The early days of load balancing were driven by the need to optimize the burgeoning use of servers. In the 80s and 90s, PC-based servers were seemingly everywhere—handling files, applications and services, such as DNS.
The emergence of the cloud, private cloud, virtualization and hybrid applications has changed it all. Today’s IT infrastructure being more complex, each aspect of it should be optimized to ensure performance, security and compliance. A key driver of IT optimization is load balancers, which themselves have changed with the revolving infrastructure revolution.
To address the infrastructure shifts, Progress turned to Enterprise Management Associates, or EMA, to report its findings on how IT professionals are modernizing their approach to load balancing and application delivery controllers (ADC) to support hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments. For its report, How to Succeed with Load Balancing in a Hybrid Multi-Cloud World, EMA surveyed 152 IT professionals who are deeply involved in their enterprise’s data center and cloud load balancing strategies.
Hybrid cloud is the ideal architecture for most enterprise business’ needs, enabling organizations to deploy and scale new applications and services in the public cloud nearly instantly at a low cost, while also keeping other applications, application components and information in the private cloud or enterprise datacenter for privacy, security or performance.
Load balancers, otherwise referred to as application delivery controllers (ADCs), are a vital part of network and application infrastructure. Load balancers, in short, distribute application traffic across a pool of resources—often application servers—so that individual resources are not overburdened by traffic and that applications and transactions are processed efficiently, resulting in a high-performing user experience.
In a hybrid cloud environment, internal on-premises devices and cloud services are both optimized via load balancing, as the diagram below details.
IT shouldn’t just be keeping up with load balancing shifts, but proactively driving them. In its report, EMA writes, “In the past, load balancing was a data center technology. Today, IT organizations must take a hybrid, multi-cloud approach to the technology.”
These new demands cannot be satisfied with a piecemeal load balancing approach. Instead, EMA writes, “organizations should take a unified approach to the technology across their data centers and their public cloud environments. … IT organizations need to modernize and unify their load balancing architecture to meet the demands of hybrid cloud architectures and cloud-native applications.”
Load balancing is not done as well as it can be. Findings from EMA’s report indicate most IT organizations do not currently believe their use of load balancers in the cloud is successful.
EMA writes, “IT executives are more enthusiastic than infrastructure and operations professionals and developers about success, suggesting a gap in awareness in the CIO suite. Personnel who work more closely with the technology are more pessimistic.
“This gap is a concern because IT leaders may make strategic decisions about infrastructure based on false assumptions about the effectiveness of their strategy. … Members of networking engineering teams, perhaps the group most intimately familiar with traditional data center load balancing, expressed significant concern about their organization’s success with load balancing in the cloud.”
Load balancers were, traditionally, a pure IT and data center function, and in this role, IT and network teams maintained an effective and consistent approach to this key function. But, as EMA finds, “ … as enterprises migrate applications to the cloud, application and DevOps teams have excluded the network team from load balancing decisions. … IT organizations must adopt a cross-functional approach to load balancing across a hybrid multi-cloud architecture.”
A fragmented, siloed approach to load balancing means there is no single view of application network and service performance. From EMA, “Visibility also suffers as tools struggle to collect consistent telemetry across end-to-end infrastructure. … Larger enterprises especially struggle with visibility.”
Additionally, EMA discovered, cost-inefficiency and application outages become significant issues. EMA concluded that “one-quarter of companies claimed to have experienced a security breach as a direct result of fractured operations.”
Cloud service providers don’t just offer application, infrastructure and network services, they also sell dedicated load balancing tools. Often, IT and DevOps adopt these native load balancing solutions. EMA research found that 71% of organizations use cloud provider solutions.
Not only do these cloud providers work against a unified load balancing approach, but they also come with limited functionality and vendor lock-in. Writes EMA, “These solutions are applicable only in a single-cloud environment. None of them offers multi-cloud support. … With most enterprises using multiple cloud providers today, they are better off adopting a virtual ADC or load balancer than they can deploy in any cloud environment.”
EMA found 22% of organizations complained about shortcomings and a lack of feature sets present in solutions from cloud providers. Specifically, EMA highlighted web application firewalls, application acceleration and single sign-on for features present in only dedicated virtual load balancers.
Load balancers and application delivery controllers are often thought of as the same thing. EMA offers a more subtle view: “A key difference between a load balancer and an ADC is security.”
“As application security requirements diversify, vendors consolidate a variety of security functions onto load balancers, rebranding them as ADC platforms, including web application firewalls and DDoS protection.”
EMA’s research found that 89% of IT security teams consider ADCs to be a part of their overall security architecture. Network and DevOps teams, however, may not fully appreciate the importance of ADCs to security, EMA suggests. “As these groups (NetOps and DevOps) work together on a hybrid multi-cloud architecture, they should all embrace the idea of making ADCs an integral component of security,” EMA writes.
You may also like: A Guide To Adding Layered Security to Cloud Applications
EMA has determined in its research that hybrid multi-cloud architectures, as good as they are for the services they provide, at the same time are disruptive to network and security operations. EMA cautions: “Complexity increases, operational processes fragment and security risk rises.”
To smooth operations, IT organizations must transform their load balancer and ADC infrastructure. “By taking a unified approach to load balancers and ADCs across hybrid and multi-cloud networks, organizations can improve their chances of success,” EMA concludes.
Few organizations believe they are fully successful with their use of load balancers in the cloud. Enterprise Management Associates has identified a roadmap for enterprises to optimize hybrid cloud and multi-cloud load balancing strategies. Access the report to succeed with load balancing in a hybrid multi-cloud world.
Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.
Let our experts teach you how to use Sitefinity's best-in-class features to deliver compelling digital experiences.Learn More
Subscribe to get all the news, info and tutorials you need to build better business apps and sites
You can also ask us not to share your Personal Information to third parties here: Do Not Sell or Share My Info
We see that you have already chosen to receive marketing materials from us. If you wish to change this at any time you may do so by clicking here.
Thank you for your continued interest in Progress. Based on either your previous activity on our websites or our ongoing relationship, we will keep you updated on our products, solutions, services, company news and events. If you decide that you want to be removed from our mailing lists at any time, you can change your contact preferences by clicking here.