Healthwise enhances Hybrid IT strategy

Reliability, performance and powerful scripting tools help leading non-profit organization deliver mission critical applications 24/7.

Healthwise has successfully deployed Pulse Secure virtual Application Delivery Controller (vADC), to improve the performance and reliability of its web applications within Microsoft’s Azure cloud.

Healthwise, a provider of health content and patient education, selected Pulse Secure vADC to deliver application-aware optimization for its virtualised development and application environments that are rapidly moving to the cloud as part of a hybrid IT strategy.

Healthwise is a non-profit organization with a mission to help people make better health decisions. People have turned to Healthwise information more than 2 billion times to learn how to do more for themselves, ask for the care they need, and say “no” to the care they don’t need. Healthwise partners with hospitals, electronic medical record (EMR) providers, health plans, care management companies, and health websites to provide up-to-date, evidence-based information to the people they serve.

Information technology plays a critical role in delivering on the Healthwise mission. Healthwise develops and maintains around 50 custom applications which have been recently migrated to the Microsoft Azure cloud environment to leverage platform as a service benefits that improve operational efficiency and drive down costs.

“We work with partners that rely on our information 24 hours a day, all across the world, and as such our IT systems need to be incredibly reliable and able to scale when needed,” explains Mark Studer, Director IT Operations at Healthwise.

“We develop a lot of apps inhouse and moving to Microsoft Azure offered us many advantages in terms of security, reliability and an ability to rapidly deploy new infrastructure. However, we recognized that to gain additional automation and optimize our application delivery, we needed a more powerful Application Delivery Controller. Our prior successful on-premise experience with Pulse Secure vADC made it the natural choice.”

Healthwise has deployed several virtualized application clusters on Microsoft Azure with each instance controlled by a Pulse Secure vADC appliance which provides load balancing, and SSL/TLS offload with HTTP optimization to improve application performance.

“Pulse Secure vADC provides incredible reliability and as we add new apps each month, the platform has proven easy to configure and we have never had any issues,” explains Studer. “Where it really excels is in its Layer-7 Scripting capability and APIs that have allowed us to increase our level of automation and carry out more complex projects.”

Studer highlights three examples; the first is when his team built its own real-time monitoring tool using the APIs that allowed it to integrate with their existing monitoring and alerting platform to display high level network and applications metrics in a single view that would traditionally have required manually gathering reports from multiple systems.

In another example, the scripting helped Healthwise to manage the upgrade process from the unsecure TLS 1.0 to the newer TLS 1.2 standard for partners that connect to its applications. “We created a simple script that allowed us to log the protocol and cipher information for each request. This allowed us to build an interactive dashboard to display how each customer was connecting to us allowing our support teams to reach out proactively to each partner to prompt them to upgrade,” he explains.

The third example is the use of scripts to secure applications in the event of a newly discovered vulnerability. “If a vulnerability is discovered before a software vendor has issued a patch, in the past, we have used the scripting capability to isolate any third-party components that are at risk.”

With more of its development workloads and applications moving onto Azure, Studer believes its choice of Pulse Secure vADC has proven a beneficial investment, “It has never let us down and we are increasingly using its features to automate our deployment processes as part of our DevOps approach to application development.”

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