April 11, 2017. Business NextGen Data Centre Author: Marcus Burrows

Is your shopping cart empty or full?

Have you ever shopped online, filled the shopping basket and gone to the checkout? How is it that sometimes you can open a different web browser and the items are still in the basket? Or on other sites, changing your browser means that the basket is empty and you have to start all over again? Studying F5 BIG-IP has been an eye-opener for me in how intelligent decisions are taken to assist web users and keep things running smoothly for the online store. 

Behind your online shopping request there’s a lot going on. For a large online retailer like Amazon, there is a huge number of web servers to field all the requests from end users.

The main component of BIG-IP is a product called Local Traffic Manager (LTM). What LTM can do is take the web traffic (let’s say your online order) and forward that request to the web server it thinks is the best choice. 

Online Shopping

Let’s say you want your shopping cart to persist across web browser sessions. You also want the shopping to be only in UK English and you want the website to always work and always be fast. LTM understands all of this and will field your online shopping requests to the best web server for you. So how does it manage this?

When you browse a web page, your browser sends extra information in the background, including language preference. Your shopping request will also send other information such as your credentials. LTM can open up each web page request and inspect it. It can see who the request is from (reading your credentials) and what the language preference is. LTM keeps track of which web servers understand UK English and which specific server has been dealing with you before. It can then forward your request to the right server.

In addition to all of this, it continually monitors the web servers to see if they are online, offline or just performing slowly – and then rebalances the user requests to the most appropriate servers.

Online shopping

Finally, imagine the complexities of a large online shopping site that deals with millions of requests, many different languages and may have a huge array of web servers to forward to (some of which are new and fast, others are running on slower hardware). LTM can load balance all the user requests based on almost any criteria the administrator decides upon. The end result is that you, as the shopper, can buy your goods in the right language, across browser sessions and assume (we all do it) that the web server will always be up and running.

When combined with other security and remote access components BIG-IP provides a one-stop shop for security, load-balancing and single sign-on.


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