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Bournemouth University Increases Capability with a Consolidated Solution from F5

When Bournemouth University decided to upgrade its IT infrastructure, its wish list was long. It wanted to replace several software load balancers, install a high-capacity firewall, and implement application-layer security. The university discovered that F5 could meet all these requirements with a single, cost-effective solution.

Business Challenges

 

Bournemouth University (BU) is located on the south coast of England. More than 19,000 students attend the university, which focuses on delivering courses linked to professions. BU graduates pursue careers in everything from accounting and midwifery to computer animation and forensic archaeology.

In 2012, the university launched BU 2018, an ambitious five-year strategic plan to expand and develop its facilities to create a world-class learning environment. The university knew that IT would play a vital role in helping it achieve these goals.

“We were embarking on a period of transition and needed to uplift our IT infrastructure to meet the needs of current and future students,” explains Richard Brickell, Technical Specialist at Bournemouth University. “We wanted to explore more enterprise-class technology.”

Several areas of Bournemouth University’s core IT infrastructure needed to be upgraded. In particular, the university had several different software-based load balancing solutions, each one attached to a separate application. These solutions only operated at network layer 3 and had limited capabilities.

In addition, BU’s firewall was approaching the outer limits of its capacity, and the university’s network didn’t have adequate application-layer security. The IT team wanted to address both these concerns and make improvements to its IT security.

“F5 is like having a tool box with many facets to it. Instead of buying separate products, we have a single platform that does everything we need.” Claire Wilkinson, Platform Development Manager, Bournemouth University

Solution

 

When Bournemouth University began looking for load balancing solutions, it shortlisted F5 for its competitive tender process. It quickly became clear, however, that the F5 BIG-IP platform delivers far more than just load balancing capabilities. The single F5 solution also provides an integrated firewall, application-layer security, and policy control.

“F5 offered us a one-stop shop for everything we needed, and a number of other things that we hadn’t considered,” says Claire Wilkinson, Platform Development Manager at Bournemouth University. “We realised that we would be able to do more with this product than we originally intended.”

The university installed two F5 BIG-IP 4200 Application Delivery Controller (ADC) hardware platforms, one in each of its two data centres, running in active-passive mode. For each unit, it implemented F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM), BIG-IP Advanced Firewall Manager (AFM), BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM), and BIG-IP Application Security Manager (ASM).

BU uses this F5 platform to manage traffic for critical applications, including the university’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and VMware virtual desktops. The integrated firewall scrutinises all inbound and outbound traffic, while BIG-IP ASM provides layer 7 application security.

Wilkinson explains, “F5 is like having a tool box with many facets to it. Instead of buying separate products, we have a single platform that does everything we need.”

Benefits

 

With the new solution, Bournemouth University saves costs, improves application performance, and enhances security.

Cost savings

BU expects to save costs with the F5 solution in a number of ways.

First, the F5 platform consolidates the need for additional capital investment in separate load balancing servers and proxy security servers, plus it reduces the load on BU’s primary firewalls. The university can therefore divert IT budget to other projects that will improve students’ learning experience.

In addition, a single BIG-IP ADC requires significantly less power and cooling than multiple devices, so it is cheaper to run on a day-to-day basis.

The university also saves on IT management costs because this single F5 platform is much easier to maintain, run, and support.

Better availability and performance

As well as delivering cost savings, the F5 platform is helping BU to improve its application availability and performance.

“In the past, it wasn’t economically viable for us to install a software-based load balancer for some of our smaller applications,” says Wilkinson. “The BIG-IP platform has the capacity to deliver all our applications with greater resilience.”

In addition, BU uses the BIG-IP devices to offload SSL traffic from its servers and carry out caching. These functions are expected to improve application response times for services such as VMware.

Improved security

The university uses the BIG-IP devices to strengthen its IT security with enterprise-grade distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) reputational filtering and application scanning.

Looking forward, Bournemouth University expects to derive incredible value from its investment in the F5 BIG-IP platform due to the versatility of the solution. In the months and years ahead, the university can introduce additional functionality available in the BIG-IP products to further tighten network security, improve application resilience, and enhance services for students and staff.

Brickell says: “Whatever crops up in the future, we have tools in the box, ready to go.”