Web Server Load Balancing with NGINX Plus


Scaling to Five Times More Data for a Fraction of the Cost
New York, New York
Use Cases

IgnitionOne's Customer Intelligence Platform helps marketers identify, understand, and value their customers, and engage them with real‑time personalized messages.


Needed a new solution that could load balance SSL/TLS traffic, deliver ultra‑fast speed, incur sub‑millisecond latency, and be highly cost‑effective.


Hardware to software icon

Replaced F5 BIG-IP with NGINX Plus and Commodity Hardware

Can Handle 5x More Traffic than F5 BIG-IP

Cost Cutting icon

Massive Savings – 1/100th the Cost of F5 BIG-IP


IgnitionOne is a customer intelligence platform that helps make life for marketers easier and allows them to more effectively engage with customers. Their integrated digital marketing suite (DMS) empowers marketers to buy, manage, and optimize digital media across search, display, social, and mobile platforms as well as understand clients through data management and cross‑channel attribution.


Business is booming at IgnitionOne, as companies increasingly shift their advertising budgets from traditional outlets to digital media. IgnitionOne provides a cloud‑based digital marketing suite that brings together the most important pieces of a marketing campaign on a single platform. Its customers rely on the company to help them manage and optimize digital marketing across multiple channels, including search, social media, website interactions, and more.

A key component of IgnitionOne’s marketing platform supports real‑time bidding (RTB) for digital advertising. RTB requires a lot of technologies, applications, and data centers working behind the scenes to process the huge amounts of data required to execute the right bids at the right time. There’s a constant, very high volume of user data streaming to IgnitionOne from sources like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.

Until recently, IgnitionOne had relied on hardware load balancers to handle incoming data. But rapid growth in digital marketing and the amount of traffic that comes with it quickly made hardware‑based solutions too costly.

Because we are dealing with a firehose of data from sources like Microsoft, Facebook, and Google, we needed to come up with a different solution in order to process that amount of traffic. Traditional hardware load balancers are expensive, and they lacked the flexibility and scale we needed.
– AJ Wilson, Vice President of Operations at IgnitionOne


The team at IgnitionOne looked at different ways of processing the high volume of traffic. One option was to build their own load balancer, but developing it would require a significant time commitment. Hardware load balancers had already been ruled out for RTB traffic because of their high cost. Some potential software‑based load balancers were ruled out because they couldn’t scale to handle the amount and bursts of traffic that would be coming in. IgnitionOne needed a new solution that could load balance SSL/TLS traffic, deliver ultra‑fast speed, incur sub‑millisecond latency, and be highly cost‑effective. IgnitionOne didn’t want to have to continuously add hardware to keep pace with growth.

“We found our answer in NGINX Plus,” says AJ Wilson, Vice President of Operations at IgnitionOne. “When we tested NGINX Plus, we were testing a very high volume of traffic and our servers barely even noticed the load. That gave us confidence that we’d be able to deliver with NGINX Plus. We’ve been using it for over a year, and it’s been successful. Ultimately NGINX Plus won on price, performance, and being able to scale enough to handle the load we’re talking about.”

NGINX powers the majority of the world’s busiest websites, delivering their content and applications with performance, reliability, security, and scale. NGINX Plus provides a complete, software‑based application delivery platform at a fraction of the cost of hardware solutions. NGINX Plus has the load‑balancing features, performance, and control IgnitionOne needs to manage high volumes of incoming data.

IgnitionOne uses NGINX Plus to load balance traffic for its RTB application, which is built with Java, memcached, and Aerospike. The team has deployed NGINX Plus instances in redundant pairs in both of its US data centers. There are two active‑passive pairs of NGINX Plus instances running on bare metal in each data center, for a total of eight instances. IgnitionOne is also in the process of rolling out the same NGINX Plus setup in its Amsterdam and Hong Kong data centers.

Image of IgnitionOne dashboard NGINX Plus SSL/TLS traffic load balancing for it's RTB application built with Java, memcached, and Aerospike


High‑Speed Load Balancing With Low Latency

Load‑balancing speed is paramount at IgnitionOne. For RTB, reducing latency at every point in the process is critical. NGINX Plus enables IgnitionOne to process data as quickly as possible.

