Why evolve past Hardware Load Balancing?

POSTED BY Robert Ahern | 24 June, 2020


Traditionally, load balancing was very conceptually straight forward. The basics were easy to grasp even for a total novice. A system of servers would support applications and web services, and these servers were fronted with a dedicated, hardware load balancer that would direct incoming traffic between these servers.

This made sure that the system did not become overloaded and users could consistently access whatever was hosted on the servers. Load balancing has come a very long way since, but the ease with which the broad strokes of traditional hardware load balancing can be understood by layman and technical user alike, and the fact that many organizations have become so used to their hardware infrastructures, has caused some to be hesitant of taking advantage of new, often superior options.

The two big innovations have been Virtual and Cloud load balancing. This article will explore these two exciting, modern options for your load balancing infrastructure, explain what they mean, and show that they can in fact be remarkably easy to implement and, compared to hardware load balancing, often require incredibly little maintenance.


Virtual Load Balancing

A Virtual Load Balancer works almost exactly like a traditional hardware load balancer. In fact, it often has basically the same code. The only difference is it’s nothing but software. This means it can be installed on a computer, usually a large, powerful computer. This is done by installing it on a ‘virtual machine’, essentially a simulated computer within a larger computer. One computer can support many virtual machines, meaning you can have multiple virtual load balancers on this single piece of hardware linked by coordinating software called a hypervisor. This computer will sit in front of your servers, where the bulky, more numerous hardware load balancers would otherwise be.

The advantages of this are often dramatic. The fact that the many virtual load balancers can all be installed on the same piece of hardware, which is itself essentially a powerful desktop, makes managing your infrastructure so easy and quick it doesn’t even compare to hardware load balancing, where changes in infrastructure involve physically reorganizing and re-rigging the load balancers and installing new ones in a time consuming, laborious, and awkward process. A virtual infrastructure linked by a hypervisor, in contrast, can be managed and reconfigured with a few strokes of a keyboard, and installing a new load balancer as your needs increase is literally just a matter of downloading and installing a piece of software.

And most importantly, these sorts of configurations provide a level of flexibility far beyond anything achievable in hardware. If you find you are struggling to deal with an increase in traffic, you can tackle the problem head-on using the centralized hypervisor. Perhaps you can identify inefficiencies in the infrastructure and re-organize it to eliminate them in a matter of minutes. Or install new load balancers at short notice to handle the increased traffic, rather than waiting for physical ones to be shipped and delivered. To put it simply, virtual software means more options and faster implementation of solutions than is possible with hardware, something which holds true in almost all fields of technology.

ZEVENET offers a wide range of Virtual Load balancers to cover all potential needs. The ZVA 6000, is an excellent product at an excellent price point, ideal for enabling migration to virtual infrastructure for many different organizations.

Cloud Load Balancing

Cloud Load Balancing is another option that can be the perfect move for many organizations. The basic idea is very similar to virtual load balancing, except the load balancers, and often (but not necessarily) the servers behind them are based on the Cloud. Again, no traditional hardware load balancers are involved, but with Cloud load balancing you don’t have to worry about establishing any physical infrastructure whatsoever. This can offer even higher flexibility than many virtual infrastructures, because there may be no hardware whatsoever for you to deal with or manage, making adaptation to new circumstances, adjustments, and reconfigurations as easy as possible.

For example, ZEVENET seriously impresses in the cloud load balancing market with ZVNCloud, a multi-cloud platform manager that makes establishing and maintaining a cloud load balancing infrastructure a seamless, low-stress process with results you can rely on.

With ZVNCloud’s IPDS security module, clients receive excellent protection from potential attacks even while still taking advantage of the openness of the cloud. And with built-in Global Service Load Balancing (GSLB), it’s possible to coordinate traffic and exchange information between different server pools even if they’re separated by thousands of miles. Just another example of the breadth of options Cloud load balancing provides.

ZVNCloud provides one main control panel to manage your cloud infrastructure across multiple environments and provide comprehensive real-time monitoring and support.

Hardware to Software Load Balancing Use Cases

Say a client initially had certain load balancing requirements which they met using an infrastructure of physical servers, situated on-site and fronted with a number of hardware load balancers. This used to be a decent approach, back when their requirements were less demanding and the market had not innovated to the point that alternatives were practical or convenient.

Over time, though, a client’s load balancing needs will tend to increase as their organization grows. In our example, the client may eventually find that their system is frequently overwhelmed and inadequate in the face of unprecedented traffic and that they regularly have to go through the awkward and laborious task of reconfiguring and expanding their hardware infrastructure, installing new hardware load balancers, and making sure the resulting system is set up in the most efficient way possible. Quite simply, almost nothing about this is quick, reliable, or easy.

Hopefully, at this stage, the client begins to search the market for other options. If they do, they may be drawn to the wide array of features and extreme versatility offered by ZVNCloud and, after getting in touch with ZEVENET and evaluating their situation, reach a decision.

Configurations with Virtual or Cloud Load Balancing

Different clients will opt for different solutions depending on their needs and price point. For this example, let’s say the client settles on the ZVNCloud Gold plan with servers based on AWS. This plan provides a Cloud Load balancing infrastructure with 64 GB of RAM, 16 Cores, 9 TB of bandwidth transfer, 48 Max. Farms, 3-star support, plus the IPDS module for security which comes with all plans.

This is a robust enough set up to handle the client’s needs at almost all times. If, however, they experience an extreme surge of traffic, as can happen in virtually any type of organization, the plan can provide additional bandwidth to cleanly handle the surge for less than 2 cents per GB.

This allows the client to migrate to the Cloud and abandon their awkward, inefficient hardware load balancing infrastructure in a process that is enormously less difficult than establishing a traditional infrastructure. Not only does the ZVNCloud billing system make the new infrastructure extremely cost-effective, but as the client’s organization continues to expand and their needs increase in the future, they can always deploy and configure new Cloud load balancers in a matter of minutes.

Conclusions to move from Hardware to Virtual or Cloud Load Balancing

As we have seen, moving on from traditional hardware load balancing to Virtual or Cloud load balancing provides far more advantages and benefits than can be quickly summed up. From the ease of monitoring, reduced storage space, cost-saving opportunities, ease of re-configuration and expansion, and far greater flexibility, some kind of Virtualisation or move to the Cloud is the right move for almost any organization trying to stay competitive and efficient as technology opens up new possibilities in load balancing. That some are hesitant to move on from what may be familiar to them is understandable, but it’s a hesitation based on a lack of awareness of both the benefits and of how painless the transition can actually be.


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