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Will We See Physical Load Balancers Disappear In The Near Future?

from the Hydra High Council Apr 7th 2020

Will we see physical load balancers disappear in the near future?

To start off with, let's talk about the basics of why we need load balancers in our environment. To start off we have to acknowledge that businesses run off applications. Meaning that without these applications, businesses are not in a position to deliver services to end-users, customers and to their audience. If a business only has one instance of an application say to serve as their e-commerce portal, then there will be a few "things" that could happen. First, the single application instance could die. If that is the case, then the business would be losing money on a per-second basis. This is of course not a good thing! Another scenario would be that a single instance of the application may not be sufficient to serve the needs from a capacity standpoint.

Even if we just leave the above scenarios, that puts the business at risk, one that I suggest no one tries with a production environment!

To combat the issues that could be caused by the situations above, we use load balancers. These appliances have a few goals in life. A few of those goals are: First, to allow communications from many external sources to multiple application instances (destinations) in the most effective fashion. Secondly, the traffic destined for an application is sent to a destination address of a virtual IP, otherwise known as a "VIP". The VIP provides some level of Obfuscation, which some may argue increases security. After traffic is sent to the VIP, the load balancer will look to its internal rule base to determine what service/application the traffic should be sent to, what port it should be sent to and also associate any configured certificates with that traffic flow. Of course, there are many other options and features, but these cover the basics!

If a company needs to scale out its application to handle more traffic, they can simply deploy another instance of the application and let the load balancer spread the traffic out amongst the total number of application instances behind the load balancer.

The issue we see with the above scenario is that traditionally load balancers have been physical appliances. Ones that are typically deployed in an active/standby deployment model. When new applications are stood up, it could mean that new physical load balancers are required. This approach does not scale very well and is extremely costly in terms of both tangible appliances as well as time!

The better way of accomplishing the same goals as listed above and one with more visibility comes in the form of deploying virtual load balancers, ones that can scale out and back in as required by the business demands.

Avi Networks, which was recently acquired by VMware does just that, and also does it very well! Avi allows you to deliver multi-cloud application services, such as load balancing, application security, autoscaling, container networking, and web application firewall capabilities. This process is automated, which reduces the amount of time individuals have to spend manually configuring and updating policies. The automated process also allows for a self-service consumption model for the developers, which means they are able to continue developing new innovative ways to become a more valuable asset for the business!

When we look at the additional benefits of utilizing a solution such as Avi, we see that there is deep integration with NSX. This integration gives organizations the ability to have analytics and insights at their fingertips! That process before was often complex and very time consuming, so put another checkbox next to Avi for simplifying yet another tedious and error-prone task!

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When looking at how Avi for NSX works, what we see is communication between the NSX controllers via fully open REST APIs that then allows for automated provisioning of elastic load balancing while also providing real-time analytics for business-critical applications. Avi will monitor, scale and reconfigure application services in real-time when it detects a change in performance in the environment. This means resources are better utilized, and customers don't have extremely costly physical appliances being under-utilized! I mean, we want our customers to actually be able to use what they pay for right?!?!

We will continue to dig deeper into the Avi Networks solutions and how they tie back into our SDDC environments, so keep an eye out for upcoming blogs! Until then..