With a combined total of more than 34 million customers, WEB.DE and GMX are Germany’s largest email providers. By partnering with F5, the companies were able to ensure applications like incoming and outgoing email, the web portal, cloud storage and Online Office worked seamlessly and were highly scalable.
WEB.DE is one of the leading Internet portals in Germany. According to the German Association of Online Research (AGOF), 21.8 million people use WEB.DE mail or cloud services, its editorial pages and its search engine every month, with an increasing number accessing the portal via their mobile devices. The convenient online storage platform provides a secure place to store personal documents, photos, music and videos in the cloud. Through De-Mail, WEB.DE enables legally binding communication over the Internet. As a 1&1 Mail & Media GmbH brand, WEB.DE is a founding member of the INTERNET MADE IN GERMANY initiative for high product quality with German security and privacy standards.
With more than 20 years of expertise in Internet communication, freemail pioneer GMX (Global Message Exchange) is now one of the most successful German-language communication services on the web. GMX offers powerful, innovative mail and messaging solutions for consumer and business customers . Built into the highly varied GMX Germany, GMX Austria and GMX Switzerland portals with their country-specific content and information, communication, shopping, entertainment & lifestyle services, GMX is the digital home base for more than 15 million Internet users.
“As the umbrella company of GMX and WEB.DE, we decided a few years ago to introduce Kubernetes-based container applications due to the dynamic evolution of the IT market and the ever-changing requirements and expectations of our customers,” said Dr. Sascha Mühlbach, Expert Infrastructure Architect at 1&1 Mail & Media GmbH. “Leaner processes then allowed us to speed up product development and optimize operational management. Because we run a large environment, we need things to be custom-developed to ensure the necessary scalability. Often we can only achieve this using open platforms.”
GMX and WEB.DE also use commercial applications to optimize their proprietary solutions developed with open-source software. However, these applications must integrate seamlessly into the open-source environment and facilitate high scalability —both of which are enabled by F5 products. WEB.DE and GMX are already using the F5 BIG-IP platform in their existing environment, including BIG-IP i10800 with ATM (Application Traffic Management) module for load balancing.
To ensure the BIG-IP platform integrates seamlessly into the WEB.DE and GMX Kubernetes environment, F5’s Container Ingress Services is used with the Application Delivery Controller at the outer edge. This open-source solution allows developers and system teams to manage Ingress HTTP routing, load balancing and application services. It can be used in native container environments like Kubernetes as well as with PaaS container management systems such as RedHat and OpenShift. To speed up product launches, Container Ingress Controller also offers integrated automation of application performance, routing and security services during development.
“Integrating Kubernetes, Container Ingress Services and BIG-IP provides with us numerous benefits,” says Dr Sascha Mühlbach. “They meet our requirements in terms of scalability, reliability, redundancy and ease of administration through a fully automated processes. With these increased efficiencies, we can take new applications from prototypes to the production environment within a few days –not just for a handful of apps, but for all future solutions that we offer our customers.”
The F5 Container Ingress Controller for Kubernetes offers highly scalable, declarative administration of F5 BIG-IP, enabling faster development through fully automated processes without manual interaction, programmatic error reduction, and extensibility.
The Kubernetes platform is currently used for several microservices on the WEB.DE and GMX portals, as well as spam filtering and Online Office delivery. Additional applications and microservices for customers are expected to follow in the future, with a team of 400 people managing more than 1,000 software artefacts. But even now, the scale of the project is impressive -- the current environment alone comprises several hundred physical servers.
Holding a joint market share of around 50 percent, GMX (25.4%) and WEB.DE (24.8%) are Germany’s largest email providers. With a combined total of over 30 million users, around a billion emails per week are categorized as spam and either deleted or delivered to mailbox spam folders. This is reliably and efficiently supported by the current environment together with the F5 platform. At the same time, a high level of IT security is guaranteed. Due to Europe’s strict data protection requirements, the WEB.DE and GMX solution is run exclusively at in-house data centers rather than external cloud providers.
Although GMX and WEB.DE previously used a large number of servers and virtual machines to run their mail services, container architecture has significantly streamlined the management process. In the past, every update had to be installed on several hundred machines used for the spam scanners, which often took the entire day. With F5 and Kubernetes, automation has streamlined the process to less than one hour, considerably lower operating costs.
“Because our customers expect around-the-clock availability and high performance from the mail services, these requirements are the top priority. High security and new features are also very important. The F5 products facilitate this through their open architecture. The F5 team also provides good support and are always available to answer questions,” said Dr. Sascha Mühlbach.
With the new solution in place, the team is now able to deliver new products to customers at a faster pace. Microservices and containers make it possible to modify the individual components of applications and quickly launch new versions of existing products, which makes the offerings more attractive to customers.
“The F5 platform has been running smoothly and reliably in our operational landscape for years now,” said Dr. Sascha Mühlbach. “The BIG-IP solution guarantees high security and efficient load balancing, while Container Ingress Controller ensures seamless integration into our Kubernetes environment. Our team benefits from faster processes, greater automation and streamlined application management, allowing our team to concentrate on designing and developing new solutions. This means our customers have access to attractive products more frequently, all thanks to the interaction of F5 and Kubernetes.”