We all expect applications to be running on demand as expected. Apps that are down or slow to respond are not only frustrating but cause significant risk to user satisfaction, brand perception, differentiation, productivity, and revenue.
A key network tool that enables application availability and performance is the load balancer. Load balancing intelligently routes incoming network traffic among multiple registered servers for application availability, performance, and business continuity.
Load balancers can be classified into two general categories: software and hardware. This blog suggests six key reasons why companies should consider software-driven load balancers to control inbound traffic and deliver availability, reliability, and visibility of business-critical resources.
Software-driven load balancers offer considerable advantages. Not only are they faster to acquire, provision and deploy, they’re also programmable, scalable, reliable and often less costly. They can easily distribute inbound traffic based on the IP address of the ideal server, client and server locations, server availability and configurable routing algorithms (e.g., Round Robin, Weighted Round Robin, topography, global, etc.). They also support a variety of configurable application and network health checks, SSL termination, aggregate throughput, and more. Let’s take a brief look at the value software-defined load balancers deliver.
1. Fast Acquisition & On-Demand Deployment
A considerable advantage of software-defined load balancers is that they can be acquired quickly and deployed on demand. By contrast, hardware-based load balancers must be specified, ordered, and then—usually after a waiting period—manually delivered, installed, configured, deployed and ultimately maintained. Software-based solutions, however, only require a designated server and a download with license key before deployment. The Infoblox DNS Traffic Control solution deploys on the Infoblox Grid with a license key and can be up and running often in less than 30 minutes. Instant deployment is a superior alternative where speed, efficiency, and lower cost are required. It can be done in on-premises environments or in the cloud and can be delivered internally to Intranet applications and externally for Internet applications. It can also be used for Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB) where datacenters and servers are geographically dispersed. Application load balancers (HTTP/S) provide advanced, path-based routing, microservices and container applications, TLS termination and visibility features. Network load balancers (TCP/IP) offer ultra-high performance, static IP addresses, and can manage millions of requests per second with ultra-low latencies.
2. Scalability for Optimized Utilization
Scalability is the ability to manage high traffic volumes in real time with increased network and processing demand without performance impact. Software-defined load balancers scale in real time. On the contrary, hardware-based load balancers have inherent physical limitations which make it more difficult to scale past appliance limits. Software load balancers, by contrast, can route hundreds of thousands of simultaneous requests and can manage sudden traffic spikes because they utilize server resources rather than dedicated hardware. Dynamic automatic-scaling adds and registers servers as traffic expands and retracts as traffic diminishes. This avoids servers being oversubscribed or under-utilized.
The ability to define configurable parameters for immediate change provides software-based load balancers with greater flexibility and functionality than their hardware-based counterparts. Changing routing algorithms or health checks in real time can help manage traffic flow during disruptive events, especially in cases of Disaster Recovery (DR). Implementing SSL certificates for various routing workflows, or programming parameters for domain/zone consolidation enables admins to efficiently manage multiple, underutilized servers to better match workloads.
3. Programmability for Quick Response
Programmability makes software load balancers inherently more valuable. Health checks can be defined for a single pool of servers, for multiple pools of multiple servers, or containers. It can also be done at the application and network levels. Status check codes can be configured to validate the health of target endpoints. A variety of health checks can be designated including HTTP/S, SNMP, TCP, SIP, PDP, and ICMP to avoid bottlenecks or oversubscribed instances. Metrics for monitoring applications and servers can be used to develop automatically scripted workflows based on health checks. Automation can be implemented through scripts to save time, reduce errors, increase capacity and control load balancer workflows. Beyond this, extensible attributes can be defined for deeper granularity to provide admins with needed visibility across the network.
4. Security for Data Protection & Malware Mitigation
Situated between the client and the server, load balancers deliver an added layer of application security for the enterprise. Using SSL/TLS communication protocols, the SSL connection can be terminated at load balancer or at the instance level. This eliminates modification of messages while packets are in transit. Inbound policies and rules can be established by security groups or at the virtual firewall, while the application can be set up in private subnets. Inbound/outbound rules and policies tied to the application servers will only allow traffic from the load balancers. Further, in the shared responsibility model, cloud providers take responsibility for the physical security of the balancers and also ensure they’re meeting various compliance standards.
5. Centralized Management for Visibility, Control & Efficiency
A unified UI for the entire enterprise without the need for a separate appliance simplifies administration, speeds deployment, improves operational efficiency and cuts costs by controlling global server load balancing (GSLB) and DNS from a centralized management console. Deep integration between IPAM and GSLB improves application response by connecting client and server locations, server availability, GeoIP data for Internet user location and policy configurations for load balancing decisions through one central platform.
Advanced reporting with pre-built, out-of-the-box and customizable reports, query logging and predictive analytics provides the needed network visibility to access data when and where it’s needed most. Access to data over time is essential. To support audit and compliance, centralized management can address what happened in the past, like which IP addresses were in use a week or six months ago, and which end users had DHCP leases two years ago. It can also help identify what’s happening now in terms of application uptime and performance, or security in terms of spotting DNS security vulnerabilities and impacted devices. Finally, it helps anticipate the future, using analytics to predict when DNS/DHCP capacity might not meet future requirements.
6. Lower Cost
Last, and certainly not least, lower cost is one of the most compelling benefits of software load balancers. For example, the Infoblox DNS Traffic Control solution is deployed in minutes through a simple software license added to the Grid without the need for additional hardware. This classifies the cost more like OpEx rather than the CapEx associated with more expensive hardware load balancers. Provisioning load balancers in the cloud enables you to configure as many load balancers as you want but spend far less. Provisioning is done quickly through a single interactive console or CLI, unlike their hardware cousins which are considerably costlier to acquire, install, deploy and maintain.
Load balancers are essential in distributing traffic to ideal servers to maintain ongoing availability, performance, and visibility of business-critical applications. Using various routing algorithms and health checks, hardware and software load balancers can accomplish these goals. However, there are a number of compelling reasons for companies to choose a software-defined load balancer.
The most common advantages include fast acquisition and on-demand deployment, scalability for optimized utilization, programmability for a quick response, security, centralized management for visibility, control and efficiency and lower overall cost. Together they make a compelling story for using a software-driven load balancer.
Only Infoblox offers the capability to ensure that application traffic automatically routes to ideal servers in every instance. It offers unique integration between global server load balancing (GLSB) capabilities and IPAM to optimize application responses by including factors such as client location, server availability, and policy configurations in load balancing decisions.