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New building, new network with room to grow!

Founded in 1961, GreenPath Debt Solutions is one of the largest and most trusted non-profit credit counseling agencies in the nation. Headquartered in Farmington Hills, MI, GreenPath operates more than 60 full-time branch offices in Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Colorado, Florida, Texas, Vermont, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arizona and Wyoming. As a growing company, the main office was quickly becoming too small and main office workers were split between two separate buildings.

A parcel of land was secured for a new building that would house all main office employees under a single roof. Ground breaking took place on April 22, 2010. “This new building will allow our more than 450 southeast Michigan employees to be together all under one roof,” said Jane McNamara, GreenPath president and CEO. “In addition, by bringing our corporate office and our call center together we can more effectively work with our 60 plus field offices across the United States,” she continued. With the building underway, the detailed planning stages for a new network began.

GreenPath desired a new wired network that could provide 10Gbps Ethernet connections in the datacenter for virtualized servers as well as 10Gbps Ethernet uplinks to the IDF closets. They also required 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet with PoE + to the desktop to support VoIP phones, security cameras and wireless access points. “The new wired network needed to be reliable, simple to configure and easy to maintain, which is something the existing network lacked.” said Chris Allamon, Manager of Information Technology at GreenPath

Wireless (Wi-Fi) was limited to a few hotspot areas in the old buildings. The goal was to provide wall to wall wireless coverage in the new building to provide mobility for employees as well as guest access for visitors.

GreenPath was also seeking a new firewall solution. The existing Juniper Firewall was nearing its end of life and needed to be upgraded plus it didn’t provide the type of VPN solution GreenPath needed being a financial institution.

“After evaluating products and solutions from multiple manufacturers, we decided to go with an integrated solution from Delta Network Services, an Auburn Hills, Michigan based company. Delta had a proven track record” stated Chris Allamon. The solution consists of Ethernet switching products from Extreme Networks, WLAN products from Aruba Networks and Firewall/VPN products from Fortinet.”

At the core of the new wired network is an Extreme Networks BlackDiamond 8810 switch with (48) 10GB ports to provide connectivity to the new virtualized server farm and 10 GB uplinks to each IDF closet switch stack. The Black Diamond 8810 also has (336) 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet ports to provide connectivity to other nonvirtualized servers and network equipment in the data center. The BlackDiamond includes redundant Management Switch Modules as well as N+1 redundant power supplies for maximum performance and uptime.

The IDF closets on each floor (7 total) have Extreme Networks Summit X460 48 port Stackable switches that form virtualized switch stacks. SummitStack -V80 stacking modules and cables are used to provide an 80Gbps virtual backplane between switch nodes within the stacks. 2-port 10Gbps uplink modules provide plenty of bandwidth between the closet switches and core BlackDiamond 8810. The X460’s come with IEEE 802.11at PoE+ (Power over Ethernet Plus) to power the Avaya VoIP phones, security cameras throughout the building and the Aruba WLAN access points. The 48-port Summit X460 switches were installed in the IDF closet equipment racks along with 48-port Category 6 UTP patch panels in an alternating 48-port patch panel, 48-port switch, 48-port patch panel, 48-port switch etc. method that allows for the patch panel ports to be connected to the switch ports using short 6” UTP patch cables. This keeps the entire installation neat, clean and simple to work on.

To facilitate centralized management and daily automatic backups of the Extreme Ethernet switches, Extreme Networks Ridgeline management platform was deployed.

The Aruba system at GreenPath consists of (2) Aruba 3600 controllers each capable of terminating up to 128 campus or 512 Remote AP’s (or RAPs). The pair of 3600 controllers are configured for redundancy so if the primary controller should become unavailable all AP’s remain operational via the secondary controller. This level of redundancy is provided via standards based Virtual Router Redundancy Protocol (VRRP), further demonstrating Aruba’s support of standards based protocols.

GreenPath deployed (20) Aruba AP 105 access points within the new building providing secure employee and guest Wi-Fi connectivity. Employee access is via secured 802.1X authentication against the corporate Microsoft Active Directory domain. Guest access is via Aruba Captive Portal which presents each users with the acceptable use policy prior to gaining access.

GreenPath has over 40 remote small branch office locations that are currently connected back to the main datacenter via slow and expensive T1 circuits. Once the contract expires on those T1 circuits, GreenPath will be deploying Aruba RAP’s at each remote location. “We’ll realize a significant cost savings of $750k/year after we convert the remote offices to the Aruba RAP technology. Each remote office will have either an inexpensive cable or DSL modem installed and the Aruba RAP’s will provide site-to-site VPN connectivity back to our data center providing access to our data applications as well as VoIP phone connectivity” said Chris Allamon. Chris went on to say, “In fact, we recently added a half dozen or so new remote branch offices where we used the Aruba RAP solution. We are very satisfied with the results!”

Replacing the aging Juniper Firewalls as part of the move with a pair of Fortigate 600C appliances from Fortinet is proving to be a smart move. The appliances are running in High- Availability mode which maximizes performance and availability. ASIC acceleration delivers wire-speed firewall and near wire-speed IPsec VPN performance and superior performance with IPS and antivirus/ antispyware/antimalware acceleration. The 600C’s include Web-Filtering further allowing us to eliminate yet another separate and dedicated device and its associated support costs. “With the Fortinet solution, all features and functions are built into the appliance by default. No additional licensing is required for any of the features, we just have to decide what features we want enabled and when” remarked Chris Allamon. “The new Fortinet solution will save us $200k over the next three years which is huge for us. Also, by enabling twofactor VPN authentication, we are in full compliance with all PCI and GAAP rules.”

“Delta Network Services played a key role by working closely with our IT staff to ensure all systems were ready to go when we pulled the plug at the old buildings and moved into the new facility. Delta was able to provide a myriad of services to us including prestaging of the equipment at their staging facility to ensure everything operated as designed before it actually arrived on-site,” said Chris Allamon. “Delta was also very helpful to us as we encountered obstacles during the move by going the extra mile to ensure all of our goals and major deadlines were met.”

How GreenPath Is Different

GreenPath prides itself in being one of the largest and most respected credit counseling agencies in the nation. We do things differently.


Wired Network Requirements

  • Reliable Ethernet switching platform
  • Easy to support and manage
  • Single management platform
  • Scalable from 10MB to 10GB
  • Low total cost of ownership
  • Support for IEEE 802.11at PoE +

Wireless Network Requirements

  • 802.11n support for wire-like performance
  • Support for all devices Tablets, Phones, Mac, Linux, Windows (Win7, IOS, Android, etc.)
  • Secure environment
  • No mass management of encryption keys on individual workstations
  • Allow known, trusted users and guest access
  • Seamless roaming between APs
  • Centralized management of WLAN
  • Remote Access Point Solution

Firewall Requirements

  • High-Availability, Active-Active configuration
  • Wire speed firewalling
  • Easy to manage and support
  • Multiple VPN access methods
  • Two Factor Authentication Method

Wired Network Solution

  • Extreme Networks wired switches providing 10/100/1000MB PoE+ connectivity and 10GB backbone links
  • Extreme Ridgeline to centrally manage the wired network infrastructure

Wireless Network Solution

  • Redundant Aruba 3600 controllers for maximum uptime
  • Aruba AP-105 access points for wall to wall coverage within the new building
  • Aruba RAP-5WN access points at remote branch offices

Firewall/VPN Solution

  • Fortinet Fortigate 600C appliances running in HA mode
  • FortiAnalyzer for detailed reporting
  • FortiToken for two-factor authentication