Gery Pollet has set his company on a fast track. “In the next couple of months, we will have a thousand deployments in the field,” says the CEO and founder of ZapFi. “Within 18 to 36 months, we expect to have millions of subscribers.” The company’s fast-growth business model demands a highly scalable, high-performance back-end security solution that can support robust mobile connectivity and comprehensive security, as well as application intelligence, control and visibility.

ZapFi secures and analyzes internet traffic from millions of WiFi users using next-generation firewalls.

ZapFi offers mobile marketing and intelligence tools that give companies insight into the online behavior and preferences of their customers. For example, companies that use ZapFi services receive access to a high-performance ZapZone WiFi hot spot, through which they can offer their customers free internet access. The portal displays customized branding and targeted one-to-one advertising, and it gathers anonymized demographic user profile data. ZapFi sells its clients analytic reporting on the aggregated profile data, such as gender, age, online purchases or website preferences. The service incorporates full WiFi security and compliance with content-filtering regulations.

Scalability for rapid growth

Currently, ZapFi serves business customers in Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. The company’s goal is to quickly establish deployments throughout Europe and the Middle East, and then in the United States and Asia.

“We need a solution that can easily scale to hundreds of thousands of simultaneous virtual private network (VPN) tunnels,” says Pollet. “Second, it has to be able to filter the security online for huge groups. At the same time, it has to let us analyze all of the traffic and requests of our users. Finally, with thousands of devices in the field, it has to be easy to manage.”

In addition, the solution needed to seamlessly integrate with the company’s VMware® virtualization–based data center. “The only vendor capable of meeting the requirements of our request for proposal (RFP) was Dell SonicWALL,” says Pollet.

ZapFi deployed an active/active cluster of Dell™ SonicWALL™ SuperMassive™ E10200 Next-Generation Firewalls at its data center. The company uses Dell SonicWALL TZ Series firewalls as distributed access points with integrated VPN and dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n secure wireless. ZapFi centrally controls the entire deployment using the Dell SonicWALL Global Management System.

Robust protection with uncompromising performance

One of the first customer implementations was for a large Belgium-based bank. WiFi users at the bank’s distributed branches connect locally via a SonicWALL TZ 205 firewall, then over the VPN and back to the SuperMassive firewall for traffic security and analysis. “We enabled all of the gateway security services, including intrusion prevention, anti-malware and content filtering,” says Pollet.

At the same time, ZapFi helped eliminate overhead and latency by taking advantage of the massively scalable multi-core architecture of the SuperMassive E10200. The architecture is engineered for 10 Gbps of deep-packet inspection to avoid trade-offs between comprehensive security and high performance.

“Our tests confirm there is virtually no latency coming over the VPN back to our SuperMassive in Belgium, whether from the U.K., Italy or even Turkey,” says Pollet. “Now, we do not need to install big platforms everywhere.”

The solution also gives ZapFi great flexibility in its service offerings. “One nice thing is that it doesn’t matter what type of internet connection you have,” says Pollet. “Suddenly, you have fully operational hot spots with all the features. Alternatively, operators can up-sell the lines by increasing capacity and limited volume, or even installing a new line. Banks often prefer to have an extra dedicated line to route wireless services, so they know they can’t be hacked.”

Exceptional visibility and control over all traffic

ZapFi is able to maintain granular visibility and control over applications, prioritize or throttle bandwidth and deny website access. It leverages a continuously expanding signature database from the Dell SonicWALL solution, which currently recognizes over 5,000 application uses and millions of malware threats. Through the SuperMassive user interface, ZapFi can generate real-time graphs of applications. They are also able to ingress and egress bandwidth, active website connections and user activity, as well as advanced statistics and reporting options for compliance.

“Our customers benefit from a comprehensive mobile marketing solution tailored to their needs because Dell SonicWALL handles the technology for us,” says Pollet. “Being able to offer tailored solutions makes a huge difference in our sales cycle. Deals that might take 24 months contact-to-contract now take less than three months.”

Finally, ZapFi minimizes the solution’s administrative overhead by streamlining appliance deployment and the security policy management of multiple clients through the SonicWALL Global Management System. This enables the company to centrally manage, monitor and report on thousands of remote Dell SonicWALL appliances.

Expanded business opportunities

Pollet has a vision of great expansion for ZapFi that takes advantage of the capabilities provided by the SonicWALL SuperMassive firewall. “Everywhere we look we see opportunities: sports, retail and urban communities. Today, we have a unique offering nobody else brings to the market, so we have to act fast. SuperMassive gives us the scalability we need.”

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Dell SonicWALL SuperMassive series