“Facebook and others have rules that state each transaction is only allowed 100 milliseconds end-to-end to process the data and deliver the bid,” explains Wilson. “The faster we can bid, the more bids we can process, the more users we can win, and therefore create better outcomes for our customers. Because every step along the way – the network, DNS, operating systems, load balancers – adds latency, our job on the infrastructure side is to optimize as much as we can so that the application has time to do the lookups and calculations that it needs to do behind the scenes. With NGINX Plus, we get minimal latency for maximum analysis time.”

Scaling with Confidence to Half a Million Requests Per Second

The recognized leader in high‑performance application delivery, NGINX Plus is easily handling IgnitionOne’s “firehose” of incoming, real‑time data, which can reach 500,000 user requests per second over HTTP and HTTPS connections. IgnitionOne uses NGINX Plus to spread the load across 1000 web servers running the open source NGINX software, with each server processing 300 to 600 requests per second.

We selected NGINX Plus because it can scale enough to handle the load that we’re talking about, giving us confidence that we can deliver with the solution. With NGINX Plus, we’re able to process four to five times the volume that we were processing in the past with our hardware load balancers. Although 500,000 requests per second is what we’re handling with NGINX Plus today, we’re looking to triple that in 2016. We’re confident we can continue to scale easily with NGINX Plus.
– AJ Wilson, Vice President of Operations at IgnitionOne
Just A Fraction of Previous Costs

As a complete software solution, the cost of NGINX Plus is far lower than legacy hardware load balancers and application delivery appliances. In the past, IgnitionOne had to keep adding more and larger hardware load balancers, which came with numerous features and capabilities that the company had to pay for but didn’t need or use.

“With NGINX Plus, we’re getting massive scale and performance, while also containing costs,” says Wilson. “We’re currently processing four to five times the volume that we were processing in the past, and we’re able to do that for 1/20th or even 1/100th of the cost of hardware load balancers.”

And because NGINX Plus is a software load balancer, IgnitionOne can install it on commodity hardware. The IgnitionOne team runs NGINX Plus on bare‑metal HP servers with Intel processors and 10‑Gbps network cards, with none of the limitations on throughput or connections imposed by hardware load balancer licenses. Using existing hardware and off-the-shelf commodity hardware, IgnitionOne is greatly reducing capital costs.

Expert Advice Leads to Quick and Impressive Results

IgnitionOne got up and running with NGINX Plus in just a few weeks, and used NGINX Professional Services to help. Experts from NGINX Professional Services helped IgnitionOne install NGINX Plus and customize the configuration for exactly its traffic profile. Taking advantage of the award‑winning technical support that comes with an NGINX Plus subscription, IgnitionOne has worked with the NGINX Plus support team over the past year to make even more optimizations.

“With the expert advice from the NGINX team, we are able to reduce load on our servers and improve latency at same time. It has been really nice to have the NGINX team’s rubber stamp on our configuration and setup, and to have access to experts throughout the process,” says Wilson. “We’re happy with our choice of NGINX Plus and how it performs for us.”

IgnitionOne image for NGINX Plus case study – NGINX used for SSL/TLS traffic load balancing

About IgnitionOne

IgnitionOne simplifies life for marketers, providing deeper insights and robust targeting of individuals through the use of proprietary engagement scoring and integrated marketing and advertising solutions. The IgnitionOne DMS is a full‑featured digital marketing hub which significantly improves performance across all devices and channels. IgnitionOne allows marketers to better understand their customers and activate personalized 1:1 messaging across search, display, social, mobile, email, and website personalization. With a global footprint of over 450 employees in 17 offices across 10 countries, IgnitionOne is one of the largest independent marketing technology companies in the world. IgnitionOne currently scores over 300 million users monthly in 75 countries and powers more than $60 billion in revenue each year for leading brands, including Bridgestone, CenturyLink, Fiat, General Motors, and La Quinta, and as well as advertising agencies such as 360i, GroupM, and iProspect. For more information, visit IgnitionOne.