Bose Tunes Network With QOS System

Quality-of-service technology helps audio equipment maker prioritize network traffic

When he began implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system at Bose Corp. last year, Rob Ramrath knew he was putting an additional burden on his company's network, one that could compromise the new shipping system he planned to install a few months later.

Ramrath, who is director of corporate information systems at the Framingham, Mass.-based audio equipment manufacturer, was unwilling to trade new functionality for a network slowdown.

So, before turning on the new shipping system, Ramrath implemented a quality-of-service (QOS) system, which uses technology that thwarts latency and the resulting business slowdowns by prioritizing network traffic by source or application.

Ramrath spent $8,000 to install QOS appliances from Waltham, Mass.-based Sitara Networks Inc. at each of two remote distribution centers. He used QOS software to ensure that the ERP software and existing applications such as e-mail and Web browsing could coexist on the same network, while allowing the new shipping system to push orders, labels, picking, packing and dispatching instructions to the distribution centers.

"We stream transactions on a package-by-package basis over a [wide-area network] to distribution centers in Tolleson, Ariz., and Columbia, S.C.," Ramrath said. "If the WAN slows, shipping slows. If the WAN goes down, shipping stops cold and instantly."

Ramrath's concerns were exacerbated by the network's thin client architecture.

Smart, fast servers holding the applications and data at Bose's Framingham headquarters are connected over a WAN to relatively dumb display terminals at the distribution centers, an arrangement almost certain to introduce latency.

The Sitara appliances are special-purpose computers that run on a Unix operating system, Ramrath said. They can be set from a central console in Framingham to indicate what types of traffic on the Bose network have priority at any given time.

Sitara's QOS units also have built-in caches - a setup that keeps frequently used data stored on hard drives at the distribution centers and lightens the load on the network, said Ramrath.

Stan Schatt, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said Sitara's product works well in situations where it can identify the type of network traffic by source, such as an Internet protocol address.

However, Sitara's technology has a ways to go to compete with products from Packateer Inc. in Cupertino, Calif., and NetReality Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., which can more readily classify network traffic without knowing its point of origin, Schatt said.

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