Proper load balancing ensures uninterrupted viewing of championship rugby game

When Ireland played France in the nail-biting final battle to win the rugby Six Nations Championship, tens of thousands of viewers watched the game over the internet on RTÉ Player – the web-based portal for Ireland's national public-service broadcaster. For RTÉ, they knew it would also be a serious test of its recently upgraded internet systems, comprising some 300 servers to deliver the action in real-time around the world. With the help of newly-installed server load balancers from Kemp Technologies, online Irish rugby fans were able watch their team beat France and take the championship.

A bit like a scrum half, the Kemp load balancers direct the network traffic and manage the distribution, directing online access requests to the best performing servers based on factors such as concurrent connections, CPU load and memory utilization. This reduces the risk of bottlenecks occurring, which reduce performance; and, if a server or application fails, the user is automatically re-routed to another functioning server. This process is seamless to the viewer and critical to delivering an optimized and reliable experience.

“Use of RTÉ Player has been growing at over 40% percent per year since it was launched in 2009 and sport has always been popular,” said Michael Kennedy, an infrastructure engineer with RTÉ. “And like the Irish rugby team, our systems and the new Kemp load balancers rose to the challenge.”

With increasing use of RTÉ Player, Michael Kennedy and the infrastructure team at RTÉ decided to upgrade its load balancers in 2013. “We were using legacy load balancing servers that were not delivering the performance we needed and were operationally challenging,” said Kennedy. “Every time we made a change, there was a risk of service disruption.”

RTÉ investigated the options based on a number of key requirements including high throughput performance, ease of management, high availability and good support. “Kemp ticked all these boxes and at a compelling price point, which was a major factor,” said Kennedy.

RTÉ installed four Kemp flagship LoadMaster 5300s hardware load balancers, each with multiple 10GbE ports for traffic volumes up to 8.8Gbps and support for over 400,000 concurrent connections. With 99.999% high-availability, the dual LM-5300 pairs provide the necessary resilience and intelligently distribute web traffic among servers so that users always get the best experience possible. RTÉ also chose four Kemp VLM 1000 virtual load masters for its test and development environment that share the same feature set as the hardware appliances and use the same centralised management interface.

“Many of our servers are already virtual machines and a migration to a more virtual environment is a key strategy for RTÉ in the future, so it was an obvious choice to go for the Kemp virtual load balancers for our off-line environment”. “The second phase of our project is to move all back end applications including our in-house content management application, to take advantage of the Kemp load balancers. We will also be increasing our data bit rate for online streaming to further enhance the quality of our service.”

One of the other major benefits of the Kemp load balancers for RTÉ is manageability - using easy start and maintenance wizards and the centralised web user interface for configuration and administration. “We have full visibility in real time of what’s happening through the Kemp dashboard and if there is an outage or we need to take a server off-line for maintenance, traffic is automatically directed to the operational servers,” said Kennedy. “We have also had great back up from the Kemp support team and they knew the importance of getting it right for the rugby!”

With the Six Nations out of the way for another year, the RTÉ team is now looking ahead to the rugby and football world cups. With the growing number of smart phones and tablets, it is planning for continued growing demand for its streaming services.


Use of RTÉ Player has been growing at over 40% percent per year since it was launched in 2009 and sport has always been popular, and like the Irish rugby team, our systems and the new Kemp load balancers rose to the challenge.
Michael Kennedy
RTÉ infrastructure engineer

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