Ogilvy Harnesses the Web for Its File Transfer System
March 14, 2005 (Computerworld) --
Like other multinationals, Ogilvy & Mather has operated an extensive global network for years. The advertising agency's virtual private network and Lotus Notes network reach 120 sites around the world. And like other international ad agencies, New York-based Ogilvy experienced problems transmitting large AVI, PDF, JPEG and other media files to its offshore offices.
"We had horror stories of sending 1Gbit files that never made it to the other end using the VPN, FTP and Lotus Notes networks," says Yuri Aguiar, senior partner and chief technology officer at Ogilvy.
Applying traditional compression technologies does not fully solve the problem, "because you can't really compress the data any further," says Joel Conover, an analyst at Current Analysis Inc. in Sterling, Va. "And to apply a compression technology is just going to slow the transfer down."
So in late 2002, Ogilvy began working with Accellion Inc., a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company that offers products and services for large file transmission. The following summer, Accellion and Ogilvy co-developed and deployed a file transfer mechanism that uses User Datagram Protocol (UDP) over the public Internet.
The file transfer application sits on Accellion HTTPS servers, and the front-end interface is supported by a Web services infrastructure that utilizes Simple Object Access Protocol over HTTPS, says Andres Andreu, technical director of Web engineering at Ogilvy.
The Web-based network has since made it considerably easier for Ogilvy account teams in New York, Singapore, London and other locations to work on common customer accounts for clients such as American Express Co. and IBM, says Aguiar.
In early 2003, Ogilvy began replicating large media files on pilot servers in Paris, New York and London. Ogilvy and Accellion then extended the replication capabilities to Singapore, Hong Kong, Chicago and other offices. So if a big PDF file was being sent from an office in California to Singapore, the file would load on a server in New York, replicate on servers in Hong Kong and Singapore and then replicate on the New York server for backup, says Aguiar.
"That made a lot of difference, because we reduced the load on the interregional network and distributed them much more," he says.
As part of the network design, Ogilvy also built in billing, tracking and logging capabilities to help monitor each file being sent, in case regional offices wanted to use such information for chargeback purposes or to understand a campaign's total cost, says Aguiar.
The network effort didn't come without challenges. Even though the later versions of the product integrate with Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, when the project first started, Ogilvy and Accellion had planned to run the system on a client/server platform. But their respective engineers found it difficult to integrate the new network with Ogilvy's Lotus Notes system, says Andreu. Then, in April 2003, Ogilvy opted instead to use a Web services-style approach, "and the integration worked out just fine," says Andreu.
Prior to installing the network, Ogilvy had been transmitting about 86GB of information per month across its VPN, which is still used for e-mail and other applications, says Andreu. In comparison, the UDP-over-Internet network now carries 370GB of data per month, he says.
Ogilvy & Mather
Business: This advertising company has more than 450 offices in 100 countries. Its parent company, WPP Group PLC, had 2003 revenue of $7.3 billion.
Project champion: Yuri Aguiar
IT department: 300 IT managers worldwide, plus 22 IT workers who support four regional groups.
Project payback: Files now have built-in billing, tracking and logging capabilities and are easier to transmit among Ogilvys global account teams.
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