NetScaler Helps Solucient Save Servers

Specialized switches that speed up and secure data-center traffic are becoming a hot commodity, as ballooning Internet traffic stretches the limits of Web servers.

Take healthcare application service provider Solucient LLC. The Evanston, Ill., company runs the largest healthcare database in the U.S. Its database is used by more than 3,000 hospitals, as well as 18 of the 20 largest pharmaceutical manufacturers in the U.S.

The company says it recently boosted server performance by up to 25 percent by using integrated application switches from NetScaler Inc.

Solucient uses two NetScaler 9000 Series switches, one to load-balance IP traffic against five Web servers and one as a backup. The switches also redirect users to specific Web pages.

"By using load balancing, we can use medium-sized Web servers, as opposed to large Web servers," says Dennis Horn, network manager at Solucient. "This reduces our [costs] tremendously."

The switches enable Solucient to make changes to its servers without taking its customers offline. "We are on our third version of the product in two years, and it has yet to act as a single point of failure," Horn says.

The switches are also contributing to Solucient's work around the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which aims to enforce a single set of electronic security standards across the healthcare industry. "They have security features that can prevent denial-of-service attacks," Horn blows, "allowing us a level of protection in addition to our firewall."

Interestingly, as happy as Solucient is, NetScaler was not its initial choice. Two years ago, it acquired GE Medical's PEERnext healthcare database, which made use of NetScaler switches.

Solucient's previous vendor of choice had been F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV). "The NetScaler switch had more features on a single appliance than the F5 product that we had at that time," Horn says. F5 declined to comment.

This isn't the first time F5 and NetScaler have butted heads. The two launched into Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) at about the same time and settled a patent tiff this year as well (see NetScaler Adds SSL to VPN, F5 Buys Into SSL VPNs, and F5, NetScaler Settle Patent Dispute).

Solucient is now looking at NetScaler's virtual private networking (VPN) capabilities to help it make the move from IP Security (IPSec) VPN technology to SSL VPNs. However, the company admits this change may not come until sometime in 2005.

SSL VPNs allow secure access to corporate networks from virtually any Web browser, on any device, from anywhere. They're attracting more attention now because, unlike IPSec VPNs, they avoid the need for changes and complex configurations on client machines.

This month, Light Reading and Network Test found that a single SSL VPN gateway can support anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of concurrent users. In a groundbreaking report, "SSL VPNs: Access Anywhere, Anytime," Network Test president David Newman tested SSL VPN gateways from several different vendors to see if they could scale up to meet the demands of enterprise networks (see Shocking Results in LR's SSL VPN Test).

NetScaler was put through the paces in that test, along with Array Networks Inc., Aventail Corp., NetScreen Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: NSCN), Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC), Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT), PortWise AB, and Whale Communications Ltd.

To view the archived Webinar based on the test report, click here.

— The Staff, Light Reading

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