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11 Load Balancers You Need to Know in 2016

By Forrest Stroud (Send Email)
Posted March 18, 2016

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    11 Load Balancers You Need to Know in 2016
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    11 Load Balancers You Need to Know in 2016

    Load balancing refers to spreading a service load among multiple server systems. A hardware load balancer or software-based load balancing tool can ensure maximum service availability by offering network traffic distribution services.

    For example, if your business has a primary business domain (e.g., www.yourbusiness.com), you want your site available to your current customers and your potential customers 100 percent of the time. Comparing the top server load balancers (SLBs) and effectively utilizing their load-balancing capabilities will help provide this level of availability.

    When technical folks discuss load balancing, they generally mean hardware load balancer devices dedicated to the task of balancing network traffic loads. A hardware load balancer is a server computer with a very specialized operating system tuned to manage network traffic using user-created rules.

    From Load Balancers to Application Delivery Controllers


    These hardware load balancer devices have evolved into what are now called application delivery controllers (ADC), but load balancing remains at the heart of an ADC. Enterprises and hosting companies rely on load-balancing and ADC devices to distribute traffic to create highly available services.

    In addition to providing simple distributed service to multiple servers, load balancers can help prevent denial-of-service attacks, allow legitimate users uninterrupted access to services, protect against single point of failure outages and prevent traffic bottlenecks to systems.

    Today we'll highlight a handful of the leading hardware load balancers as well as several cloud and software-based load balancer options.

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    F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM)
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    F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM)

    F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM)

    The BIG-IP product family has a load-balancing solution for almost any budget and application, which can help in the process of cost comparing load balancers across its product line as well as versus other load balancing vendors.

    If you're already an F5 shop, the good news is you'll enjoy the same easy web-based administration interface included with other F5 equipment. F5 load balancers can also handle SSL certificates, which removes the pressure from web servers and places it on networking gear where it belongs.

    One of F5's major features is its WAN Optimization Manager, which speeds data transfers over the WAN and enables traffic between data centers to be optimized, encrypted and highly available. This feature makes creating a WAN-based disaster recovery (DR) solution easy and almost automatic.

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    Cisco
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    Cisco

    Cisco Load Balancer

    Every Cisco router hardware product has Cisco load balancer capabilities. This is exciting for Cisco shops because they don't have to buy separate hardware — system admins will simply need to add load balancing rules to the current equipment. Cisco is the clear leader in the router space, and built-in features like load-balancing capabilities is one of the reasons why.

    Cisco's IOS software includes every possible server load balancing feature possible, including port-bound servers, sticky sessions, TCP session reassignment, automatic unfail, slow start, SynGuard, dynamic feedback protocol, NAT, maximum connections and complete server load balancing algorithms to name a few.

    While Cisco once offered standalone hardware Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) and load balancers, they exited this market in 2012. Cisco's service and support remain second to none, though, and similar to another large company's time-tested adage, you'll never get fired for buying Cisco.

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    Citrix
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    Citrix

    Citrix

    Cisco's exit from the ADC and load balancer market has been a boon to Citrix, as the latter has seen significant market share growth following Cisco's 2012 change in ADC strategy. Citrix's NetScaler ADC frequently competes for the attention of enterprises with F5, with the former's price/performance value giving Netscaler the nod over F5 in the eyes of many enterprise IT deparments.

    Citrix also benefits from its NetScaler platform being the only load-balancing ADC that fully integrates into Cisco's unified fabric, leveraging Cisco's APIC (Application Policy Infrastructure Controller) to automate network provisioning and control based on app requirements and policies for data centers and enterprise environments.

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    Kemp Technologies
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    Kemp Technologies

    Kemp Technologies

    Kemp Technologies has rapidly gained significant market share in the load balancing market by offering affordable load balancers for a wide variety of situations. Its load balancer and application delivery controller (ADC) solutions range from the traditional hardware load balancer to virtual load balancers, cloud load balancers, and load balancers for bare metal servers. Kemp's load balancer solutions are based on its LoadMaster load balancer, which is built on the company's proprietary software platform called LMOS, which enables it to run on almost any platform.

    And speaking of affordability, in March 2015 Kemp launched a free version of its LoadMaster targeted at providing small companies and developers with Kemp's robust and proven load balancing and application delivery capabilities. The free LoadMaster solution can be downloaded and run on VMware, Hyper-V, KVM, Xen, Microsoft Azure, VirtualBox, and Amazon Web Services, among other virtualization and cloud platforms.

    The logic behind Kemp's Free LoadMaster load balancer is that as their customers' load balancing needs grow and expand, they'll first look to upgrade to the commercial options from Kemp.

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    Radware AppDirector OnDemand Switch Series
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    Radware AppDirector OnDemand Switch Series

    Radware AppDirector OnDemand Switch Series

    Radware offers an array of network appliances to suit any load balancing requirement. Radware's units are affordable, scalable and smart. Smart goes a long way in contemporary data centers and Radware incorporates numerous smart technologies like health monitoring and detection, stateful persistency, high availability, redundancy, traffic redirection, global load balancing, denial of service mitigation and significant performance optimizations.



    Some notable features of Radware devices are easy updates and upgrades, application-aware services, and improved application response time through smart caching.

