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Tenzing Managed IT Services Improves Flexibility, Enhances Client Services with F5 Solution

Tenzing is a leading provider of hosting solutions trusted by e-commerce and Software as a Service (SaaS) providers to deliver business-critical applications to their clients—some of the world’s largest enterprises and most recognizable brands.

To create a stable, scalable Application Delivery Network that ensures high availability for its clients’ applications, Tenzing retired its open source load balancer and incorporated F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) into its hosting infrastructure. With the flexibility and control that the F5 iRules scripting language provides, Tenzing is now able to customize clients’ deployments to meet their unique business requirements.

Business Challenges

Tenzing’s clients provide e-commerce, SaaS, and a variety of custom-built software solutions to some of the world’s largest organizations, including airlines, retail chains, and universities. Many of its clients are part of Tenzing’s shared hosting infrastructure while others subscribe to managed private cloud services that include dedicated network, compute, and storage resources. To reliably deliver these services and satisfy client service level agreements (SLAs), Tenzing’s hosting infrastructure must be online and available around the clock.

After several years of managing its network traffic with a “home-grown,” open source–based load balancer, Tenzing felt constrained by the solution’s limited functionality and burdened by the lack of support.

“Whenever we had a problem with our load balancer, we didn’t have a vendor to fall back on, and we didn’t have that enterprise -level hardware that we really needed,” says Spencer Rasmussen, Director of Network Engineering at Tenzing.

As Tenzing’s clientele grew, some clients wanted more control over the way their virtual and physical servers were being deployed. One client, for example, wanted a customized database within the load balancer that would protect its application against web scraping. “The idea was to track who was scraping images and content on their site and then block those users based on that business intelligence,” says Rasmussen.

At the time, Tenzing didn’t provide such services on its shared infrastructure because it needed to maintain control of system resources, and it didn’t have the tools to enable certain features that clients wanted.  “We could have used open source tools to cobble together a solution that worked, but in a system that’s already open source, that could have created problems that we were not willing to risk.”

Tenzing wanted to replace its existing load balancer with an enterprise- class solution that offered more flexibility. Rasmussen says, “There were definitely services we weren’t able to provide to our clients, and we really wanted to keep our business and product offering innovative and moving forward.”

“F5 is seen far and away as the market leader in the application delivery and load balancing space; there’s no doubt about it. No other vendors we’ve seen can compare.” Spencer Rasmussen, Director of Network Engineering, Tenzing

Solution

After evaluating several vendor solutions, Tenzing had little difficulty making a choice.  “F5 is seen far and away as the market leader in the application delivery and load balancing space; there’s no doubt about it,” says Rasmussen. “No other vendors we’ve seen can compare.”

In 2008, Tenzing deployed two high-performance BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) devices in its shared infrastructure and recently deployed five more BIG-IP devices in various locations across its data centers in Toronto, Ontario, and Vancouver, B.C., as well as its call center in Kelowna, B.C.

Among the strongest features that gave F5 an edge over other vendors is its iRules event- driven scripting language. IRules makes it possible to manipulate and manage IP application traffic, whether by intercepting, inspecting, transforming, or directing both inbound and outbound packets.

“F5 has proven itself to be a 100 percent rock-solid enterprise platform.” Adam Clark, Senior Network Engineer, Tenzing

Benefits

With BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager, Tenzing has a stable, highly available Application Delivery Network that provides the flexibility it needs to help clients solve their unique business challenges.

Superior flexibility and functionality

Advanced functionality and flexibility were high on Tenzing’s list of requirements, and the F5 solution has exceeded expectations. “With F5, we have the best enterprise-class hardware and support available, and no other vendor has anything even close to iRules,” says Rasmussen. “The level of efficiency and flexibility that iRules gives us, while still enabling us to transfer packets over the wire at virtually wire speed, is incredibly impressive.”

Network engineers and Tenzing clients can create their own iRules or use iRules shared by others through F5’s DevCentral online technical community. “DevCentral is a fantastic resource. The amount and quality of content available there is unbelievable,” says Rasmussen.

Rasmussen notes that the openness of F5 products is another significant differentiator.  “I like the fact that BIG-IP products give me a lot of flexibility to diagnose and troubleshoot. You absolutely can’t do that with other vendors.”

Stability and high availability

By replacing its home-grown load balancers with BIG-IP LTM, Tenzing now has the stability and availability it needs to support the many large enterprises that depend on its hosting services. “F5 has proven itself to be a 100 percent rock-solid enterprise platform in our environments where stability is especially important for our clients,” says Adam Clark, Senior Network Engineer at Tenzing. “The high availability it provides is fantastic.” He adds that the F5 solution delivers 99.9999 percent uptime, which helps ensure that Tenzing meets its client SLAs.

Improved IT efficiency

IRules and DevCentral resources have helped Tenzing lighten the workload for its IT teams. “Because DevCentral is very accessible to technicians at every level, they can quickly develop the solutions they need,” says Clark.  He cites as an example the deployment services team, which does initial load balancing configurations for new clients.  Some clients have special use cases or want to redirect traffic in specific or unique ways.  “Our technicians can go to the DevCentral site, finds iRules and other code snippets, and make the solutions work for our clients  without needing help from any other IT  teams,” says Clark.

Rasmussen adds, “From a configuration management standpoint, the F5 solution is much easier to deal with and manage than other vendors’ solutions, some of which are a bit archaic by comparison,” says Rasmussen. “It not only improves our efficiency, it also provides long -term cost benefits for administration and training.”