Cloud provider and big data specialist The unbelievable Machine Company (*um) from Berlin guarantees high performance and security. Using the latest technologies, a wide expertise, and maximum flexibility, *um can manage the individual and sophisticated needs of its customers—aspiring Internet start-ups and large corporations. In this way *um provides its customers with competitive advantages.
When *um was founded in 2008, the concept of cloud computing was still relatively unknown in Germany. Since then, *um began providing its customers with professional web apps, including managed services, 24 hours a day and conforming to the highest security standards. From the very beginning, *um has focused on providing its customers with fully purpose-built solutions that fulfill the most stringent security and process standards across the entire application architecture. Indeed, *um’s products and services achieved ISO 27001 certification within its first year of business.
“Application delivery was a key element in achieving this,” says Mario Apitz, director of operations at The unbelievable Machine Company. “Back then, there was already a big market for load balancing and web application security, served by a plethora of providers. In terms of quality, F5 really stood out from the crowd. We chose F5 because of the high quality of their software, the user-friendly interface, and efficient device manageability.”
Just like F5, *um also focuses on providing quality services. This is why the company also felt that the products and services of F5 best met their needs. The Internet service provider (ISP) does not offer standard products, but creates tailored solutions with the objective of achieving 100 percent satisfaction of its customers’ individual demands.
For *um, it is absolutely essential to guarantee a high level of security for its cloud solutions. Although, in purely physical terms, one competing product provided higher throughput rates and packet counts, F5 products offered much smarter connection handling. Due to superior session-handling efficiency, the BIG-IP platform ultimately offers much better performance, all around, in daily operations.
“The most important benefits of F5 solutions for our customers were initially in the areas of security and availability. Over time, further benefits were added. It is also possible to automate processes quickly and put them into a high-performance deployment without interruption,” says Apitz.
*um has continuously expanded the F5 solutions it deploys to respond to both steady growth in its customer base and increasing customer requirements. *um now deploys almost 10 F5 appliance clusters. Where required, the appliances can be dedicated to one specific customer or serve several customers via shared appliances.
*um now uses F5 BIG-IP 3600, BIG-IP 3900, BIG-IP 2000, and BIG-IP 4000 appliances for a range of deployment scenarios. Additionally, the ISP deploys F5’s BIG-IP Application Security Manager (ASM), BIG-IP Application Policy Manager (APM), and BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM) to further enhance security in a range of solution scenarios.
“Our decision to use F5 fell due to high software quality, a user-friendly interface, and the efficient manageability of the device,” says Apitz.
Large corporations (high-end, mid-sized companies and corporate groups) are particularly attracted to BIG-IP ASM’s security capabilities. It was used at an early stage in one customer scenario in which *um managed a platform for a customer holding a large volume of personally identifiable information. Via a dedicated layer, BIG-IP ASM—regardless of code security—allows a uniform security mechanism to be applied to the entire platform.
Apitz says, “The core approach of our company is to design, build, and operate web applications, web portals, and web technologies in general. We are one of the few German service providers on the market whose managed services are certified to PCI DSS Level 1. BIG-IP ASM enables us to process credit card transactions. Naturally, this requires mitigating risks to the greatest possible extent, because severe damage could result were data to become compromised.”
In addition to the security capabilities, *um also uses F5 solutions in other areas such as DNS and MySQL load balancing. Load balancing at the MySQL level is not very common, because competitors normally distribute workloads at the operating system level to guarantee maximum availability of the database systems. The advantage of the *um approach is that a high availability function can be positioned at a central point in the application infrastructure, enabling rapid switching between the MySQL servers.
“We see F5 iRules as a core functionality,” explains Apitz. “It is a type of scripting language that intercepts all queries to the load balancer. This allows decisions to be taken through the Application Delivery Controller, such as when displaying error pages. But it also enables smart redirects, such as for landing pages that are indexed in search machines. Indeed, we have already performed thousands of centralized redirects for a whole host of portals.”
Besides ensuring a high level of performance, F5 solutions also combine excellent security, compliance, availability, automation, and support for bimodal operation concepts in a user-friendly environment.
Through BIG-IP appliances, *um is also able to provide services for customers with a high volume of web-based traffic, allowing for bandwidths of multiples of 10 Gbps. “For example, one customer receives more than 60,000 simultaneous requests per second,” reports Apitz. “High-performance, optimized hardware appliances are absolutely essential for professional operations.”
BIG-IP Application Security Manager also ensures a high level of security, guaranteeing peerless protection against the most common threats and zero-day attacks as well as enabling the patching of vulnerabilities in applications. Security measures implemented to counteract layer 7 distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks—along with up-to-date detection and defense technology, virtual patching, and exposure of granular attacks—thwart even the most intelligent of threats before they reach the server. Additionally, *um has the flexibility it needs to install web application firewall (WAF) services close to apps and to protect them wherever they reside.
BIG-IP Access Policy Manager (APM) monitors access to applications, data, networks, and cloud applications on the basis of user identity and context—centralized, at any time, and from any location. This gives *um complete control over user access to individual systems and devices, as well as the circumstances in which they can be used. It also ensures that the company adheres to its security and compliance policies. In addition, BIG-IP ASM provides compliance with important regulatory standards such as HIPAA and PCI DSS.
The clear, user-friendly management of F5 solutions has always been a key criterion for *um. At the same time, the products have matured with every new version, with support for configuration via API offered for some time now. Most importantly, the local traffic management and application security capabilities have been successively expanded. “F5 still has the best product maturity and the most detailed feature set,” comments Apitz. “These are very clear advantages.”