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What Are the Benefits of Load Balancing in a Hybrid Cloud Environment?

by Frank Yue
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Hybrid cloud is the most popular application deployment method in use today. Data collected for the Flexera 2020 State Of The Cloud Report shows that 87% of the 481 enterprises surveyed have adopted the hybrid approach. This is up from a figure of approximately 55% in each of the previous three years. IDC estimates that the total spending on public cloud-based services by 2023 will be $500 billion. The cloud is where the action will be in application experience over the next few years. And within that, the hybrid approach with multiple public & private cloud vendors in use, along with traditional on-premise data centers, will be the overwhelming bulk of the market. 

With a hybrid cloud approach in use, it is essential that traffic is directed to the optimal place to deliver the best application experience for users. Many applications will have servers spread across server farms either on single cloud providers but also on some occasions across providers. Load Balancers are essential in this type of environment. Deploying load balancers to handle all requests to applications allows the traffic and load on servers to be managed so that the most appropriate server to process a request is used at each particular time. The most appropriate server could be another one in the same public cloud site, or it could be geographically distant. Load balancers use advanced algorithms to pick the best server and location when distributing incoming client access requests. 

Fronting web applications with load balancers provides flexibility and agility for delivering an excellent application experience. Service location and capacity delivery from any one cloud provider becomes fluid and can flex as required. When combined with Kemp’s innovative Metered Licensing model, a fully load-balanced hybrid cloud-based application delivery infrastructure becomes the best method of serving applications to all.

Here are some of the ways that LoadMaster load balancers can help with application delivery in a modern hybrid cloud environment.

Global Server Load Balancing

Kemp GEO is our Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB) add-on module for LoadMaster that delivers applications in a multi-cloud, geographically spread environment. It adds multi-site load balancing and application service resilience via seamless site fail-over and fail-back. GEO comes in two editions: a standalone Virtual-GEO LoadMaster virtual machine that can be deployed on all the significant hypervisors (Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere, RedHat KVM, Citrix Hypervisor, Oracle Virtual Box), or in the cloud on Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. Additionally, Kemp GEO is available as a feature pack for deployment on existing LoadMaster instances to add GSLB into current infrastructure deployments. Both editions provide the same functionality.

Details on Kemp GEO can be found on the product page.

Identity & Authentication Services

Running applications in a hybrid cloud environment necessitates the use of unified identification, authentication, and single sign-on. Making it as easy as possible for users to authenticate without weakening security is vital if people are to follow best practices for password strength and multi-factor authentication. Many enterprise customers are already using Microsoft Active Directory as their on-premise authentication solution. This can be extended to Azure and other public clouds using Microsoft’s Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS). Deploying ADFS allows account login information to be synced between multiple systems, with the permissions and access rights that Active Directory supports. ADFS supports Microsoft cloud applications like Microsoft 365 email, and also bespoke applications deployed in Azure. Third-party cloud providers like AWS support ADFS as well via integrations using SAML 2.0.

ADFS load balancing is fully supported by LoadMaster. See our Load Balancing for Microsoft Solutions page for more info.

Application Layer Load Balancing

Cloud provider load balancers often operate only at the network layer 4 level. At this layer network packets are routed based on their IP address information. The load balancer has no visibility of what type of information is contained within the network traffic being routed to servers. LoadMaster can inspect network packets at the layer 7 Application level to see what kind of data they contain. This allows load balancing decisions to take into account which servers are best suited to process the data. For example, there could be dedicated video rendering servers available that are optimized to handle video. Application layer load balancing can make sure that video data streams get routed to these servers in preference, even if there may be other servers in the farm less busy at that time. The decision making can be more granular when both network and application layer decisions can be made.

Traffic moving over the network should be encrypted. To allow the inspection of application layer network packets, LoadMaster has a feature called SSL/TLS Offloading. This enables the LoadMaster to decrypt incoming packets to inspect them, then route them on to the most appropriate destination server. SSL/TLS Offloading and packet inspection are also used to check for suspicious payloads that may be part of a cyberattack. In conjunction with the Kemp Web Application Firewall and Edge Security Pack, this provides another layer of security for applications.

Kemp Solution Workloads

Making sure the applications deployed in a hybrid cloud environment are properly load balanced can be complicated. To help with this, we provide a wide selection of pre-configured solution workloads that can be imported into a LoadMaster to provide a solid foundation that can be adjusted if required by experienced IT system admins. Workloads are available for many Microsoft, VMware, SAP, and other applications and platform providers. See the Load Balancing for Applications and Technologies page for more information and to download.

Conclusion

As shown by the figures in the introduction, hybrid cloud deployment will be the dominant application delivery method in use for the foreseeable future. Providing a well configured and flexible load balancer infrastructure across all the public cloud providers in use will make the application experience much better. Kemp is here to help you deliver the best application experience for your users.

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