IBM WebSphere Users
Kemp Load Balancers
If you live in the Netherlands, you will almost certainly know of Sligro, one of the leading Dutch brands in the food and drinks market. Sligro is part of the Sligro Food Group and has a network of over 50 cash & carry outlets and nine delivery wholesalers. In fact, customers in the Netherlands are never more than 30 minutes away from a Sligro cash & carry store, offering over 60,000 different quality food, non-food and fresh products. Sligro also has a fleet of advanced, temperature-controlled vehicles, guaranteeing rapid and accurate delivery.
The first Sligro cash & carry wholesale outlet was opened in 1961 and the company’s growth and success is borne out of a dynamic and ‘down to earth’ approach to business. “If we can build it ourselves we will,” says Jeroen van Dijk, ICT Manager at Sligro. “This also applies to software development,” says Jeroen; “if we create it ourselves we have the ability to move quickly and deliver tailored solutions.”
Jeroen van Dijk and his IT teams have built the administrative, logistical and commercial systems over the last decades. The main IT infrastructure supports nearly 11,000 employees, running PCs, thin clients, terminals and scanners connected to servers in one of Sligro’s two data centers. All this must be supported in the broadest sense of the word, with help desk, desktop installation and system management all performed within the IT administration department.
Sligro runs a wide range of internal business applications such as Exchange and SharePoint along with customer facing systems, most importantly its online eCommerce operation. It was a decision to develop a new eCommerce platform based on IBM WebSphere that drove van Dijk and his team to review its application delivery services – critical to ensure high performance and a first-class user experience for both staff and customers.
Sligro was already using a range of different Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) and tested five different options before making its decision. “It became clear that there were pros and cons for most of the ADCs on the market,” said van Dijk. “For example, the Citrix Netscalers work well but are complex to install and manage, while F5 was simply too expensive.”
In total, Sligro purchased 14 new Kemp load balancers; all with a Web Application Firewall, along with four GEO LoadMasters. The equipment was first installed in Sligro’s test datacenter for configuration and testing before being moved to the company’s production datacenters. After just six months, all the operational workloads were migrated to the Kemp ADCs. One set of Kemp ADCs are used mainly for office applications including Exchange, SharePoint and VDI. The Exchange environment supports about 3,000 users and around 200,000 messages every day.
For WebSphere, Kemp supports up to 375,000 concurrent sessions, which gives plenty of room for expansion. Currently, the estimated number of users per day is around 40,000 to 50,000. The Kemp ADCs are also used to deliver many different small web applications, both internal and external. Previously, every web service had its own public IP but with the new configuration, there is just a single public IP with content switching via the ADCs to deliver these services.
As an eCommerce business, security is very important to Sligro, so the Kemp Edge Security Pack (ESP) is another major benefit. ESP enhances the load balancer’s ability to secure public-facing applications and improve user experience, while providing feature-rich Reverse Proxy capabilities. ESP also includes features such as pre-authentication, logging and single sign-on, while Kemp’s Web Application Firewall ( WAF) combines Layer 7 web application protection with a high-performance IPS engine.
“ESP is currently being implemented to handle the authentication for our SharePoint, Exchange and web services, while the Kemp WAF is one of our most important lines in our defense strategy,” says Niels van Kampen, an IT Consultant at Sligro.
Based on experiences of other vendors, the prospect of managing 14 load balancers and plans for further expansion was daunting for the Sligro IT team, until they saw the new Kemp 360 Central and Vision offering.
The Kemp 360 application delivery fabric, gives Sligro a single point for control, analysis and diagnosis for key application metrics and drives operational efficiencies with increased visibility, centralised management and reduced time-to-resolution of application SLAs.
While Sligro has its own monitoring systems, Kemp 360 Vision provides a whole new layer of application-centric visibility, alerting and fault identification and resolution. Through managed, remote ADC and application services monitoring, Kemp can automatically detect potentially critical events that can disrupt availability and performance of workloads. “Kemp Central and Vision provide a single pane of glass overview of the core application delivery stack and its operational health,” says Niels van Kampen. “As soon as we turned Vision on it flagged up a problem we were not aware of and we were able to rectify it straight away.”
The migration to Kemp ADCs has delivered many benefits for the Sligro IT teams but for Jeroen van Dijk the most important change has been in the ease of operation: “This gives us the speed and flexibility to deliver more in less time and by consolidating functionality previously scattered over multiple systems there is a significant reduction in time and money spent in operating the ADC environment.”
But it is not just the technology that has impressed. “The response of the Kemp support team is the quickest I have ever encountered,” says Niels van Kampen. “In most cases, the Kemp engineer is already on the phone before the send button to submit a ticket is pushed. The ease and flexibility in the way they help us has been a very positive experience and many companies could learn something from them.”
Moving forward, Sligro is looking at expanding into the cloud for disaster recovery with Azure in combination with Kemp’s application delivery fabric. And while still in a very early planning stage, the goal is to have a self-service portal where project engineers can build their own setups without the need for an operational engineer to configure it.
“As in every aspect of the Sligro business, we are always looking to stay one step ahead by harnessing the latest and best IT innovation,” says van Dijk. “What we can be sure of is that Kemp has the technology, expertise and commitment to support us, whatever direction we decide to take in the future.
As our mission is to offer users a safe, reliable and modern IT infrastructure with quality services at manageable costs, the choice for Kemp load balancers became an obvious one. This was due to lower upfront cost of acquisition, OPEX and management costs and flexible licensing, combined with superb functionality, scalability and great pre- and after-sales support. But above all was the ease of operation and flexibility.Jeroen van Dijk