Load balancing is a crucial practice for any organization that needs to prioritize scalability and performance. By efficiently distributing network and application traffic across multiple servers, load balancing helps ensure that you can continue providing services to customers while gracefully handling unexpected spikes inactivity.
With advantages that range from greater availability and reliability to defense against DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks, load balancers are an essential part of enterprise IT. However, not all load balancers are created equal. In this article, we'll discuss three of the most important attributes of a modern load balancing solution: multi-cloud, multi-location, and multi-platform.
What is Multi-Cloud Load Balancing?
The term "multi-cloud," as the name suggests, refers to an approach to cloud computing where businesses employ the services of two or more cloud computing providers. For example, a single organization might use Microsoft Azure for apps that are part of the Windows ecosystem while also leveraging the machine learning and data analytics capabilities of the Google Cloud Platform.
According to Flexera's 2020 "State of the Cloud" report, 93 percent of respondents are now using a multi-cloud strategy. It's hardly a surprise that this number is so high—the advantages of multi-cloud are plentiful, from greater resilience to the freedom to select cloud services "a la carte," without the risk of vendor lock-in.
Why Use Multi-Cloud Load Balancing?
The reasons to choose a multi-cloud load balancing solution include:
- End-to-end Management & Monitoring: One downside of multi-cloud is that it becomes harder to manage all these cloud environments as your IT ecosystem becomes more complex. You can counteract these difficulties by choosing a multi-cloud load balancing solution that can automatically manage and monitor your various cloud deployments.
- Reporting and analytics: Visibility and Analysis of your server logs and data is essential to continue running at peak performance—but again, this becomes more complicated when information is scattered across multiple cloud services. The best multi-cloud load balancers offer solid reporting and analytics capabilities across these different environments, giving you complete visibility into your operations.
- Availability: Multi-cloud load balancers can take advantage of the increased redundancy that a multi-cloud strategy has to offer. In the event that one cloud service goes down, users can be redirected to another server or location while the load balancer continues to monitor the situation and offer failover as necessary.
- Security: Multi-cloud ADC offerings include both load balancing and security elements providing your infrastructure, users, and clients a globally secure environment. Simplifying the complexity across the clouds into a centralized management console will drastically reduce security issues.
How Multi-Cloud Load Balancing Works
A multi-cloud load balancer enables organizations to manage all of their load balancing duties from a single pane of glass, reducing IT complexity. Security updates and management become substantially simpler through a single interface, where updates and policies can be applied globally to all appliances simultaneously. There's no need to use separate dashboards and consoles for each cloud computing service that's part of your multi-cloud strategy.
What is Multi-Location Load Balancing?
In addition to multi-cloud, the best load balancers need to be multi-location: able to distribute traffic across multiple sites, potentially very geographically distant from one another. For example, massive tech companies such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook heavily depend on multi-location load balancing to serve a global clientele. No matter where you are in the world, you can expect that browsing one of these websites will return a complete set of results within a fraction of a second.
Why Use Multi-Location Load Balancing?
While any amount of load balancing will improve a system's scalability and performance, multi-location load balancing (also known as "multi-site" load balancing) is especially important for organizations that serve a large, worldwide audience. But you don't have to be a tech giant to see the benefits of balancing traffic across multiple locations. Maintaining web servers in several places also ensures that users can be redirected to a backup location if the site closest to their location goes down, for example.
However, implementing a robust multi-location load balancing solution is easier said than done. Below are a few of the challenges involved:
- Performance: Multi-site load balancers need to carefully handle user requests, directing them to the nearest server geographically to decrease latency and increase performance.
- Content: Users in different locations should be served the most relevant version of the content. For example, visitors to an e-commerce site might view content in different languages or use a different currency, depending on their country.
- Regulatory compliance: Servers in different locations need to comply with different regulations governing data security and privacy (such as GDPR in the European Union).
How Multi-Location Load Balancing Works
To address these challenges, organizations make use of GSLB (global server load balancing) solutions. GSLB software can intelligently route users to the optimal location based on their IP address and reroute traffic when a particular server's performance begins to degrade.
What is Multi-Platform Load Balancing?
