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TransUnion Speeds Application Deployment, Supports High Availability Using F5 Solutions

 

TransUnion needed to assimilate solutions from newly acquired companies into its own IT infrastructure; ensure fast, reliable data transactions; and promote strong security. By standardizing on traffic management solutions from F5, TransUnion has reduced network latency, improved labor allocation, and nearly eliminated downtime. 

Business Challenges

 

TransUnion is a household name in consumer credit reporting, but the company does much more than that. With operations in 33 countries, TransUnion provides a variety of solutions and services ranging from businesses intelligence to health insurance verification. And it maintains one of the largest collections of consumer information, helping customers to spot opportunities and manage risk.

TransUnion recently made an initial public offering, raising capital to continue acquisitions of companies so it can expand services to reach more consumers. “New companies have different IT environments that pose standardization challenges,” explains Steve Morenzoni, Senior Network Engineer at TransUnion. “We needed the ability to centralize the management of our applications and all our infrastructure. Integrating companies and new applications into our environment is critical.”

Also, TransUnion must continually take action to ensure that its IT systems offer high performance and strong security. “We have to deliver information to our clients when they need it, where they need it, and in a way that’s secure,” says Morenzoni. “We’re dealing with very sensitive consumer information that’s highly regulated by the government.” He poses an example: “Imagine if a hospital can’t verify your health insurance ahead of time—it might delay your surgery. That’s why uptime and security are everything.”

He adds that serving its customers, which include large enterprises, demands high-capacity resources. “We have some applications that customers access over the Internet and others are accessed over private networks. As a global company, we process an enormous number of transactions and database queries.”

Disaster recovery is also an important part of TransUnion’s strategy to provide uninterrupted service. “We opened a second data center in the Chicago area and started a several-year project to duplicate presence for all our applications in both data centers,” he adds. “We’re also in the process of migrating all our mainframe applications to a client server environment.” Both of these projects require standardizing on application delivery controller solutions.

“F5 does application delivery better than anybody else. That’s why BIG-IP LTM and BIG-IP DNS are the industry standard.” Steve Morenzoni, Senior Network Engineer, TransUnion

Solution

 

To address these challenges, TransUnion has standardized on F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) and BIG-IP DNS (formerly known as BIG-IP Global Traffic Manager). Both run on the F5 VIPRION platform for its scalability. “We chose F5 because, from a technology perspective, it’s a company that is always innovating,” says Morenzoni. “F5 does application delivery better than anybody else. That’s why BIG-IP LPM and BIG-IP DNS are the industry standard. F5 is also doing really creative stuff from an application delivery perspective.”

Deciding to standardize on F5 traffic manager solutions made sense for TransUnion—the company has used F5 solutions several years, so it has a strong understanding of F5 products and the role they play in the TransUnion IT environment.

Additionally, Morenzoni cites F5 iApps—the user-customizable framework for delivering applications—as one of the solutions that keeps TransUnion a satisfied customer. “iApps is the coolest F5 tool we’re using at TransUnion,” he says.

TransUnion has plans to deploy BIG-IP modules on a larger scale and to virtualize the environment of select business divisions. “We’re getting ready to make another large investment in F5. We are very satisfied.”

“Right now, we’re able to manage several thousand applications with just one member of our IT staff.” Steve Morenzoni, Senior Network Engineer, TransUnion

Benefits

 

With its F5 solutions in place, TransUnion has standardized traffic management while achieving fast performance, high availability, and stronger security. It is also able to manage IT labor more efficiently and cost-effectively.

Flexible, standardized architecture 

TransUnion has several thousand internal and external applications that require traffic management across two data centers. Now, each data center can be flexibly managed, which saves on effort and computing resources. “One of the biggest benefits that we’re seeing from using BIG-IP DNS is that we can control the management of individual applications—not every application needs the same level of resiliency or redundancy,” says Morenzoni.

Morenzoni also emphasizes the importance of having flexible tools to standardize the company’s IT environment. “If we can’t integrate new applications from acquired companies into our environment quickly and securely, then we’re wasting money. Using F5 solutions makes efficient integration possible.”

He notes that the company considers iApps to be its most important tool for deploying apps faster and keeping the IT environment flexible and changeable while also standardized. “A few years ago, F5 came in as we were setting up our environment and helped us develop our own custom iApps templates,” says Morenzoni. “We use the customized templates to enforce application standards, and as our applications evolve, we’re able tweak the templates to deploy the apps and match the applications’ new capabilities.” 

Cost-effective application deployment

Time savings, labor savings, and lower costs are closely related to the flexibility and efficiency of application deployment. Morenzoni expresses savings in terms of orchestration, in which complex applications and IT systems have to be coordinated, and the fact that fewer (and less technical) IT staff are needed to manage these tasks. “The iApps templates are so easy to use,” he says. “Engineers who are not familiar with F5 solutions can oversee even complicated application deployment. We don’t need senior-level people to be involved in these activities.”

Consequently, labor for F5-related work is less expensive, and resources can be allocated more effectively. Morenzoni says, “We’re better able to delegate work. It’s much more efficient and a huge benefit from an orchestration perspective. Engineers can just fill in fields to create objects.

“Right now, we’re able to manage several thousand applications with just one member of our IT staff.”

Expanding on this idea, Morenzoni notes that with iApps, an IT administrator can deploy a virtual machine in less than 15 minutes with all the required security and forwarding characteristics. He adds that it’s much easier to train both administrative and technical staff because the configuration process is both automated and consistent.

High performance and strong security

TransUnion is using the BIG-IP platform to meet its responsibilities for rapid service despite millions of queries. “We’re seeing low latency and fast response times,” says Morenzoni. “The information is delivered reliably and securely.” He notes that when customers press enter on their computers, they don’t have to wait long for the requested information to come back. “Using F5 solutions to speed response time has been a big benefit. The performance and reliability of our F5 devices has been great.”

We have a very large, sophisticated database environment, but that data is worthless if people can’t get to it,” he continues. “We can rely on F5 solutions to perform well from a latency perspective.”

Although Morenzoni can’t discuss security in detail, given the sensitivity of the information TransUnion manages, he is confident in the security capability of the company’s IT infrastructure. “We’re taking advantage of the inherent security built into F5 traffic management solutions,” he says. The solution scales and secures the IT infrastructure during high query volumes and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks to keep global apps online.

Morenzoni concludes, “Thanks to our F5 solutions, we have the ability to centralize management of our applications and our infrastructure. It’s the heart of our application network. F5 delivers.”