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Mobilcom-debitel Replaces Apigee API Management with NGINX Plus to Reduce Complexity and Costs

NGINX Plus Frees IT from Cumbersome Deployment and Maintenance of API Management
Headquarters
Büdelsdorf, Germany
Founded
1997
Use Cases
Solutions
Overview

Mobilcom-debitel is the digital lifestyle brand of the freenet group, the largest network-independent telecommunications provider in Germany.

Challenge

To replace an incumbent, complicated API management architecture and improve API delivery pipeline performance while also reducing maintenance costs.

Results

Significant simplification of API Traffic Management

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Faster Configuration Changes

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Reduced Deployment and Maintenance Costs

Overview

Mobilcom-debitel GmbH is a wholly-owned subsidiary of freenet AG, the largest network-independent telecommunications provider in Germany. With over 12 million customers, Mobilcom operates as the “digital lifestyle” brand of the freenet group, offering a range of mobile communications and data offerings, services, and other products, such as personal cloud, MusicFlat, and SmartHome. The company also offers expert consultation for customers looking for digital lifestyle products through over 550 branded shops, in GRAVIS stores, and in a broad network of retailers and electronic markets. Many of their web-based services and consumer applications required extensive use of APIs within the mobilcom-debitel network. Unfortunately, their existing API management solution from Apigee was complicated and cumbersome, ultimately slowing down the API delivery pipeline and the connected end-user services. What’s more, Apigee was difficult to maintain, with unaudited configuration changes and high maintenance costs. Having tested NGINX in the past, mobilcom-debitel engineers were very satisfied with NGINX’s performance, flexibility, and HA capabilities. When they realized that it could replace their existing Apigee deployment and provide additional advanced features, the path forward was clear.

Apigee, although an advanced API management platform, was complex and hard to maintain. With all of its many components, it significantly slowed down our API delivery pipeline and, ultimately, reduced performance of our services.
– Felix Colaci, Enterprise Architect

Overview

Based on the recommendations of a consultant as well as their own experience with NGINX Open Source, mobilcom-debitel engineers selected NGINX Plus to solve their API traffic management challenges. There were many reasons:

  • NGINX Plus includes a host of powerful features such as service discovery (a must-have for managing traffic in microservices-based architectures) and active health checks to improve reliability.
  • The easy-to-use API for managing configurations on-the-fly (application configurations, embodied as code, can be shipped like normal software via CI/CD integration) with zero downtime. This ensures the customer experience is not impacted during any changes (which is accomplished through the NGINX reload feature) and frees IT from complicated management and maintenance efforts while also enabling mobilcom-debitel engineers to manage their own configuration.
  • By significantly reducing the complexity of the API delivery pipeline, NGINX Plus improves performance of their software delivery process.
  • The NGINX Plus support team is renowned for its technical excellence.
  • The required number of VMs decreased from 33 down to 2, and mobilcom-debitel can deploy new API endpoints without any downtime.

The mobilcom-debitel infrastructure, deployed on premises, currently consists of many different software systems built on an SOA and microservices pattern which binds them to specific business functions. On the frontend, mobilcom-debitel has deployed a number of applications used by different entities within their organization, such as sales and customer care, which call the SOA layer. The service layer consists of many different services running on Red Hat JBoss as well as Spring-based microservices.

Mobilcom-debitel has employed NGINX Plus as a reverse proxy and authentication layer on top of that SOA and microservices architecture, with two instances in production and several more in various testing and staging environments. In combination with an internal identity provider framework (OAuth/OpenID Connect), NGINX Plus is responsible for the authorization of incoming HTTP requests as well as load balancing of internal services. For monitoring purposes, the NGINX Plus deployment is connected to an Elasticsearch/Logstash/Kibana (ELK) stack through which mobilcom-debitel engineers have visibility into all the metrics essential for the management of the API delivery pipeline.

NGINX Plus has significantly improved the overall efficiency of our API delivery pipeline as well as removing several software components from the overall architecture. It’s now easier for us to manage, scale, and configure the underlying platform we use to direct API traffic and respond to application requests.
– Felix Colaci, Enterprise Architect

Results

Significant Improvement in the API Delivery Pipeline

The existing Apigee API management solution was complicated, requiring multiple components (two different database clusters, a message broker, and a router) for operation. When an API request was handled by Apigee, it had to touch many of those components, all of which increased the response round-trip time. NGINX Plus removed all of the extraneous Apigee components and connected with existing change-management systems. The NGINX Plus solution significantly improved the overall performance of the API delivery pipeline by radically reducing maintenance time, improving API round-trip time, and providing visibility into API performance statistics as part of a holistic view into the entire infrastructure.

Fast Configuration Changes

Apigee was managed with a complex GUI which someone had to touch for every configuration change. Furthermore, without support for change auditing, it was sometimes difficult to determine when a configuration change was made. NGINX Plus eliminated these problems by storing all of the configurations in version control. First, the CI/CD integration made it easy for mobilcom-debitel engineers to deploy configuration modifications without any downtime by packaging configurations as code and shipping like normal software (that could be deployed with the NGINX reload feature). Second, because NGINX Plus connects with existing CI/CD pipelines and change-management systems, it became far simpler to manage each instance with existing tools.

Reduced Deployment and Maintenance Costs

By replacing the existing Apigee deployment with NGINX Plus, mobilcom-debitel reduced production deployment from 33 VMs to just 2 and slashed overall maintenance costs by 60%. They also no longer needed half a resource just to maintain Apigee. Finally, because of the simplicity and maintenance and deployment, mobilcom-debitel engineers could also deploy new API endpoints without any downtime.

About

Mobilcom-debitel GmbH is a wholly-owned subsidiary of freenet AG, the largest network-independent telecommunications provider in Germany.