World wide access to centralized applications
Colorcon has offices in 25 countries, all linked by a network to the company's main data center in Pennsylvania, the centralized hub of Colorcon's business-critical applications.
A total of 80 enterprise applications, from legacy and regulatory to Oracle e-Business Suite, are delivered to remote sites over the network.
Colorcon's Manager of Databases and Internet Infrastructure, Mohammed Irfan Khan, has the primary responsibility of ensuring that end-users worldwide get the performance they need from centralized applications.
Originally, Colorcon had an opensource load balancer, which Khan saw as a potential problem for a number of reasons. “It was non-enterprise class,” Khan says. “There was no support or in-house expertise for it.” He hated to think what would happen if something went wrong with it.
Also, it didn’t give Khan and his team the visibility they needed into application performance, particularly the end user experience. “What we had was only a dumb load balancer that would not do application layer visibility. It was just simply a Layer 4 or Layer 3,” he adds.
He decided to be proactive and replace the load balancer with a commercial product. He and his colleagues performed a feasibility study and cost-benefit analysis for a number of solutions including the Pulse Secure Virtual Traffic Manager, F5, Oracle Traffic Director, and Enterprise20 from Loadbalancing.org.
Colorcon quickly saw the benefit of having a load balancer backed by technical support. “The level of support we’ve gotten has been 10 out of 10,” Khan says. “The support behind the product basically instills the confidence in the product itself.
Early in the deployment, Colorcon contacted technical support about the Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), a directory service protocol that runs on a layer above the TCP/IP stack and provides a mechanism for managing Internet directories.
“When we discovered there was no built-in load balancing for LDAP services, we called support and within two days we had a TrafficScript routine in place,” explains Duncan Muturi, a database and infrastructure administrator at Colorcon. “Now we know for sure that our LDAP is properly load balanced.”
In terms of load balancing, the Pulse Secure Virtual Traffic Manager gives Colorcon much more functionality compared to the previous open-source solution. For one thing, the Pulse Secure Virtual Traffic Manager can create, manage, and deliver Layer 7 services. Also, when the Pulse Secure Virtual Traffic Manager detects a problem, it directs traffic away from that server much more quickly, to the point that no one notices anything amiss. “No downtime, no bleep, no nothing,” Khan says. “The frequency of the polling is so good.”
Pulse Secure also offers return path routing, which supports multiple links and routes for upstream devices. Another advanced feature of the Pulse Secure Virtual Traffic Manager is global load balancing, which is something Khan wants to take advantage of in the future.
To Khan, the functionality Pulse Secure provides for monitoring and alerting is just as important as the load balancing. “With Pulse Secure, we can be aware of problems before users call and tell us,” he explains.
This helps ensure good application performance for the company’s employees around the world as well as a good experience for visitors to My Colorcon, the external website, where traffic continues to grow. It also lets the IT team address issues proactively. The proactivity, combined with the ability to see where a request is being routed, has translated into much less time spent troubleshooting, according to Muturi.
With the exception of the TrafficScript routine for LDAP balancing, all of the Pulse Secure functionality that Colorcon values comes standard. “We haven’t made any changes,” says Muturi. “All this is out of the box.”