Case Studies Archive Search Case Studies

Marketing Firm Supports Business Growth, Saves Hundreds of Thousands With FlexPod and F5 Solution

The marketing services firm, which offers website hosting and other IT services, struggled to provide efficient services because of the decentralized infrastructures of its internal marketing customers. The company also needed to improve availability and security for the websites it hosts. It consolidated its infrastructure by combining NetApp, Cisco, Nexus, and VMware technologies with its existing F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) and BIG-IP Global Traffic Manager (GTM) devices. With this new environment, the marketing firm is better prepared to handle business growth and can offer high availability for its customers’ critical websites. The solution gives its customers a better user experience and provides stronger security. The company has also realized hundreds of thousands in savings as a result of implementing the solution.

Business Challenges

 

The marketing services company specializes in cloud-based advertising and management software and magazines for customers in industries such as real estate, employment, automotive, sports, and travel. The company hosts thousands of websites and publishes 280 magazines that together reach more than 50 million customers every month. It currently has 4,500 employees in 40 states and 5 countries.

The company’s internal IT services team, consisting of nine people, provides infrastructure, networking, storage, and other key IT services to its many internal customers, who produce consumer-facing websites. Providing these services had become increasingly challenging in recent years, as the company acquired more new companies. Each of these business units had its own unique IT infrastructure, with  different servers, application delivery The company’s internal IT services team, consisting of nine people, provides infrastructure, networking, storage, and other key IT services to its many internal customers, who produce consumer-facing websites. Providing these services had become increasingly challenging in recent years, as the company acquired more new companies. Each of these business units had its own unique IT infrastructure, with different servers, application delivery

That challenge was particularly frustrating because many of the business units, such as the real estate website, were growing rapidly. “The real estate site is growing 25 percent per year, and overall we’re seeing up to 40 percent growth in total network bandwidth every year,” the Chief Architect says. “Scalability and network optimization are absolutely critical for us. Availability is also highly important, because every one of the websites we support cannot have downtime. Our customers’ sites have millions of visitors each week, so availability is essential.” In addition, the company has to ensure strong security for each customer website.

Finding a solution to address these issues was essential, particularly because the company must find new lines of business to stay competitive and successful. “A key to our business success is finding new revenue opportunities and capitalizing on them quickly,” says the Chief Architect. “This infrastructure puts us in a great position to do that.”

“Without the integrated FlexPod solution, it would have been impossible to manage the growth of our website. F5 is a key part of that, because BIG-IP LTM and BIG-IP GTM give us the network optimization and scalability we need, making it easier to grow our virtual environment.” Chief Architect for Marketing Firm

Solution

 

Since 2005, the marketing firm has used technology from F5 Networks to provide intelligent network traffic management.  The company uses F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) devices to direct web traffic, depending on network or server conditions.  It also uses a BIG-IP Global Traffic Manager (GTM) device, which points network users to the closest or highest-performing of the company’s two data centers. Over the past several years, the company has also been using BIG-IP Application Security Manager (ASM), a web application firewall that helps it enhance security for the thousands of websites in its infrastructure.

In early 2010, the organization designed and implemented a new shared-services environment that integrates its F5 devices with a FlexPod solution. FlexPod refers to an integrated solution that combines NetApp storage controllers, Cisco UCS servers, Cisco Nexus switches, and VMware vSphere server virtualization. These technologies helped consolidate the overall IT infrastructure. The firm worked closely with NetApp partner PLANIT Technology Group for planning and implementation of the FlexPod solution.

To support the company’s 750-terabyte databases, PLANIT helped the marketing firm deploy four NetApp FAS3070 clusters, four FAS3050 clusters, two FAS3170 clusters, a NetApp FAS3070, and a NetApp FAS920 storage system. This new infrastructure  supports the company’s growing online  businesses, and allows the IT team to  virtually partition data and offer each  business unit custom virtual application  instances.

