An upgraded domain and e-mail architecture improves reliability, functionality, and ability to communicate in a time-sensitive industry.
With an upgraded e-mail infrastructure, West Monroe helped R.J. O'Brien realize an e-mail environment failover to a disaster recovery facility in less than two minutes, reduce unsolicited emails by 99% and improve remote services.

Founded in 1914, R.J. O’Brien is a privately owned, well-diversified Futures Commission Merchant with client assets exceeding $1 billion. R.J. O’Brien is one of the oldest and best known independent futures brokerage firms in the industry. R.J. O’Brien offers the latest in order-entry technology, coupled with 24-hour execution and clearing on every futures exchange worldwide.

Goal: A high-availability e-mail environment.
As an organization touted for its investment in trading and order-entry technology, R.J. O’Brien has made significant commitment to building its electronic and “open outcry” trading architecture. Poised for significant growth over the next few years, the company has taken proactive steps to ensure its infrastructure is aligned with its expected future capacity, as well as structured to minimize unplanned outages. One key aspect of that infrastructure is e-mail.

R.J. O’Brien conducts a considerable amount of business using e-mail—relying heavily on its communication system for contacts with current and prospective customers, industry contacts, and employees on trading floors throughout the country.

In contrast to its trading architecture, R.J. O’Brien’s internal domain and e-mail infrastructure were dated and soon to be unsupported. To align its e-mail infrastructure with its high-availability requirements, R.J. O’Brien
sought to upgrade its domain and e-mail architecture to a Microsoft Exchange environment.

Tapping an experienced partner.
R.J. O’Brien chose West Monroe Partners as its partner for this migration. West Monroe Partners not only offered a solid understanding of R.J. O’Brien’s business needs and infrastructure from previous projects, it had significant experience with similar migrations and relevant expertise with clustering technologies and storage attached networks. Together, R.J. O’Brien and West Monroe Partners designed a solution that provided:

  • Hardware and software redundancy that would reduce susceptibility to major e-mail outages due to the
    failure of any individual component
  • Full mail functionality at R.J. O’Brien’s disaster recovery site in the event its primary location experiences a complete failure
  • Enhanced e-mail functionality to support R.J. O’Brien’s dispersed workforce
  • An efficient migration process to the new environment that respected the trading industry’s stringent up-time requirements

Collaborating to deliver results.
Using a proven methodology and a collaborative approach, West Monroe Partners completed the design and migration over a three-month period.

Requirements gathering.
West Monroe Partners conducted interviews with each member of R.J. O’Brien’s executive team to understand business needs and expected service levels for the new infrastructure. The team also worked closely with R.J. O’Brien’s IT staff to understand the current domain and e-mail environment and to research potential high-availability e-mail cluster architectures.

Clustering software selection.
The team identified appropriate software for high-availability e-mail architecture, including creating a ‘proof of concept’ for e-mail clustering software to demonstrate the benefits of a high-availability software suite. It then selected vendors to support needs for both the storage area network (SAN) and synchronous data replication to R.J. O’Brien’s disaster recovery center.

The design team identified all hardware, software, and licensing needs and defined configurations for the new environment. It also designed the migration process, including tool selection, connectivity between
environments, and mail fidelity.

The team then ordered, set up, configured, and tested all hardware and software, including the SAN, fiberchannel switches, servers, Microsoft Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange, and Veritas Storage Foundations for Windows High Availability.

West Monroe Partners migrated 400 users’ e-mail and directory accounts to the new environment with minimal weekend downtime. It also tested fail-over of the high-availability mail environment to the disaster recovery site.

Finally, West Monroe Partners provided on-site support for several days after the migration. It also documented every phase of the project to ensure that R.J. O’Brien’s IT staff was equipped to support the new environment going forward.

Greater reliability, greater functionality.
R.J. O’Brien’s new domain and e-mail environment have produced several significant benefits:

  • The new environment requires one directory; the previous environment required two
  • Each user now has a reliable, full-featured web interface for his/her mailbox, as well as improved remote services through Outlook Web Access and accessibility of e-mail and calendars via PDA devices
  • The previous environment did not have the same level of reliability, nor did it permit advanced e-mail tasks, users now receive 99 percent less unsolicited e-mail (“spam”)
  • Finally, and perhaps most significantly, R.J. O’Brien can fail its entire e-mail environment over to its disaster recovery facility in less than two minutes