Law firm CIO: ‘I run more video than CBS’

The challenges as the head of IT for a major international law firm with 700 attorneys, 1,500 total employees and 20 separate offices around the world aren’t exactly small, but Baker Donelson CIO John D. Green is up to the task – even when that task changes a little every day.

Different parts of Baker Donelson’s sprawling practice have different needs, said Green, who sat down with Network World at Riverbed’s Disrupt event in New York. The real estate practice, tax, and patent and trademark practices, among others, have their own software, all of which Donelson has to support.

“I think I support 275 different applications,” he said. And thanks to Baker Donelson’s huge demand for video conferencing, he does it via a network that has to be carefully managed to bear the strain.

The firm, according to Green, has 40 specialist video conferencing rooms, all of which are in near-constant operation for at least five hours a day.

“I run more video than CBS,” he joked. “So being able to get the best quality of service out of my network is absolutely critical to make sure that video is crisp and functioning.”

Green also told Network World that he’d recently concluded a major initiative that saw the law firm implement a cloud-based document storage and retrieval service called NetDocuments. That’s 15 document data centers consolidated, and 18 million documents that now live in the cloud.

Green told Network World that he’s been a Riverbed customer more or less since the vendor started up. That has a lot to do with the large number of different offices he supports, as well as their varying requirements.

“It’s very difficult for me to keep a very large circuit going into very small offices, so putting a Riverbed appliance into a smaller office with like 10 attorneys can give me the same experience for my attorneys as though I had a 50 meg pipe going into a larger office,” he said. “There’s economy of scale there at certain points.”

From Here to Aternity

But his favorite Riverbed feature is one that originated outside the company – end-user monitoring originally from Aternity. 

“It is very near and dear to my heart,” Green said. “I have been an Aternity user for about seven years, and it was like a lightning bolt for me – I was spending all this money on technology but my end-users still weren’t happy. And I couldn’t figure out why. I would be in management meetings and I would be spewing technical jargon about how the networks were up 99.9% of the time, and the databases were up and the email servers are up and I’ve got all these five-nine statistics, but my users were revolting, they were after me.”

Being able to track the actual end-user experience in a concrete way, he said, has been a godsend, and Riverbed’s purchase of Aternity, integrating that functionality more closely into other products he already used, made the system even more useful.

“You’ve also got a mix of tools now that are going to be combined into a single pane of glass that’s going to give you total visibility across your network, from the servers to the circuits,” said Green.