With Availl, Gerdau Ameristeel sidestepped the classic Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) industry conundrum -- how to share CAD files efficiently and with performance across distances. Rather than deploying costly hardware-based VPNs or Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software, which would only provide slow file access, Gerdau Ameristeel joined other Availl users who share MicroStation, Solid Works, AutoCAD, as well as Office files via Availl's unique Wide Area File Systems (WAFS) technology.
"Availl allowed us to take our WAN system to another level," said Chris Cherry, technical services coordinator at Gerdau Ameristeel, whose finished steel products are used in construction, automotive, mining, and cellular and electrical transmission. The company employs engineering and production professionals who create and modify MicroStation CAD files that define where reinforcing steel is required, as well as production bar list files. The bar lists are created from the engineering drawing files, and define how the steel needs to be fabricated for each customer's requirements. Engineers then send drawings and list files between team members for checking and approval.
"Before Availl, files were sent back and forth as email attachments -- a cumbersome approach that got the job done but was slow and put an unnecessary load on our mail server," said Cherry. "We needed a way to share these files and let all users see the same revisions all at once." Gerdau Ameristeel also wanted to closely manage WAN bandwidth costs, which can quickly become excessive.
Makes Remote File Sharing Feasible
"With Availl, we estimate that we've improved our typical detailing cycles by several days just by being able to work in real-time between offices -- time-savings that let us respond to our customers more quickly," said Cherry. "Availl became the common medium that truly transcended time, bandwidth costs and geographical differences. All of the drawing files became available in real time to all users, and everyone is able to work with the latest version of the file."
Gerdau Ameristeel runs Availl software on a Windows Server at each of six fabricating plants, with plans to double that by year-end. The data set at each site, ranges to 80 Gb and may consist of many projects or volumes. The data changes throughout the day, as the original files modified by one user are mirrored by Availl on all servers with that same volume in the WAFS system.
Availl's real-time WAFS technology ensures that files are instantly accessible in an almost limitless number of locations simultaneously, and in complete synchronization -- no matter where changes are made and with no chance of conflicts. Availl WAFS keeps a mirrored copy of all files on the local office servers, in a normal Windows folder, automatically updating each copy in n directions continuously. Availl software handles the updates by sending only byte-level differences, not entire files -- and also applies WAN optimization techniques and compression so that files transfer swiftly. The product eliminates 95% or more of the bandwidth requirements and eliminates the chance of any user opening an old version. As a software-only solution, Availl also is readily deployed on common PC hardware at a fraction of the cost of WAFS appliance approaches.
Gerdau Ameristeel set up its network so that engineers work locally then upload drawings to the Availl volume on the local server. In the event of an Internet outage, users still have access to all the files locally.
"With both disk space and memory being pretty cheap these days, as we plan more uses for Availl's software, all we have to do is provide those inexpensive hardware resources on the client side to make it work. Mount a volume, map a drive and we have instant file replication. It can literally be done at the user level." The company is planning to deploy Availl to an additional six Gerdau Ameristeel fabrication plants in the U.S.
Availl provides Wide Area File System (WAFS) solutions for enterprises of all sizes in many vertical markets. Industry analysts cite the WAFS market as one of the fastest growing in the computer industry, with estimated growth from $70 million in 2004 to $300 million in 2005 according to networking industry research firm The Taneja Group -- and over $1 billion in the next few years.
Founded in 2002, Availl provides Wide Area File System (WAFS) solutions for enterprises of all sizes. Availl's technology ensures that files exist in many remote locations simultaneously, and in complete synchronization -- no matter where changes are made. Availl's products are built on unique real-time technology for efficient remote multi-directional mirroring performance, rapid data caching, and extreme data reduction, with complete real-time file coherence between remote sites. It creates a unified file system via LAN, VPN, or Web (crossing firewalls). Availl also provides solutions for continuous data protection and database backup.
Headquartered in Andover, MA, Availl is privately held and has been consistently profitable for 2 years. Its customer base includes major engineering design firms, financial service institutions, many of the largest worldwide manufacturers, and 12 of the Fortune 100. For more information, please visit www.availl.com.
Contacts: Mary Kae Marinac MKM Corporate Communications Email Contact 978-685-3136 Craig Randall, Availl Email Contact 978-474-9113 x 205