a deep background in network engineering."
"The OneTouch assists in the process of elimination for network troubleshooting, especially when various service providers are involved," continued Leischner. "When we encounter issues, the burden of proof is often on us, so we need tools that can find evidence in a non-biased and non-opinionated way. With our tools we can provide data from the packet capture, protocol analysis, jitter rate or error count. The numbers don't lie, so when I present the data to my vendors, I get a much faster response that leads to substantive improvements."
Thanks to the reinforcement projects, Solarity now has an entirely new network that relies on a hybridized hub-and-spoke design, enabling each branch to efficiently access centrally located data at the main branch. Two main branches are connected by a 1 Gbit fiber cable for data, and MPLS for VoIP, while the other branches only require MPLS to meet their VoIP and data needs.
Solarity uses one of the more popular banking platforms, together with the typical office productivity applications and compatible web browsers. These all run on the credit union's new fixed switch chassis and a robust system of 20 virtual servers being replicated every hour, every day, to ensure data integrity. Before the upgrade, one branch relied on off-the-shelf Wi-Fi router equipment connected through a DSL modem outside the network. Part of the upgrade saw this equipment replaced by a total of sixteen 802.11ac 2900 access points, expanding wireless to each site and offering a broad set of features with the ability to carry up to 40 clients each.
"All of these improvements have made our services more reliable, and give us a firm foundation for growth. This allows us to spend more time focusing on enhancing customer value," said Leischner. "Our staff is no longer tied to a wired location, so no matter where they are, they'll be able to give our customers a similar experience to what they'd find in the branch."
For Solarity, the return on investment from the OneTouch AT Gen 2 was quick and is still paying benefits.
"Ultimately, one of our biggest metrics for success is a reduction in help calls and complaints. Service calls to network engineering have been decreasing, indicating that we are on the right path to meeting our strategic goals."