14 Aug

Scaling to handle new demand – working with comparison sites

UK’s largest specialist motor insurance provider, Adrian Flux, uses Cisco Application Control Engine (ACE) to deal with unprecedented levels of traffic.

CWL recently worked with Adrian Flux to help them solve a new problem: one of their businesses was getting a lot of query traffic from gocompare.com and could take too long to return quotations


Quotations translate into business, and slow quotations translate into lost business, so Carl Pickett, Business Support Manager for Adrian Flux, asked CWL for a solution. He wanted it quickly, and he wanted something reliable, scalable and flexible enough to handle future demands.

Background

Adrian Flux uses Transactor for business processes, including quotation generation. The application uses a SQL Server back-end. For this particular area, a single server provided quotation information to queries from gocompare.com.

Gocompare.com sends tens of thousands of queries daily to Adrian Flux, and on weekdays most of these queries arrive between 6PM and 8.30PM. Adrian Flux needed to be able to handle this peaky demand effectively so they would always be in the list of quotations returned by gocompare.com to potential customers. The solution had to be reliable, scalable and deliver appropriate performance. But there were other considerations too; business demands could change in the future.

Different policy types from different parts of the business, products for different demographics and representation on other comparison sites could all happen in the future and put their own demands on the infrastructure. Flexibility and manageability were clearly important as well.

Solution

One way of solving the problem could have been to build a bigger web server. This would solve the initial problem, but wouldn’t offer any greater resilience, and would only solve the problem for one application. Flexibility for the future was key, so a load-balancing solution was looked for. Load balancers offer scalability, as servers can be added to the ‘farm’, usually without disruption, and resilience, as the load balancer drops a failed server from its list as soon as it detects the failure.

Load-balancing is as old as the web, and today’s devices offer many advanced facilities as well as basic load balancing. But one, the Cisco ACE 4710 Application Control Engine (ACE) appliance, has capabilities that CWL considered made it a great choice for Adrian Flux.

Carl Pickett is pleased: “ACE solved the immediate problem well, and I’m confident that it will help us out in the future as needs change. CWL are a good bunch – easy to communicate with, and knowledgeable. As usual, they did a good job. They specified the right solution and helped us implement it.”

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