CUSTOMER STORY

StockCharts.com takes programmability to AWS with F5’s iRules

BENEFITS

Rapid scalability, enabling innovation

Maintaining flexibility with iRules

Consistent security policies in the cloud

CHALLENGES

Hardware provisioning

Speed to deployment

Maintaining security during the transition

 

 

 

StockCharts provides best-in-class charts, tools, and expert commentary to online investors that subscribe to their service. The StockChart’s team is made up of programmers. They’ve used F5’s BIG-IP services and iRules to manage their traffic and deflect threats. When the data center got so big that the daily hassles of running it were outstripping the benefits, it was time to move to the cloud.

By keeping the F5 in the picture when they moved to the cloud, StockCharts could all their existing knowledge of iRules and its features. Plus, F5 is available via the AWS marketplace.

Published January 21, 2020

A Programmer with a Passion for Data Visualization

StockCharts.com is a real-time financial analysis platform that helps online investors visualize data with charting tools, advanced analysis resources, and commentary from industry experts. It’s a subscription service, so customers don’t have to install software or deal with compatibility issues—they can use it anytime, anywhere from any web-enabled device.

It all started with Chip Anderson’s enduring passion for data visualization.

But first, there was a 10-year stint at Microsoft, first as a developer for Windows and then as a consultant for Fortune 500 companies, helping them understand client/server programming. After Microsoft, Chip took a couple years off to spend with his new family and think about what he wanted to do next. The fascination with data visualization never went away, but he’d also picked up a hobby—collecting interesting domain names.

Then he picked up what he knew a great domain name: StockCharts.com. And he bought it. For $20. This is where his passion met his vision for a great business – and StockCharts.com was born.

Early Success Leads to Lots of Traffic - Both Good and Bad

The business model worked, and the company grew fast — so fast that the technical team found themselves with a slew of servers. And now the problem was managing them.

Enter F5’s BIG-IP and iRules to manage all the traffic hitting those servers, as well as making sure it was legitimate traffic and not bad actors trying to snag charts for free or use them in an automated way. Especially in their on-premises data center, the StockCharts team needed to implement a solution that would limit people’s requests, and F5’s BIG-IP and iRules helped them easily do that.

StockCharts also uses F5’s firewall solution to stop bad actors and mitigate attacks right at the front door: their website.

The thing was, a data center can only get so big before the hassles of running it outstrip the benefits. Hassles like the power going out at 3 a.m., the chiller breaking, or a guy with a backhoe cutting a line. It was all starting to pile up.

The Cloud Starts to Make Sense

About three years ago, Chip decided it was time to move to the cloud. He made the decision that the company was going to go all in on one cloud provider and that they were going to study it and understand it inside and out.

After all, everyone on the StockCharts team is a programmer. And they were determined to get the maximum performance out of the cloud. The least common denominator was not going to fly.

The cloud they chose was AWS.

 

I decided that when we went to the cloud, we were going to approach it the same way we’d approached our own data center—study it and understand it. We're going to focus on one cloud and use all its features to the to the maximum capability.

Why F5 + AWS?

Chip’s primary objective was to migrate to the cloud as quickly as possible while maintaining the same level of security as the company did in their on-premise data center.

Because of the long-standing relationship with F5, he decided to leverage all the team’s existing knowledge of iRules and its features and bring it to AWS. Plus, F5 is available via the AWS marketplace. So that makes their lives a lot easier.

By using F5 on AWS, StockCharts.com was able to maintain both the flexibility they needed to manage their server traffic –without compromising their speed.

For example, the team can remove a particular instance from a pool immediately, with no lag time whatsoever between deleting the instance and making sure it was removed from the pool properly.

Back to the Power of iRules

StockCharts uses iRules for a number of use cases, from screening out SQL injection attacks to ensuring critical files don't leak and monitoring the rate of traffic, so they can block requests for excessive assets.

In Chip’s words: “Let's be honest. We're a Software as a Service (SaaS) website, and we communicate with our customers via HTTP.  That’s the protocol we live, eat, and breathe and the iRules is essentially an HTTP programming tool. iRules allows us to screen the website traffic. It allows us to program based on any aspect of the HTTP protocol—and that's what we do. It’s our bread and butter to see and control our HTTP traffic. Right now, iRules are the best tool I know of for doing that.”

StockCharts.com uses iRules for other everyday use cases as well, like geolocation and application routing. After all, this company is made up of developers. They want to do things in code.

StockCharts.com has been running on AWS for over a year, consuming F5 in the cloud the entire time. For them, F5 and AWS were their path of least resistance to the cloud and a scalable solution moving forward.

Even on AWS, we’re still using BIG-IP and iRules, because the same limitations on chart access apply in the cloud as they do on-premises.