Challenge: Ensure consistent performance of web-services and optimize branch connectivity
SBM is a non-profit organization that is the single data hub for the entire insurance industry in Turkey. Insurance providers across the country access the organization’s vast repository of information via web-based applications and web-services. To enable these insurance companies to meet their customers’ high expectations, SBM had to ensure that its applications were optimized for a consistently high level of performance, and that new features could be thoroughly tested prior to deployment.
They were, therefore, in the market for a solution that could deliver complete visibility into the application layer.
SBM’s second IT challenge was that, at the time of its establishment, its offices and data center shared the same location. This allowed employees to access mission-critical data and applications via the LAN. When the institution decided to re-locate the office campus, while maintaining its data center at the existing facility, questions regarding performance and security over the WAN network began to emerge. Since SBM intended to leverage MPLS connectivity between the data center and the new office campus, controlling bandwidth costs was also a factor for the IT team.
Orhan Polat, Middleware Operations Manager at SBM said, “Our desire was to have all the servers located in the data center and enable application delivery and file access to employees at the campus via a client-server model.
This centralization was necessary as we already had a fully equipped data center and did not want to add the capital expense of installing new servers, storage, and security devices at the campus, along with the associated operational expense of maintaining that equipment.” It was also decided that internet access would be provided to employees via a proxy based in the data center.
The challenge that Polat and his team faced was to achieve all this without suffering slow transaction speeds.
Given the sensitive nature of the data being handled by the organization, security was also a key priority for SBM. The IT team was therefore keen on leveraging SSL encryption for the data in transit in order to mitigate the threat of man-in-the-middle attacks.
Solution: Granular visibility and secure high-performance connectivity: SteelCentral and SteelFusion
SBM first tackled the challenge of ensuring the performance of its web-based applications for insurance providers. While the team was impressed with Riverbed SteelCentral’s ability to monitor a wide array of performance metrics, it was SteelCentral AppInternals’ granular monitoring that drove the decision to deploy the solution. Polat explained, “Riverbed demonstrated that AppInternals could trace transactions across tiers to detect and troubleshoot problems within code, SQL or system resources
“We recognized that this ability would not only streamline troubleshooting but could also be leveraged to optimize our applications and thoroughly test new feature sets in pre-production environments.”
After the successful deployment and utilization of the SteelCentral platform, Polat and his team began to address the issue of connectivity between the office locations. By now, they were solidly convinced of SteelCentral’s capabilities and were aware of Riverbed’s dominance in the WAN-optimization segment. Despite this, they conducted due diligence by also evaluating solutions proposed by Silver Peak and Cisco. It was however only Riverbed SteelFusion that enabled the optimization of SSL encrypted traffic, a capability vital to ensuring the security of the organization’s sensitive data in transit.
The team was also impressed by the level of support extended by Riverbed from the onset of their engagement. “Riverbed did not simply sell us products. They engaged with us closely to help us understand the various deployment models and designed the right network topology for our requirements. Thus, they played the role of consultants rather than just sales professionals,” said Polat.
SteelFusion also addressed SBM’s desire to retain all its servers and remote IT operations and processes within the data center, thus enabling the organization to realize its ambition of having a zero-IT branch environment.
“It was Riverbed that proposed the virtualization of our branch servers on the SteelFusion device which allowed us to cut the cost of deployment and simplify branch IT management,” noted Polat.
The solution’s simplicity and ease of deployment were further highlighted by Polat who said, “The roll-out of the SteelFusion solution was executed without a hitch by our in-house IT team in under two days.” To get the systems group up to speed on the wealth of features offered by the new solution, Riverbed delivered a comprehensive two-day training course. “The support we received through the entire process was world-class. The solutions were easy to implement and are very user-friendly,” said Polat.
Benefits: Actionable intelligence, streamlined troubleshooting, robust connectivity and cost savings
SteelCentral allows SBM to closely monitor the performance of its web-based applications and thus guarantee the performance of services essential to insurance providers across the country. By analyzing the host of metrics made available on the solution’s easy to use interface, the organization has been able to fine-tune these applications. Furthermore, the insight into usage patterns helps the team tailor new features and services as per the market needs. “Every time we develop a new application, we use AppInternals to test every bit of the code. Similarly, the solution gives us the ability to monitor all dynamic changes and patches thereby enhancing robustness,” said Polat.
In the case of the SteelFusion deployment, SBM’s primary objective of optimizing application delivery and file transfers was quickly addressed. Since every SteelFusion Edge also comes equipped with integrated Riverbed SteelHead WAN Optimization as part of the solution, the institution instantly noticed a 3x increase in network performance and even though employees were now connecting to the Internet ‘indirectly’ via the data center-based proxy, they were able to do so without any performance drop. “Employees who previously connected to their data and applications via the LAN, reported no degradation in performance after moving to the new campus and being shifted onto the MPLS line.
This is perhaps the best indication of the success of this deployment,” commented Polat. The institution’s concerns regarding the security of data in transit has also been addressed by Riverbed’s support for optimization of SSL traffic.
The simplicity of the new zero branch IT infrastructure is another major benefit for the IT team. “We have minimal physical IT systems at the headquarters and yet employees at this location enjoy assured application performance and availability, as well as data security,” said Polat. Riverbed also provided guidance to SBM on how to cleverly utilize virtualization on the SteelFusion platform to set up three virtual servers at the campus for functions such as surveillance. As this was made possible without the need for purchasing additional storage, and security devices, the team realized significant cost savings.
“As we could leverage SteelFusion to backup the data from our office campus to the data center, we eliminated the need for an additional solution for this critical business requirement,” said Polat. “The cost benefit of eliminating all this IT infrastructure at the campus has been huge. Our systems administrators now only concern themselves with service assurance rather than server maintenance.”
SBM’s IT team believes the Riverbed solutions will meet its need for the next 3-5 years. “Riverbed offers a clear roadmap that scales in accordance with its customers’ requirements. We therefore see this vendor as being a part of our long-term business strategy,” said Polat