F5 has helped financial IT provider Atruvia to successfully accommodate a 12-fold increase in traffic arising from the rollout of a dynamic new app by the banks it supports in Germany. Atruvia says the F5 application delivery controller (ADC) and web application firewall (WAF) are highly scalable and reliable.
Atruvia is the IT service provider for 772 cooperative banks in Germany, which collectively have 29 million customers and represent about 30% of the German retail banking market.
Facing mounting competition from new entrants, Atruvia’s clients wanted to roll out a dynamic online banking app, composed of microservices in containers, to provide their customers with much greater functionality and a better customer experience than the app’s predecessor did. They also wanted to enable customers and banking staff to collaborate seamlessly using the same platform.
On testing its new online banking app in early 2022, Atruvia saw a 12-fold increase in the number of HTTPS requests per user interaction, compared to that generated by the longstanding legacy banking app. The increase threatened to exceed Atruvia’s existing load balancing and WAF capacity. The load on the central processing units (CPUs) leapt from approximately 30 – 40% to 80% and kept rising dramatically.
Under pressure from the cooperative banks to deliver the new app, Atruvia needed to rapidly scale its ADC and WAF infrastructure. “It was a very volatile situation, and we realised when you order hardware, there might be delays and there might be difficulties,” recalls Lutz Reinegger, Head of Data Centre Infrastructure and Network at Atruvia. “And we have other vendors where one shipment can take up to 13 to 16 months to be delivered.”
Rather than experimenting with a new solution, Atruvia decided to massively scale up its existing F5 ADC infrastructure, which had proven to be highly reliable. Reinegger says, “We needed something to rely on. We needed something we were 100% sure would work. With the iSeries, we had a positive experience, and it was not the time for experimentation. As we were already using the F5 solution, we knew what to expect, but it also boils down to stable relations with F5 and this general spirit of partnership and transparency.”
After rapidly processing the purchase order, F5 supplied 30 additional BIG-IP i11800 Series appliances to the Atruvia data centres in Karlsruhe and Münster in Germany in good time to support the rollout of the new online banking app. The expansion supports the high volumes of traffic generated by the new app, which provides users with a far more engaging and interactive experience than before. The new app consists of microservices that can be upgraded several times a week.
Providing Atruvia with full transparency about the status of each delivery, F5 communicated well and kept all its commitments. Atruvia says that F5 has distinguished itself from other vendors by focusing on building a long-term relationship, rather than trying to take advantage of supply shortages to maximize profitability.
As a result, Atruvia now has 38 iSeries appliances. In all, 80% of Atruvia apps use F5 technology for local traffic management, and in implementing the new iSeries hardware, Atruvia progressed on a strategy of consolidating its ADC vendors by gradually migrating more than 30 Citrix Netscaler devices to the new F5 platform.
“We are very happy that we don’t have any major quality issues in the firmware or the hardware, like we have seen with other vendors, and we are very happy we picked the well-tested iSeries,” says Reinegger.
Atruvia is using the F5 Automation Toolchain Application Services 3 Extension (AS3) and HashiCorp Terraform tools to automate BIG IP instances, making it the first platform at Atruvia to use infrastructure as code (IaC) in production. “We don’t need a nice graphical user interface, we need APIs and we need the ability to deploy infrastructure as code, and we are very happy that F5 platforms can work in that way,” says Reinegger. Atruvia is aiming to achieve fully automated self-service for local traffic management and application service management for its DevOps teams.
Customers have embraced the new app, which is delivered via Atruvia’s expanded F5 infrastructure. The app received a rating of 4,4 stars at the Apple App Store and 4,6 stars rating at the Google Play store.
Eventually, employees of Atruvia’s client banks will use the same app as their customers. This will further streamline infrastructure and provide customers with a more seamless experience. For example, they could begin researching a mortgage online and then visit a branch to talk to an advisor without having to start again. Atruvia is moving step-by-step, one microservice at a time, while carefully modelling the likely load to avoid any need to urgently expand infrastructure capacity because internally, the banks use a closed MPLS network, which means longer lead times for installing load balancing capacity.
Thanks to the new F5 infrastructure, almost all of the 29 million customers served by the banks supported by Atruvia are now able to use the new app. More than 96% of customer traffic flows through the new banking app.
How well the solution scaled is reflected in traffic metrics for Atruvia’s BIG-IP Advanced WAF and BIG-IP LTM, which included daily peaks (excluding special effects) of more than 47.000 HTTPS requests per second in late 2022, jumping to more than 65.000 HTTPS requests per second a year later.
Atruvia is also moving towards a hybrid cloud setup, enabling basic communication between Microsoft Azure and its legacy on-premises infrastructure. Reinegger says the final step will be to build a true hybrid cloud from scratch using existing data centres and then connect to public providers to seamlessly move workloads between these different availability zones and its own data centres. That will give it the flexibility to run different workloads in different environments.
“Do we open the cloud applications for access from the outside world to the general public? Or do we treat the cloud more like a back-end extension of our own on-premises data centres? These are the kinds of discussions taking place right now,” he says.
The hardware headroom delivers more flexibility for Atruvia. The processing load on the new ADC infrastructure is below 50%, down from more than 80% before the expansion. As a result, requests are processed much more quickly. “You don’t have linear scaling on an X86 architecture when you add additional CPU cores,” explains Reinegger. “We want to keep it between 50% and 70% because we want to be ready for unforeseen spikes in traffic.”
Atruvia has also been able to consolidate its devices by running a platform from a different supplier on the new F5 hardware. As a result, it has saved money and simplified by reducing the number of vendors in its data centres.