Finance host FNZ opts for wall-to-wall F5

F5's technologies have simplified the task of maintaining high reliability of sites across various continents during a period of rapid expansion, says IT manager

Wellington-based financial hosting company FNZ is claiming success from using a technology platform and other specialist products from F5 Networks.

FNZ operates a third-party, online accounts management service, known as a “wrap platform” that enables investors and brokers to manage an entire portfolio through a single portal.

The platform operates via a software-as-a-service model hosted on the company’s own datacentres.

The service includes all the software and hosting, plus back-end trading and settlement, with customers including the Bank of New Zealand and the UK-based Standard Life.

FNZ previously used a solution it developed itself when the company was part of investment bank and brokerage house First NZ Capital.

The division was then spun off as an outsourced service provider, offering its wrap service to other financial institutions. FNZ started winning those customers and now employs 180 staff with offices in Wellington, Edinburgh, Bristol and London.

However, this meant the existing Windows load balancing solution was not robust enough for growing custom, says IT manager Neil Manning.

A routine security audit also revealed vulnerabilities on the websites FNZ was creating for its customers.

Manning installed F5’s BIG-IP Application Security Module (ASM), a web application firewall that keeps all but anticipated and authorised internet transactions outside a company’s defensive perimenter. BIG-IP also offered better load balancing.

“Since then, we have implemented other F5 products, Global Traffic Manager [for dynamic DNS between our datacentres], Link Controller [for redundant ISP links at our primary site].

“We were the first company in the AsiaPac region to implement F5’s Trafficshield product [now ASM] to protect our websites,” he told Computerworld.

“Firepass is used for all our remote access requirements and recently we implemented Wanjet for encrypting and optimising our WAN links.”

Together, these technologies have simplified the task or maintaining high reliability of the sites across the various continents during a period of rapid expansion, he says.

The ASM product also meant none of the previous security weaknesses showed up during the next security audit.

ASM’s transaction logs also exposed threats that would otherwise be difficult to see, helping FNZ identify and block potential hackers before they could damage the company’s sites. Implementing F5’s iRules to force the browsers to cache images locally also enabled compression to speed up the site access.

“The biggest challenge we faced was the lack of local knowledge of the newer F5 technologies we implemented. Thankfully, F5 brought out their engineers and implementation specialists from Australia and Israel for the Trafficshield implementation,” he says.

Manning says it is essential for IT managers to understand their requirements and to plan and concentrate on implementing the basics first, before slowly adding other features.

“This ‘baby steps’ approach has been key to our success,” he says.

Michael Dodds, F5 New Zealand regional sales manager, says FNZ is “a very innovative company” using all of F5’s products.

Other New Zealand users include Telecom New Zealand and various government departments, he says.

Typically, they use BIG-IP for application delivery and Firepass to let people connect to their corporate LAN and provide security around it.

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Tags F5 Networksfnzsoftware-as-a-service

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