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    Barracuda Load Balancer
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    Barracuda Load Balancer

    Barracuda Load Balancer

    The Barracuda Load Balancer includes standard load balancer features, plus intrusion prevention. That's right, intrusion prevention, not just detection. Prevention means your network has protection, even if you miss a critical patch or update. Barracuda's update service keeps your system ready to protect you from new threats automatically.

    The Barracuda Load Balancer also includes service auto-discovery to ease the pain of initial configuration. Manage your changes, updates and configuration maintenance through the easy-to-use web interface. Other notable features include global load balancing and content caching.

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    Coyote Point / Fortinet FortiADC
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    Coyote Point / Fortinet FortiADC

    Coyote Point / Fortinet FortiADC

    Coyote Point offers enterprise-level load balancing solutions at affordable prices. If your business sites and applications aren't enterprise-sized but require enterprise capability, you're in luck with Coyote Point's array of products.

    CoyotePoint's load balancing appliances support all web-based applications, including PHP, ASP, Oracle and Apache; Microsoft products, including SharePoint, Exchange, Outlook Web Access and Remote Desktop; and SSL VPN, database clustering, email services and streaming media.

    The Coyote Point appliances fully support industry standard round-robin and weighted load-balancing algorithms.

    In March 2013, Fortinet acquired Coyote Point Systems, and has since integrated Coyote Point products and solutions into Fortinet's FortiADC line of hardware and virtual load balancing Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs).

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    Resonate
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    Resonate

    Resonate

    Resonate Central Dispatch is a software-based advanced load balancing solution that utilizes patented resource-based scheduling technology to orchestrate routing decisions based on actual statistics and heuristics obtained from the server and network data center infrastructure.

    As part of Central Dispatch's Resonate Active Intelligence, lightweight distributed software agents collect detailed information such as CPU load and memory utilization and combine it with network latency and other metrics to determine the most ideal path for data flow. The result is advanced server load balancing with high availability and optimal performance for all web applications.

    Resonate also offers "global server load balancing" with its Global Dispatch offering, a wide area network, global server load balancing software solution that consolidates multiple data centers into a single enterprise-wide resource for disaster recovery and business continuity.

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    Zen Load Balancer
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    Zen Load Balancer

    Zen Load Balancer

    Zen Load Balancer is another software-based load balancer. The Zen Load Balancer (ZLB) project debuted in October, 2010, as an open-source load balancing solution based on a Debian distribution.

    Zen Load Balancer is currently available in both a Community Edition, which is delivered without any warranty and without many of the advanced load balancing features in the Enterprise Edition, which is fully optimized and developed specifically for use in production environments. Both editions provide support through a distribution list (primarily for the Community Edition) as well as via premium professional support from Zen engineers available on a yearly pricing plan.

    Similar to Kemp Technologies, Zen Load Balancer enterprise-grade solutions are available in the traditional hardware form factor, as a virtual load balancing appliance, as a cloud load balancer (ZVNcloud Load Balancer as a service), and as a bare metal server applicance.

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    NGINX Plus
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    NGINX Plus

    NGINX Plus

    The NGINX Plus Web Server's integrated load balancing capabilities provide customers of the web server with a software-based application delivery platform for efficiently managing and scaling web and mobile applications, and it does so at a fraction of the cost of hardware-based solutions in many cases.

    The NGINX Load Balancer also offers the flexibility of being easily deployed on-premises on existing hardware or in the cloud. Both NGINX load-balancing deployment scenarios offer application-aware health checks and monitoring, with automatic detection and resolution of many issues to significantly improve the availability of web and mobile applications.

    Basic load-balancing capabilities are included in the open-source version of NGINX as well, but the free edition of NGINX lacks many of the more advanced capabilities included in the commercial NGINX Plus release, including automatic health checks, session persistence, live activity monitoring and dynamic reconfiguration of load-balanced server groups.

    NGINX also provides a helpful guide for companies considering its load-balancing capabilities that details how the NGINX Plus Load Balancer can be deployed to provide all load balancing for a company, to work in parallel with an existing hardware-based load balancing or application delivery controller (ADC) solution, or to sit behind a legacy hardware-based load balancer or ADC.

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    Amazon ELB
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    Amazon ELB

    Amazon ELB

    Our final load balancing solution comes from the well-known Amazon Web Service (AWS) family. Amazon's Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) serves as a ideal solution for enterprises that already have virtual servers running on Amazon's EC2 cloud service. The virtual load balancing capabilities in Amazon ELB will automatically and intelligently distribute incoming application traffic across multiple Amazon EC2 instances in one or more Availability Zones.

    Amazon Elastic Load Balancing works with Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) to provide robust networking and security features, and will automatically scales its request handling capacity to meet the demands of application traffic. Amazon ELB additionally offers integration with Auto Scaling to ensure enterprises have the back-end capacity to meet varying levels of traffic levels without requiring manual intervention.

    And for smaller enterprises and those just starting out on AWS, the AWS Free Tier includes 750 hours of Elastic Load Balancing per month for one year and 15GB data processing with Amazon Elastic Load Balancing.

If you require 100 percent uptime for your services, a server load balancer or application delivery controller (ADC) is the way to go. Get to know the leading load balancer hardware, software and cloud solutions from vendors like F5, Cisco, Citrix and Kemp Technologies.






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