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Datametrix Soars Into the Cloud With a Reliable and Secure Platform for Hosted Communications Services

The market for hosted IT services was growing rapidly in Norway – presenting a potentially lucrative new business opportunity that IT reseller Datametrix simply couldn’t afford to miss.  The company used F5 technology to deliver its first ever cloud-based services and is now confidently expanding its business, both at home and abroad.

Business Challenges

For nearly thirty years, Datametrix had been successfully reselling network hardware, from vendors including F5 and Cisco, to enterprise customers in Norway.  However, the time had come for the company to radically redefine its core business.  There was a growing trend towards hosted solutions in Scandinavia as a whole, and Datametrix realised that it could potentially expand its business by offering new cloud-based IT services alongside traditional product sales.

A few years earlier, Datametrix had been bought by Telenor in Norway, a telecommunications giant providing mobile and fixed telephony, as well as broadband services and satellite television.  There was, therefore, the added advantage that Telenor would be able to promote Datametrix’s new cloud services to its own extensive customer community.  Christian Tinnå, a product manager at Datametrix, says: “We wanted to reach out to new customers and, for the first time, compete with service providers in the cloud.”

The company planned to create a brand new virtualised server environment specifically for its hosted services and needed to be able to balance traffic effectively across different servers in two geographically separate data centres.  The hosted services platform had to be easy and cost effective to manage and scalable enough to support the significant subscriber growth that both Datametrix and Telenor aspired to. 

Datametrix knew that the success or failure of its new business venture would hinge almost entirely on the stability of the underlying technology platform.  It was absolutely critical to ensure uninterrupted service availability for customers, as well as iron-clad security.  End users also needed to be able to access services easily without complicated authorisation processes and be assured of fast application performance, no matter how many other users were connected at the same time. 

“We had to use the best available technology ourselves to enable us to offer a stable and secure service for our customers,” Tinnå says.

“The service provider’s worst enemies are 16-year old kids, sitting at home running DDOS scripts they find on the internet – just for fun. F5 enables us to block such attacks and prevent unnecessary downtime for our customers” Christian Tinnå, Product Manager, Datametrix

Solution

Datametrix considered load balancing products from a range of different vendors before opting instead for F5’s application delivery controller platform.

As an F5 partner, Datametrix was very familiar with the F5 platform and had previously worked with F5’s support staff on matters relating to customer installations.  “We had always enjoyed a good experience working with F5’s support team, and this was one important reason why we chose F5 and not one of the other possible solutions,” recalls Tinnå.  “When our customers had experienced issues in the past, F5 had over-performed to help them.  Every single time, F5 was there at once and found a fix within hours.”

He adds: “Over the years, we had sold F5 to many customers and we knew that these customers were very satisfied.”

Datametrix selected F5’s VIPRION 2400 chassis and installed two units, one at each of its two datacentres.  It then selected three modules to slot into the VIPRION chassis:

In addition, Datametrix acquired F5’s Global Traffic Manager (GTM), Virtual Edition, to balance traffic across its two datacentres and implement automatic fail-over in the event of a disaster.

Datametrix found it very easy to deploy this suite of F5 solutions.  It was able to do almost all the required configuration using the standard F5 graphical user interface and command line interface.  Then, to meet a couple of particular business requirements, it took advantage of F5’s iRules programming language to customise certain operations.  “One of the strengths of the F5 platform is the ease of configuration,” Tinnå says.  “It enabled us to get our new hosted services up and running very quickly.”

The first cloud service introduced by Datametrix was based on Microsoft’s Lync communication solution.  Later, the company also developed and launched the Datametrix Business Cloud, a proprietary hosted platform for voice and video communications, including instant messaging and video conferencing.  Both of these services are delivered to customers for a monthly subscription.

Benefits

The F5 application delivery platform gives Datametrix the high quality IT infrastructure it needs to succeed in the competitive Scandinavian service provider marketplace.   The company’s customers enjoy reliable and secure cloud-based services that are easy to access, while its IT team can manage and develop the new hosting business very cost efficiently.

Successful business growth

The creation of a new IT platform for delivering hosted services has opened up significant business opportunities for Datametrix.  The company has been able to enter a new market, win new customers and sell added services to existing customers, all of which has boosted its revenues.  It has quickly gained over 200 hosted service customers with more than 40,000 end users, and the flexibility of F5 means that the platform will easily scale up in the future, in line with the company’s growth expectations.

The launch of cloud-based services has also driven the company’s long-awaited expansion into Sweden.  Most of Datametrix’s technical resources are located in Norway, so previously it was hard to sell products to prospective new Swedish customers.  “It is much easier for us to sell hosted services to customers in Sweden, in the first instance, rather than physical switches and routers,” Tinnå explains.  “Our hosted services make us more attractive as a partner in Sweden.”

100% service availability

Use of F5’s GTM solution has enabled Datametrix to build a fully redundant platform for its hosted services and ensure an uninterrupted service for customers.  “In 2014, I don’t think any service provider can afford to rely on just one datacentre at one site,” Tinnå says.  “Uptime is critical.  F5 gives us a dynamic solution where we can use both of our datacentres in tandem most of the time, but divert all our traffic to one datacentre if necessary, in the event of a problem at the other.”

When Datametrix wants to perform maintenance, it can do so without impacting the availability of its hosted services.  It doesn’t have to schedule downtime for maintenance windows nor pay its employees overtime to perform maintenance tasks outside of usual business hours.  All this helps Datametrix to deliver the 100% service availability that its customers want.

Effective network security

Tinnå believes that distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have become easier to execute and therefore present a significant risk to Datamatrix’s fledgling cloud-based business venture.  Fortunately, however, the F5 platform is designed specifically to mitigate this threat.  Tinnå says: “The service provider’s worst enemy is 16-year old kids, sitting at home running DDoS scripts they find on the internet – just for fun.  F5 enables us to block such attacks and prevent unnecessary downtime for our customers.”

As well as providing protection against DDoS attacks, F5’s AFM module filters all incoming traffic to prevent the infection of its hosted applications.  It also helps to prevent the leakage of sensitive financial data.  An easy-to-interpret dashboard provides Datametrix’s IT team with all the insight it needs to monitor anomalous events and protect customers.

Ease of use – for everyone 

Datametrix has been able to use F5 APM to make its new hosted services very easy to access by end users and therefore more attractive to potential new customers.  The APM module connects with customers’ own user databases (such as Active Directory) and reuses employees’ existing credentials to authenticate them via a single sign-on process.  Consequently, users have the convenience of not having to remember additional user names and passwords.

The F5 platform is also easy for Datametrix’s own IT team to use.  For example, F5’s iApps enable the company to provision new services based on templates and therefore roll out new offerings to customers more quickly.   In addition, the F5 platform generates detailed logging information, so the IT team has clear visibility of traffic patterns and issues.  All these features, and others like them, enable Datametrix to maintain and develop its hosted services easily and as cost effectively as possible.