By Nikhil Taneja, Managing Director - INDIA & SAARC, Radware

Nikhil Taneja The Load balancers have come a long way since their introduction in the 1990s. What started as dedicated hardware designed for balancing load requests across servers has morphed into application delivery controllers (ADCs) that integrate core load balancing with an array of advanced application services. This includes everything from application layer security and DDoS protection to web performance optimization and SSL/TCP offloading.

For many organizations, this plethora of capabilities and functionality can be excessive for an initial implementation. Businesses need to deliver applications reliably, securely, and efficiently today while building a foundation that will meet the challenges facing the data center and network of tomorrow.

The key? Finding a cost effective ADC that addresses existing requirements while providing a catalyst for increased functionality and scalability as the demands of the business grow.

IT trends such as virtualization, consolidation and cloud computing have changed how IT organizations are managing their application delivery infrastructure. These changes have driven businesses to focus on the delivery of the application while the network becomes an abstract delivery mechanism. It also presents the opportunity to implement the right sized ADC that can fulfill the needs of the IT organization for years to come.

Six keys to consider when searching for the right sized load balancer include:

Keep It Simple, Keep It Smart

These days, placing greater emphasis on enhancing application performance, security and adaptability is indeed appropriate. By no means, however, does this obviate the need to address fundamental requirements pertaining to application availability and scalability. The trick is purchasing a future proof solution that can add functionality down the road.

So what are some of the core capabilities to consider? For starters, purchase a solution that provides on-demand throughput scalability covering a wide Gbps range and allows for scaling via a simplistic throughput licensing model, eliminating the need to “rip and replace” hardware.

Other capabilities should include core Layer 4 and 7 load balancing capabilities, on-demand service scalability and SSL acceleration, compression and caching.

It Has To Be Customizable

If the organization runs a variety of business applications (such as from Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Oracle, etc.), its application delivery configuration polices will need to be optimized for each of them. Ensure that ADC has pre-defined configuration templates to accomplish this, as it will streamline the configuration process, saving the IT organization time.

On a wider scope, make sure the ADC can be managed from an application perspective, including not only configuration templates, but also automatic application configuration synchronization, such as reporting, logging, compliance and more. It will result in faster application rollout times and increased operational simplicity.

Virtualize

Until recently, deploying a new application meant deploying a new ADC. While it’s possible to share an existing ADC to serve multiple applications, it’s not recommended, as the applications will compete for the same resources, impacting the end-user quality of experience at times of cyber-attacks, flash crowds, shopping peaks, etc.

The benefits are countless. Application SLA is guaranteed thanks to the isolation between vADC instances at the fault, management and network levels and on-going maintenance is simplified as each vADC is configured separately without interfering with neighboring instances.

Build as You Go

The ability of virtualized ADC’s to add additional instances to support new applications is a perfect example of another quality the right sized ADC should have: a build-as-you-go framework that supports additional/new features and functions. Web performance optimization, DDoS protection, advanced multi homing and enterprise gateway capabilities…these are bells and whistles an organization might not need presently but could require sometime in the future.

Deploy an ADC solution that can grow as the business scales by allowing these enhancements to be added via a “modular” framework.

Meet the Application SLA Challenge

As IT focuses more on application delivery – whether it is an online web portal, internal business
application or organizational portal – end users expect the same quality of experience across the board.

It’s critical that ADC’s deliver applications with consistency and have the tools to monitor and manage application SLAs. Leveraging central reporting and application performance monitoring (APM) capabilities built-in as part of your ADC is the simplest way to get end-to-end visibility of such application/ADC performance issues.

Connect to Next-Gen Switches

There’s increased adoption of next-generation connectivity in the form of 10GE, and even 40GE, ports. Therefore, a barebones requirement is that the ADC be able to connect to such switches, without requiring migration to a new ADC device. With built-in high-speed ports, the ADC will be able to connect to both today’s and tomorrow’s core switching – enabling applications to benefit from 10GE connectivity.

In addition, make sure that the ADC has high port density which enables connectivity to more applications and physical networks without adding more intermediate switches.