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Loan Originator ooba Boosts Performance, Cuts Downtime with F5 BIG-IP Solution

As one of South Africa’s leading home loan originators, ooba helps homebuyers find, finance, and insure their new homes. To support the many financial services it provides, ooba uses a broad array of Oracle products and operates web portals, email, and two calendaring systems. As ooba added more services, its Linux-based load balancers could no longer provide the required level of performance, and downtime on its customer-facing systems had become a critical issue. After testing several competing products, ooba replaced its load balancers with F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager Application Delivery Controller. As a result, ooba has significantly improved performance and availability and has virtually eliminated downtime.

Business Challenges

 

When it changed its name from MortgageSA, ooba expanded beyond its roots as a mortgage broker to provide a full spectrum of services for homebuyers. Through oobaBond, the company negotiates with home lenders to find the most favorable loan terms for home buyers. oobaSearch is South Africa’s premium online property search portal, enabling visitors to search thousands of properties from the country’s leading real estate agencies. oobaInsure offers a complete range of personalized, cost-effective home insurance solutions, while oobaCard is a home improvement credit card that also provides discounts on household products, improvements, and services.

To enable this broad range of financial services, ooba deployed the Financials, HR, and CRM applications within Oracle’s E-Business Suite 12 as well as the Oracle Application Server 10gR3, Oracle SOA  Suite 10gR3, and Oracle Portal 10gR2. The company also hosts a number of web portals and email and calendaring systems for employees, customers, and partners. ooba’s sales force uses a custom application to capture the details of a home sale to submit  those details electronically to the bank that will finance the sale. “Without these applications, we don’t have a business,” says Dominique dHotman, Manager of Enterprise Architecture for ooba.  “There’s a whole lot of B2B messaging and electronic communication between the bank and us,” says dHotman. “That access has to be fast, reliable, cost-effective, and secure, or customers and business partners will take their business elsewhere.”

ooba found its internally developed, Linux-based load balancers weren’t providing the performance the business required. The load balancers were also so difficult to manage that configuration changes often caused downtime. Among other challenges, ooba’s search portal needed to provide 99.999 percent uptime, yet it and other key applications were down 15 to 20 percent of the time each month.  For business partners, delays in updating certificates and importing SSL keys resulted in unsecured links or no connectivity at all for extended periods of time.

To solve these issues, dHotman wanted a performance management solution he could deploy across the entire infrastructure— customer-facing portals, collaboration platforms, and enterprise applications.  “These are quite different application types, with quite different requirements,” says dHotman. “We wanted to find a solution we could use across all these applications and not have to buy and maintain one delivery controller for the website, another for our enterprise applications, and so forth.”

“F5’s close relationship with Oracle helps us as a customer because there are many proven certified configurations that are available to us. This dramatically reduces our testing.” Dominique dHotman, Manager of Enterprise Architecture, ooba

Solution

 

ooba considered several products from other vendors, including a web caching solution that would have improved performance, but it did not provide the HTTPS protocol support that ooba needed to ensure security.  Ooba also considered another vendor’s performance manager, but after six weeks of work, ooba couldn’t get the demo unit to function properly. dHotman says, “That made us think, `what are we going to struggle with when we have to manage this thing?’”

After evaluating and rejecting these solutions, ooba brought in F5 South Africa–based partner enterWeb to conduct proof-of-concept testing on F5 devices.  This evaluation went well, matching ooba’s requirements, and EnterWeb deployed F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager, an Application Delivery Networking (ADN) system that provides an intelligent and adaptable solution for securing, optimizing, and delivering applications. BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) provides ADN functionality across ooba’s entire infrastructure. EnterWeb also trained two ooba personnel on the F5 solution and provided post-installation support.

Benefits

 

ooba found the reliability, security, performance, and ease of management it needed for its application infrastructure using BIG-IP LTM. The solution provides rich static and dynamic load balancing— and it is the only system that provides a set of unified application infrastructure services to deliver total control, vision, and flexibility with application security, performance, and delivery.

Reduces application overhead and downtime

Using BIG-IP LTM, ooba has reduced application overhead by 20 percent and eliminated the 10 to 20 percent downtime it had been experiencing in its critical web portals and applications. It has also cut the time required to update SSL certificates or import SSL keys—critical to providing secure access to its systems—from three days to less than one hour.

Streamlines changes to the application infrastructure

With BIG-IP LTM, it’s easier and faster for administrators to make changes in ooba’s application architecture. The web interface and reusable templates provided by F5 enable any administrator to make changes to the system. This has reduced the time needed to implement changes from three days to less than an hour. “F5’s close relationship with Oracle helps us as a customer because there are many proven certified configurations that are available to us,” says dHotman. “This dramatically reduces our testing.”  dHotman describes how quickly he was able to deploy BIG-IP LTM. “[We got it] up and running within a day, with no major changes in the network, and we can change how it is deployed in the network without modifying virtual server or pool configurations.”

Provides secure, enterprise wide solution

Perhaps most important of all, BIG-IP LTM fills ooba’s need for an enterprise wide solution. “[We needed] a delivery controller we could use across our architecture, and not just some kind of point solution we could use only with our portals, or our collaboration system, or our enterprise applications,” says Dothan.  “That was one of the reasons we chose the F5 device—we found its capability was strong in all the areas where we need to deliver applications.”

“F5 gives us the fast, reliable, and secure links we need to serve our customers, while boosting our competitiveness by reducing our management and server overhead,” says dHotman. “It’s a fundamental component of the high availability that’s so important to our business. The ease of use and reliability that we gain with F5 allows us to deploy new solutions and changes to existing solutions much quicker and in a far more predictable fashion.