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As Education First (EF) experienced rapid growth in the Asia Pacific region, they noticed that increased pressure was being put on their application infrastructure. To improve performance and streamline IT operations they decided to migrate their core applications to AWS Cloud but, during the cloud migration, they realized that their existing F5 load balancers were not suitable for a cloud deployment.
After evaluating a number of load balancing vendors, EF were very impressed with Kemp’s load balancing capabilities in the AWS Cloud and found the support and responsiveness during the evaluation process to be a key differentiator. Combining this with the fact that Kemp load balancers could offer the same functionality as competing offerings, but at a fraction of the cost was also a distinct advantage.
Optimized for the AWS Cloud, EF deployed Kemp’s Virtual LoadMaster (VLM) to provide comprehensive L7 traffic distribution, session persistence, application health checking, SSL acceleration, IPS and data caching/compression for their core applications deployed in the cloud. With Kemp’s Virtual LoadMaster, EF experienced a boost in application performance through reduced latency and the streamlining of IT operations.
Established in 1965, EF Education First (EF) is the world leader in international education providing language and cultural studies to students in more than 100 countries. The company uses a mix of classroom-based studies, online courses and cultural tours. With more than 43,000 staff, EF has developed sophisticated online tools that allow large groups of students to study English at their own pace.
To support its strong global growth, EF had established a large data centre in the United States to house its core learning applications and databases. As student numbers grew in the Asia-Pacific region, the pressure on this facility started to increase. An Infrastructure Specialist at EF says performance issues were being noticed when large numbers of students were accessing resources within the data centre. “We can have 6,000 to 7,000 connections every second which was causing increased latency times and delays,” he says. “Despite constant management and a large IT team, we reached the stage where we could not provide the level of service that was required by our growing student population.”
After considering a range of options, the EF IT team made the decision in 2015 to migrate core applications and data stores from the US-based data centre to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. It was anticipated this would help to both boost performance and reduce management overheads.
The migration was staged over a 12-month period to ensure there were no disruptions to services and gave the IT team time to become familiar with operating on a cloud platform. “During the migration we realised our existing F5 load balancers were not suitable for cloud deployment.”
After reviewing load balancing offerings from a number of vendors, the decision was made in late 2015 to implement appliances from Kemp Technologies. Once the deployment was complete, EF had in place two VLM-2000 and six VLM-200 appliances.
“We had to look for an alternative technology that could meet our new requirements. Amazon does offer its Elastic Load Balancing service however this did not match our technical needs.”
Optimized for the AWS Cloud, the Kemp Virtual LoadMaster enables high performance application deployments in AWS by providing comprehensive L7 traffic distribution, session persistence, application health checking, SSL acceleration, IPS and data caching/compression. These features combined with a powerful Rest API, make Kemp’s LoadMaster the load balancer of choice for providing highly available services in the cloud, web and application infrastructures.
Commenting on the Kemp evaluation process, the Infrastructure Specialist at EF says, “Kemp was the stand-out contender when it came to both service and price, I found the company very responsive when I had questions or issues during the evaluation process. And on pricing they were around 40 per cent less than their rivals but could offer the same functionality.”
Once in place, the Kemp load balancer appliances allowed the EF IT team to effectively tune the cloud platform and improve performance for all users. “We are using AWS to support all our websites as well as our student management application and other core systems,” he says. “With the Kemp appliances installed, we found that latency for users decreased from an average 300 milliseconds to around 200 milliseconds. When you have thousands of connections each second, this makes a significant difference.”
Student feedback has been positive with many reporting faster download speeds when accessing online materials. The performance of applications can also be maintained during periods of increased demand.
There have also been significant benefits when it comes to overall IT management. Shifting from an on-premise data centre to the AWS cloud has enabled the organisation to reduce its IT staffing requirements and focus efforts in other areas.
“Managing the physical devices in the data centre was becoming an increasing overhead for us. Since shifting to AWS and deploying Kemp, we have been able to reduce our overall IT headcount from 30 people to just four who manage the entire infrastructure. “Amazon looks after the day-to-day management issues which means we are free to focus more on developing new applications and services for our students.”
EF now has in place an IT infrastructure that can support its continued growth around the world. “When other people ask me what they should use for their load balancing, I don’t hesitate to recommend Kemp,” he says. “They are a reliable technology partner who provide us with the support that we require to keep our operations humming.”