When it comes to load balancers you have probably heard terms such as, "Software Defined Hardware" (yes, they actually said that!) or "Software First" from vendors like F5 Networks and Citrix NetScaler. What they are really telling you is that they understand the importance of software, but need to keep selling you hardware.
We recently had our sales kickoff meeting here in the heart of Silicon Valley and we were very fortunate to have some incredible guest speakers. One of them was a former high-ranking executive of a large Silicon Valley software company. He was brilliant in his story-telling, talking about the early days at the firm and drawing parallels to our journey here at Avi Networks.
Webscale organizations such as Facebook, Google, and other large cloud vendors have modernized their infrastructure with open source software and commodity hardware. Bringing such a Webscale IT approach to mainstream enterprises was hard because they lacked the tools for such a transformation.
This article originally appeared in EnterpriseTech and was written by Doug Black.
Containers have exploded through the bulkheads of market acceptance that most new technologies must slog through, crossing the chasm in only three years and transforming the way applications are deployed in data centers and in the cloud. The vast majority of major corporations around the world have either implemented, or at least tested, containers.
A common challenge that most enterprises are facing today is their ability to scale out applications. From many vendors of application services we often hear a lot of buzzwords like elasticity, autoscale, and cloud bursting but the fundamental problem of knowing the traffic or transaction threshold beyond which applications and their load balancers need to be scaled, still remains. You may be wondering how that can be possible considering all of the advances in technology over the past few years. The reason, it turns out is that load balancing appliances that promise those buzzwords are really not equipped to deliver those capabilities. They are built on proprietary hardware (not portable across environments) and while they sit in the data path, they do not have transaction analytics that enable them to make intelligent decisions on application performance. These legacy Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) and load-balancing appliances are static and slow down operations.
Self-service IT and automation are hot topics right now. Why? DevOps and test teams want to be able to have a highly efficient, "Do it Yourself" model. They also want to automate everything. Development, deployment and securing microservices, backup/restore of configurations, and autoscaling microservices are common automation targets. Avi Networks has brought much needed innovation to the ADC market that enables self-service and automation for application services.
Applications are an important part of your business strategy to drive great customer interactions. Often times, the P&L outcomes for lines of business are directly tied to the successful troubleshooting of application issues in a timely manner. Beyond configuring application services such as load balancing, IT pros find that they need to invest in a whole bunch of tools when servicing their internal customers' needs for application troubleshooting and performance data. These include tools to gain visibility into the end user experience for that application, network monitoring tools, aggregation taps, and application performance monitoring solutions. The painful task of piecing together data from such disparate point solutions takes several days if not weeks and does not present a reliable or repeatable process for IT and operations teams. On the other hand, the application owners are left waiting for data that they need quickly to debug issues.
The architecture that most legacy load balancers are built on is from the pre-virtualization, client/server days. This architecture is monolithic, multiple tools are needed to provision and monitor, and self-service and automation are simply not possible. Avi Networks has built the first software defined application services platform based on an architecture with a centralized control plane (called the Avi Controller) and a distributed data plane consisting of micro load balancers (called Avi Service Engines). This SDN like architecture creates an intelligent service fabric that can dynamically scale up or down and makes managing thousands of applications incredibly simple.
The Application Delivery Controller (ADC) market is very competitive, where every vendor claims that they have a performance advantage. Most IT Pros who need high performance ADCs and Load Balancers start by looking at specialized hardware appliances in order to meet their requirements. Then performance testing for L4-L7 throughput takes place and folks quickly realize that as more features are turned on, the performance quickly degrades. Forward-looking ADC buyers are now starting to look at software solutions that can run on commodity x86 hardware and that offer better performance at a fraction of the cost of specialized hardware.
Facebook, Google and many other large cloud vendors have modernized their infrastructure with open source software and commodity hardware – a trend that Gartner calls Webscale IT. Bringing such a Webscale IT approach to mainstream enterprises was hard because they lacked the tools for such a transformation. With advancements in private clouds and application services such capabilities are now reaching many large enterprises across many industry verticals. Many financial services firms are taking note and saving millions both in direct hardware costs and maintenance.