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Managing network connectivity

Continental Airlines is using an Internet traffic management device to make sure its ticket booking network never goes down.

Aeronautical engineers put multiple engines on airliners for efficiency, and the safety that redundancy provides. Continental Airlines brought this concept to their ticket booking network with the help of a product called LinkProof.

Continental wanted to bring its online ticket sales in house to increase profit margins on tickets and reduce dependency on third-party service providers. The company figured this would increase the reliability and flexibility of the online ticket sales system as well.

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Radware, Mahwah, N.J., provides network hardware for IT organizations. The LinkProof Internet traffic management device is a piece of hardware that looks like a network switch, but handles multiple Internet service provider (ISP) connections to the Internet, firewall and performs virtual private network (VPN) load balancing.

"It helps assure connectivity both inbound and outbound for networks," said Manny Pollos, Radware account manager for the southwest region.

Andre Gold, technical director of Internet engineering for Continental Airlines, said the company was looking for a way to bring its ticket booking engine in house as well as add an additional ISP to increase reliability. Continental suffered three major outages over a year and a half before the roughly $60,000 Radware LinkProof implementation was complete added Gold.

"Prior to the implementation of the LinkProof product Continental was only being serviced by one ISP and we didn't have our consumer booking engine in house. Since then we have brought our booking in house actually now generating sales through our own internal infrastructure as well as procuring the services of another ISP," said Gold.

Gold said installating and configuring the Radware LinkProof device was fairly simple for his four-member IT team. The reason for this is that the Radware LinkProof device is vendor neutral, and customer installable. Gold said he couldn't have it any other way.

"We can't allow any outside vendors to install their applications or hardware within our environment, because my group will be responsible for supporting it once that vendor leaves," said Gold.

To meet its goal of creating an in house consumer ticket sales engine, Continental needed to be able to scale its environment and get away from the single ISP model.

"There's no way we could have achieved our objectives in bringing in our consumer booking engine because we would not have been able to scale our environment," said Gold.

Continental looked at products from competing vendors, but went with Radware because it was the right fit for Continental's network.

"Radware best suited our environment," added Gold.

This may be because Continental uses several other Radware components and the addition of LinkProof allows them to leverage the combined features of the products.

Gold said the benefits to Continental include complete control of its network, better reliability, and a better experience for the end users of the Continental site.

In terms of return on investment, Continental doesn't have any hard and fast numbers to report yet, but Gold says the implementation will save the company money.

"I can tell you that we significantly increased our margin by bringing our booking engine in-house, by cutting extraneous partner fees, fees that usually ran in the high teens, per ticket. With generating over $4.5 million in sales last year, these partner fees can quickly add up," said Gold.

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