Established in 1976, National Instruments offers software and hardware solutions that empower engineers and scientists around the world to create sophisticated web applications. Its website plays a pivotal role in supporting sales and marketing efforts and sees an average of two million visits per month, 75% from visitors outside of the United States. In addition to providing information about products and services, the site offers product configurators that help prospects determine the most appropriate solution. eCommerce capabilities allow companies in numerous countries to purchase products online. In fact, 80% of National Instruments customers use the site at some point in the purchase process. For customers, an online community features discussion forums, a knowledge base, tutorials and a code-sharing feature. In addition, the site serves as the primary channel for the company to provide technical support, including the delivery of updates and patches that can be up to 200 MB in size.
As a global company, National Instruments connects with prospects and customers around the world via its website. But with web servers hosted in Austin, TX, the company found it challenging to ensure fast software delivery and web application responsiveness for those outside of the US. The problems were exacerbated for site visitors in Asia and Europe.
National Instruments monitors its website performance by country using automated tools. Plus it collects feedback from customers on a regular basis. While its website and applications have always performed well in the Americas, the further site visitors were from its data center in Texas, the worse the website’s performance. In some countries, site visitors wouldn’t even try to download the company’s software files; they would call the local office and ask for a DVD.
According to Brent Babin, Senior Group Manager of Web Platforms for National Instruments, the company was pressed to address these issues. “When your site and applications perform poorly, customers get frustrated. This can lead to lower customer satisfaction and loyalty, which can in turn result in lost revenue opportunities.”
National Instruments needed to meet two key requirements to support its objectives:
National Instruments began evaluating its options to improve delivery of its site and web applications. It briefly weighed the thought of working with hosting service providers and expanding its data center footprint but just as quickly dismissed the idea. National Instruments found it daunting to consider replicating its data center environment, comprising many types of web servers and software platforms. “It would easily cost $1,000,000 to replicate our data center. It just didn’t make good business sense,” explains Babin.
The company then considered a few content delivery network (CDN) providers. According to Babin, Akamai stood out due to the global reach of its network, the responsiveness of Akamai sales and support teams during the evaluation process and Akamai’s long-standing reputation. “With Akamai Web Application Accelerator (WAA) and Media Delivery Solutions, we could quickly ensure fast performance of both applications and software downloads around the globe,” explains Babin.
Immediately upon implementing Akamai WAA, National Instruments saw more than a 48% average global improvement in page load times – exceeding its goals for improving load times by 40%. Babin recalls that WAA was simple to configure. “We dedicated a single systems engineer to setting up WAA to address our needs and in less than a week we realized dramatic performance improvements.”
Once it implements ESD, National Instruments anticipates tremendous benefits. By improving software delivery rates the company can get evaluation software in prospects’ hands and close more sales. Plus, it will be able to lower its support costs by making drivers and sample code easily accessible online. Moreover, it expects to see more downloads by site visitors outside of the US, effectively helping the company ensure a solid foothold in the global market. Equally important, with ESD, National Instruments can restrict downloads in certain geographies to adhere with US export compliance laws.
“As we increasingly sell to companies outside of the US, it’s imperative that our website delivers an optimal experience for all site visitors. Akamai helps us achieve that goal,” concludes Babin.
National Instruments (www.ni.com) is transforming the way engineers and scientists design, prototype and deploy systems for measurement, automation and embedded applications. NI empowers customers with off-the-shelf software such as NI LabVIEW and modular cost-effective hardware and sells to a broad base of more than 30,000 different companies worldwide, with no one customer representing more than 4 percent of revenue and no one industry representing more than 15 percent of revenue. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, NI has more than 5,200 employees and direct operations in more than 40 countries. For the past 12 years, FORTUNE magazine has named NI one of the 100 best companies to work for in America.