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Harvard Med School has Network Traffic Cop

Like most professional schools, Harvard Medical School’s relationships extend far beyond its ivy-covered buildings. With hundreds of medical, dental, and doctoral students, and 15,000 faculty, medical residents, and fellows spread across 18 affiliated hospitals and institutions, Harvard has a vested interest in maintaining a working network that links all of its affiliates.

Harvard’s eCommons Web portal is the medical school’s gateway and provides access to such services as the digital library and
e-curriculum resources. To protect the portal, HMS already had firewalls in place. However, there was no solution in place to prevent a halt in service should a firewall fail. Determined to keep the portal running with no downtime, the school’s technology administrators decided to install high-availability software. The product they chose, Rainfinity Inc.’s RainWall, is designed to enhance security and provide protection from single points of failure.

The high-availability software resides on the same gateway as the firewall and virtual private network software and detects failures in both hardware and software components, including itself. The software shifts traffic from failed firewalls and gateways to functional ones, without disrupting connections. Load-balancing features shift the traffic among all the nodes in a cluster, maximizing resources even when all components are working properly. This ensures not only that the system will work without fail, but also that the software makes a constant contribution to the efficiency of the network. “It’s inline, online, and serving a secondary purpose even when everything is up and running,” says J'e Bruno, HMS associate dean for information technology and chief information officer.

Because medicine is in business around the clock, HMS can’t afford downtime. “We can’t let the business of science be interrupted,” says Bruno.

With RainWall, HMS can perform hardware upgrades and operating system maintenance without losing system availability or sacrificing throughput performance. Furthermore, because RainWall is used in an active/active standby configuration, HMS can take advantage of previously underused hardware as well as current hardware investments.

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