Certona relies on NetScaler to deliver SaaS-based shopping intelligence
Certona, the leader in personalization and revenue optimization for online and multi-channel retailers, is trusted by over 250 top ecommerce sites generating over $20 billion online in 2009.
Certona’s Resonance® Personalization Platform helps guide the discovery and shopping process by turning hit-or-miss shopping interactions into highly personalized experiences and tailoring each customer visit to that unique individual.
Resonance SaaS solutions automate a retailer’s ability to provide real-time, targeted product recommendations and content across all customer touchpoints from web, e-mail, mobile, call center and more. By leveraging real-time shopping behavior, individualized profiling and dynamic merchandising, Resonance selects the products that match each visitor’s unique interests and delivers them automatically at the right time to the right channel.
The challenge – Provide efficient content switching for high volume SaaS solution
Certona’s Resonance service needs to quickly decide from which customer the incoming request is being received, what Certona services that customer has, and to which pool of servers and applications to send the request—all without manual involvement and consuming as little computing power as possible.
After successfully launching the Resonance service in early 2005, Certona’s business quickly grew, and they began adding larger customers that required a scalable infrastructure. As a result, Certona began looking for a more sophisticated solution to drive internal traffic efficiently and control costs.
“We really needed something that would let us manage our resources in a very fine grain way,” said Geoff Hueter, CTO of Certona. “Our situation is such that different sets of our customers need to use different application services. What we mostly needed was the ability to do application switching, in order to route different customers to our different application servers.”
Certona began to look at intelligent layer 7 content switching solutions. Layer 7 functionality would allow Certona to route web page requests from individual customer to specific application resources designated for a particular e-commerce customer. This intelligent routing of customer requests enabled Certona to scale its SaaS solution cost-effectively and ensure the availability and performance of their service. However, Certona found most of the existing layer 7 switching solutions to be too resource intensive and not user-friendly. “We needed a solution that would take all incoming traffic, organize it and send it to where it needed to go without using up a lot of system resources,” said Dane Ruyle, director of IT Operations at Certona. “We looked at several other products but they just didn’t have the capabilities we required.”
Another Certona requirement was usability. With a SaaS operations group combining traditional network engineers with product development support staff, they were looking for a simple and flexible tool that didn’t require the costly training and retraining needed to manage a traditional networking device.
In the end, Certona selected Citrix® NetScaler® for its high-performance layer 7 functionality and its superior ease of use.
Citrix NetScaler layer 7 functionality proves to be the answer
At the heart of each NetScaler system is the AppExpert Policy Engine, a patented technology that enables a high-performance and highly flexible and extensible layer 7 feature set. Through intelligent traffic management methods utilizing advanced load balancing algorithms, layer 7 content switching, and server health checks extending to the application layer, NetScaler inspects the entire URL and uses HTTP request header information to route each request to the proper application server.
“Today, we’re able to provide a single point of integration for all our customers’ traffic, and we’re able to parse that out on our backend, which gives us complete control over the resources consumed by each customer site,” said Dr. Hueter. “NetScaler not only helps run our business at the core, it enables us to maximize our server resources and lower costs.”
Ease of use was a deciding factor
The ease of the NetScaler AppExpert user interface has also been critical to scaling Certona’s business.
“Key for us is NetScaler’s usability, the ability to do what we needed to do in terms of managing our load through a simple-to-manage tool. NetScaler enables us to grow without a dedicated networking staff,” said Ruyle. “We don’t need someone with specialized networking expertise in order to manage our NetScalers. We can use the GUI to get things up and running in a matter of minutes, which is invaluable to our business.”
Hueter added, “Really, we can’t overstate how useful NetScaler is to us. It makes things manageable by fewer staff because the usability of the interface itself is straightforward and visible in terms of how to use it.” Certona estimates it would have to increase its IT staff if it didn’t have NetScaler at the core of its IT infrastructure.
Load balancing provides always-on service
NetScaler load balancing capabilities have also proven beneficial to Certona. “Our base challenge,” said Hueter, “is to be online all the time. Our customers expect us to be up one hundred percent. We’re proud to say that our service availability is actually better than that of our largest customers. NetScaler is a big part of that.”
Into the future
As enthusiastic as Certona is to describe how essential NetScaler is to its business, it has barely scratched the surface of what NetScaler can do. “There is a rich set of features that we anticipate using in the near future,” said Ruyle. “We expect that as we take full advantage of our NetScaler investment, we’ll further improve our service.”