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Despegar Leads Latin American Travel Industry with its Modern, Responsive Websites

Despegar is Latin America’s largest online travel agency, serving customers throughout Central and South America as well as the United States, Spain, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. From its modest beginning in 1999 as an airline-only reservation service, Despegar today is a full service travel agency that hosts 21 country-specific websites. Customers can book reservations for every vacation need—from airlines, hotels, and cruises to rental cars and sight-seeing tours.

Providing the best possible user experience for its tens of thousands of customers is Despegar’s top priority, so its websites must always be available and performing optimally. “Slow-loading pages and downtime on even one of our websites is unacceptable and can result in substantial revenue losses,” says Nicolas Pla, Technology Manager at Despegar. “Our goal is to deliver the best, most reliable service to our customers without any downtime.”

Staying on Top in a Highly Competitive Industry

To keep Despegar’s websites fresh, modern, and competitive, Despegar’s team of in-house application and web developers need to deploy performance enhancements and new website features as quickly as possible. “In the past, developers were only able to deploy one or two new features per week,” says Pla. “We wanted to speed development and testing time and get new features into production as quickly as possible.”

Delivering Round-the-Cloud Availability and Optimum Performance 

For several years, Despegar has been using F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) running on F5 VIPRION devices to intelligently manage all traffic to its websites, which are hosted on premises in an OpenStack private cloud environment. The company has been pleased with the performance and reliability the F5 solution delivers.

In June 2014, Despegar doubled the capacity of its existing F5 VIPRION devices by swapping out the original blades. “We love the on-demand scalability of the VIPRION chassis design because it’s so easy to add capacity without buying new boxes,” says Pla.

About a year earlier, Despegar opened a second data center to keep pace with rapidly growing web traffic, which Pla estimates has climbed 10-fold since 2008. Taking advantage of the unified, modular platform on which BIG-IP is built, Despegar was able to deploy BIG-IP Global Traffic Manager (GTM) on its existing F5 devices.

“It was essential that we be able to distribute incoming traffic across both data centers based on user location, network conditions, or business policies, and BIG-IP GTM enables us to do that,” says Pla. If a Despegar website or its primary data center should go down, BIG-IP GTM also provides failover capabilities, so users would automatically be routed to Despegar’s secondary data center.

Empowering Developers to Speed Time to Market

The programmability tools built into the BIG-IP platform played a significant role in Despegar’s decision to expand with F5 and have transformed the way network engineers and app developers work.

Using iRules, F5’s scripting language, network engineers can inspect inbound traffic and make intelligent decisions about how and where requests should be routed—a task that is difficult to achieve with other vendors’ solutions. Having full visibility and control over network traffic, engineers can ensure that Despegar’s network is always performing optimally.

Equally important is iControl, F5’s open API, which provides essential configuration and orchestration capabilities in Despegar’s OpenStack private cloud environment. “Our application developers now have full control of an application in its production environment, so they can add, modify, or reconfigure F5 devices as needed and direct traffic accordingly,” says Pla. “Since we began using iControl, developers are now deploying hundreds of website enhancements per day whereas before, they were able to deploy only one or two changes per week.”