After multi-cloud and multi-location, the best load balancers must also be multi-platform. A multi-platform load balancer is a modern, cloud-native product with the advantage of being platform-agnostic: it can run anywhere, has a rich set of functionality, and has a high degree of connectivity thanks to open, easily accessible APIs (application programming interfaces).
Why Use Multi-Platform Load Balancing?
Just as organizations are increasingly using a greater number of cloud services, the environments in which applications are deployed are also increasingly diverse, including virtual machines (VMs) and containers in the public, private, or hybrid cloud. Container solutions such as Docker and Kubernetes, for example, have grown more and more popular for their ability to guarantee smooth, predictable performance, no matter where an application is deployed.
The rise of DevOps, too, is another reason for the increased interest in multi-platform load balancing. DevOps teams, which seek to foster closer collaboration between development and operations, are often responsible for managing multiple platforms and environments. Flexible, cloud-native, multi-platform load balancers can scale from very small application deployments (e.g. during the development and testing phases) to very large ones (e.g. during production).
How Multi-Platform Load Balancing Works
With these concerns in mind, what kind of load balancer is best for organizations that want to adopt a multi-platform stance? Application delivery controllers (ADCs) are load balancing solutions that are located within an organization's IT infrastructure, providing features such as monitoring and full Layer 7 (application) support. The best ADC software is able to elegantly handle multi-platform concerns, working seamlessly across a wide range of environments.
The Importance of a Multi-Cloud, Multi-Location, Multi-Platform Load Balancing Strategy
Multi-cloud, multi-location, and multi-platform: all these features interact and combine to form an ideal load balancing solution.
The ability to "future-proof" your business is one of the most compelling reasons to choose a cloud load balancing solution with these three capabilities. In this rapidly evolving business landscape, running an agile, quickly adaptable organization is more critical than ever before.
Using a load balancer that's independent of any particular cloud or platform, then, isn't just a smart idea; it's an essential best practice that makes your business more agile and lets you avoid the risk of "vendor lock-in," getting stuck with a technology that's no longer the right choice for your organization. Meanwhile, using a multi-location load balancer lets you better serve a broad and even global audience.
When choosing a multi-cloud, multi-location, multi-platform load balancer, make sure to consider the following concerns:
- Availability: Different load balancers may be able to offer different levels of availability. Do you need applications and servers to be truly continuously available, or is there an acceptable amount of downtime you can handle, as specified in the service level agreement (SLA)?
- Technology: Where and how will you deploy the load balancer? Does it need to run in the public cloud, as a bare metal image, or in a private data center? Does it need to integrate with container solutions such as Docker and Kubernetes? What are the scheduling methods or algorithms that the load balancer uses to distribute traffic? Does the load balancer use encryption (usually SSL/TLS) to protect the security of your data?
- Return on investment: Load balancers can pay for themselves many times over, saving businesses potentially millions of dollars in lost business. Estimates of the cost of downtime range from $2,300 to $9,000 every minute. A 12-hour outage in Apple's iTunes Store and App Store, for example, cost the company an estimated $12 million dollars in lost sales.
- The total cost of ownership (TCO): Even a basic load balancing solution can reap tremendous rewards for your business by reducing downtime and helping you capture more customers. Still, the cost is an essential concern for any IT purchase, including load balancers. Be sure to factor in not only the initial purchase but also ongoing expenses such as software licenses and support and maintenance.
In this article, we've discussed the role that multi-cloud, multi-location, multi-platform load balancers have to play in making your business more resilient and productive. But with these factors in mind, how can you choose the best load balancer for your organization?
Fortunately, you don't have to look very far. Snapt is a mature, feature-rich load balancing solution with multi-cloud, multi-location, and multi-platform capabilities. We offer two top-tier load balancing platforms: Snapt Nova, a centrally managed, container-friendly ADC platform providing an application-centric load balancer, GSLB, WAF, and web acceleration; and Snapt Aria, a layer 7 software load balancing, web acceleration, WAF, and global DNS load balancer.
Snapt's robust yet user-friendly application delivery solutions make it easier than ever to future-proof your organization for whatever comes next, scaling and growing alongside your business. Ready to try out the benefits of Snapt for yourself? Get in touch with us today for a chat about your business needs and objectives. You can schedule a demo of Snapt's products or get started right away with a free trial.