The marketing firm also began moving to a virtualized environment to lower costs and improve overall redundancy. The company migrated up to 70 percent of its server environment to a virtualized infrastructure running on 600 VMware vSphere virtual machines. It also deployed 32 Cisco UCS blade servers to support the virtualized solution.

The company’s existing BIG-IP LTM, GTM, and ASM devices provided application delivery control and security for the FlexPod solution.

More recently, the marketing firm enhanced its FlexPod solution by implementing F5 Enterprise Manager, a centralized device management appliance that provides simplified device management, performance monitoring capabilities, and a comprehensive single-pane view of the application delivery infrastructure.

“Now, if there is an availability issue at all, we can be sure it’s a network issue and not related to the F5 devices or the other solution pieces. Together, FlexPod and F5 help our infrastructure perform at the highest level for the businesses we need to support.” Chief Architect for Marketing Firm

Benefits

 

Using its FlexPod and F5 solution, the company has the scalability and performance it needs to handle business growth. It can also offer higher availability and security, and its customers can offer a faster, better overall experience for online users. The organization has also saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by virtualizing its server infrastructure.

Managed growth more easily

With its FlexPod solution, supported by F5 application delivery and security technologies, the company is in a much better position to manage the fast growth its online business units are experiencing.  “Previously, we had a lot of different servers, switchboards, and cables, and it was difficult to manage it all and get applications deployed,” says the Chief Architect. “With FlexPod, we have more flexibility and can support more applications and operating systems, without the need to provision physical servers and storage. Without the integrated FlexPod solution, it would have been impossible to manage the growth of our websites. F5 is a key part of that, because BIG-IP LTM and BIG-IP GTM give us the network optimization and scalability we need, making it easier to grow our virtual environment.”

Offered high availability for critical websites

The marketing firm can also ensure its customers have the highest availability for their critical websites. “For our customers, high availability for their websites is a must.  The FlexPod solution has definitely improved that availability,” says the Chief Architect.  “The Cisco servers are reliable, and VMware and NetApp give us provisioning speed and availability. F5 BIG-IP LTM and GTM complete the picture by providing intelligent network traffic management, which is so important for our customers. Now, if there is an availability issue at all, we can be sure it’s a network issue and not related to the F5 devices or the other solution pieces. Together, FlexPod and F5 help our infrastructure perform at the highest level for the businesses we need to support.”

Enhanced security

Web security is also enhanced with the FlexPod and F5 solution, because the marketing firm is using the BIG-IP ASM module to provide solid application firewall capabilities to help protect against attacks on customer web applications. “We have a pool of BIG-IP ASM devices sitting behind the BIG-IP LTM devices, and that provides stronger security for the thousands of websites we manage,” says the Chief Architect. “As we continue to grow our business, we will use BIG-IP ASM to help protect even more websites, giving our customers more confidence in their online businesses.”

Provided better user experience

By taking advantage of the intelligent compression features in BIG-IP LTM, the company can improve its customers’ website performance while reducing bandwidth utilization. “We’re using the compression capabilities in BIG-IP LTM to give our customers improved performance,” says the Chief Architect. “We were pushing outwards of 200 megabits per second of web traffic, and we are getting around 50 megabits of compression with this technology. At the end of the day, the end users download less data on their computers, and they have a faster, better experience overall on our customers’ sites.”

Achieved significant cost savings, helped grow business

FlexPod and the F5 technology give the marketing services firm a virtualized environment that helps the company stay lean while still being able to scale to meet growth. For example, the company’s virtualized infrastructure has contributed to a 25 percent savings in power and cooling costs in the data centers, and it was able to eliminate 300 physical servers. “Overall, by consolidating the IT environment and bringing new business units to a virtualized platform, we have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars,” says the Chief Architect. “At the same time, because the F5 and FlexPod solution help us scale so easily, we have grown our infrastructure by 40 percent.”

Overall, the new integrated solution will help the marketing firm maintain its fast business growth. “A key to our business success is finding new revenue opportunities and capitalizing on them quickly,” says the Chief Architect. “This infrastructure puts us in a great position to do that.”