Trade Me rolls out network control

Trade Me needed scalability to meet growing traffic demands, says head of infrastructure

Online auction site Trade Me has rolled out an application control system to manage the demands of its growing user base.

Network traffic to the site grew 61% last year, says David Wasley, Trade Me’s head of infrastructure. With more than two million registered members, and more than four million visitors to its site every month, Trade Me needed a solution that could scale to meet growing demands, he says.

After evaluating different solutions in September last year, Trade Me decided to go for global application delivery networking provider F5 Networks and its VIPRION Application Delivery Controllers. The systems were implemented in November last year.

Trade Me chose F5 mainly because of the flexibility the products offered for managing network traffic, its built-in iRules scripting language and its scalability, he says.

“We can just add blades and increase performance as things grow.”

The iRules scripting language enables Wasley and his team to customise the interception, inspection and direction of inbound or outbound application traffic.

Wasley was “sold on iRules”, he says. The scripting language allows Trade Me to directly manipulate and manage IP application traffic, on a per-ISP basis, he says, and this has already helped the organisation avoid a costly outage. Within three days of deployment, an issue arose — an ISP had problems hitting Trade Me’s Wellington datacentre. In the past, this would have led to interruptions or even an outage for users. However, the team solved the problem by implementing a rule on the fly, says Wasley. It was able to re-route traffic from that particular ISP and point it to Trade Me’s Auckland datacentre.

“In the past, we were not able to do that. We had to move all traffic to one site, now we can be more granular,” he says.

Trade Me is also using the F5 systems to offload its compression, SSL and image caching functions from its web servers and on to the network layer. This has reduced CPU usage on the servers by 25%, cutting down Trade Me’s operating costs and potentially its carbon footprint as well, says Wasley.

The increased capacity on the web servers means that Trade Me’s developers can add more features to the site, without Wasley having to be concerned about running out of CPU and memory, he says. And should Trade Me move into “something that is video-intensive” in the future, the system will be able to support that as well, he says.

The move from the servers to the network didn’t initially give Trade Me the performance levels it was looking for, but F5 was quick to respond and address the issue, says Wasley.

Trade Me is already carbon-neutral, but is looking for ways to further help its green IT strategy along. Wasley will look into using F5’s control system to shut down servers during times of low load, for example in the middle of the night, he says.

Trade Me has also implemented F5’s BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager, Global Traffic Manager, and Application Security Manager solutions to secure and deliver its applications. Trade Me operates from datacentres in Auckland and Wellington, and the BIG-IP Global Traffic Manager routes web users to the datacentre that is closest.

— Trade Me is owned by Computerworld’s publisher Fairfax.

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