So you are responsible for choosing the right network load balancers for your organization, you are the one who is going to need “to splash the cash” as they say. When you talk to your technical expert who has reviewed what you need to consider as your buying criteria, he or she could give you the following smart guides to choose the right vendor to opt for:
- Check out the clock synchronization
- Determine the application session type
- Prepare for emergencies
- Monitor all network activity
- Set up access lists
- Can I have a raise boss?
Is this the real way to buy network load balancers? No of course it isn’t, read on and find out what really counts to make a savvy decision and keep your boss and even the company board happy. Do a good job and maybe you will get a pay rise, Ok let’s get to work!
1. Define the problem
Any professional boss will ask you why the organization needs to spend money on load balancers:
- What is the problem and why do we have it
- Are there alternatives that are cheaper than load balancing
- How much will all this cost
Your answer should be ready and thought through. Let’s start with the problem. As more and more
company mission critical data and processes are handled by web access and content is stored on network
servers, continuous uptime and access is vital. The problem can be caused by company growth or simply
maintaining a professional service to keep up with the competition. Even if you work in the public sector
your bosses may have promised each and every citizen that they have access to web based services, watch
out for this, it could affect your career prospects!
2. Map out the vendors who respond to the clients’ needs
There are essentially three types of vendors, those who are the incumbents including F5, Radware and Citrix. Next those who are eager to increase their market share for example KEMP Technologies and A10 and those who are getting out or not sure if this market niche is for them who include Cisco and Riverbed. Just because a vendor has a dominant market position in your country don’t automatically side with them because the way they value your service is important, do you want to be treated with
indifference? Do they:
- Respond in a timely manner if you make an enquiry or leave your contact details on their website?
- Have sales staff, resellers or distributors in your country who can help you in your own language?
- Offer evaluation units, or virtual load balancers that you can test drive without you making the commitment to buy their products?
- Have great technical support that you have access to from the start?
Have a fan base of bloggers, experts or happy end users who have given a big thumbs up to the vendor (without being paid for it)
3. How do the network application vendors you have invested in rate the load balancer supplier?
You have your server applications that you have invested in and need to be sure that the load balancer vendor you are considering is considered compatible or even recommended. Don’t just trust the information on the load balancer vendor’s website, go and check out your application vendor’s recommendations. Some Application vendors will only recommend a single load balancer solution
because they don’t have the time to validate all potentially suitable solutions, Oracle is a good example with F5, now do a smart check and see what the validated Oracle bloggers say. Surprise they recommend KEMP Technologies, Citrix and many others, do your research it’s worth it!
4. What’s in the box?
Sounds simple but in order to evaluate the load balancer quotation you have received you need to know what it could contain or even not contain. These could be essential accessories or support services that you need and therefore affect the actual price you will need to pay. Here are some hidden costs that you may have not asked the sales person to confirm. Remember “Caveat imperator or Buyer beware” The romans knew what they were talking about when they were buying their load balancers
(if they could get them):
- The price is for the load balancer on its own, correct?
- What will support cost me and what are the options?
- So you don’t offer 24/7 support?
- I’m going to do some special stuff like reverse proxy do I need additional products not just the load balancer?
- I have my own firewall and antivirus applications can you give me a discount if I don’t use yours?
Interestingly enough few network load balancer vendors, these include Radware and Citrix don’t have an easy way to buy the “It’s in the box” product unlike KEMP Technologies. One of the aces in KEMP’s pricing pack is that global working hours support for the first year is always included be you in the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia or Oceania and you can purchase 24/7 if that’s what you need. Can’t be bad can it, step up the opposition if you can.
5. Does your load balancer vendor have your interests at heart?
This is a valid question and you can decide on the score each load balancing vendor should be awarded on their ability to understand your business needs and how much they are prepared to invest in both time and therefore money to help you. Insist on stripping the fog or the mystery of network load balancing that many vendors use today. They tell you that understanding network load balancing is a black magic art or even requires an advanced degree in Voodoo or being a qualified wizard like King
These mists and fogs only allow certain network load balancer vendors to raise their prices and keep council only with the “cognoscenti” inside end user organizations who, of course don’t include you. The vendors usually leave it to blog sites to inform non-super-experts to find out about the important load balancing criteria and buying decisions they need to make before they put their money on the table.
Three suppliers that buck this trend are F5 (although their buyers guide was written 6 years ago), Radware and most recently KEMP Technologies. The KEMP Technologies buyers guide and the load balancing glossary are well worth a look.