Load balancers have matured from devices that distribute access requests across web servers into full featured Application Delivery Controllers that play a vital role in the modern application focused world. Most users of a computer, tablet or smartphone are running applications that consume and display data from back end servers. Often these applications are wrappers for web views that communicate with web and content delivery servers. Load balancers have a vital role to play as part of a modern network to ensure that applications on all types of desktop and mobile devices are delivered and function well.
The fact that VIP (virtual IP) load balancers with awareness of Layer 7 application traffic are available allows additional functionality beyond intelligent distribution of requests based on server and network load. Information from the application layer can be used to ensure that requests for certain types of data go to the servers that are configured to best handle it. For example sending requests for video compression to dedicated media servers.
Application layer awareness also means that industry standard applications can be intelligently load balanced. Configuration templates are available to optimize load balancers for specific business applications. This ensures that the applications perform optimally when deployed. A selection of application configuration templates for Kemp LoadMaster includes:
- Microsoft Exchange Server
- Microsoft Skype for Business
- Microsoft Lync Server
- Microsoft SharePoint
- VMware Horizon View
- Oracle E-Business Suite
Load balancers have matured greatly and are now fully fledged application delivery controllers. They are a core component to application delivery networks that are based on a selection of technologies deployed in concert to deliver applications over a network. Load balancers are key to application delivery networks and as such they help provide the following functionality:
- Application Acceleration - To increase the responsiveness of applications that are delivered over the network.
- Application Traffic Management - Optimizes the routing and delivery of specific data types to the best server as quickly as possible.
- Application Layer Security - Protects data and information at the points where applications interact with the network.
- Application Discovery - Provides a centralized and managed way for users to find applications that deliver business functionality.
- Application Load Balancers - The load balancing component of an Application Delivery Network.
- Processor Offload - Handle processor intensive tasks, such as SSL encryption, to free up web servers for content delivery.
- Content Caching - Reduce the number of requests to back end servers by caching recent content locally.
The ability to work with, and inspect, layer 7 network packets also allows load balancers to become a key component of the network security infrastructure. Packets can be inspected for malicious content. Load balancers are a very important piece of modern network security for other reasons too. They provide another layer of defense on your network between the outside world and your business systems. As such they operate with your standard border security firewalls and provide strength in depth against attacks. This includes protection against DDOS flooding of the servers. The incorporation of Kemp Web Application Firewall functionality into the load balancer network inspection systems, allows common security threats associated with web page code hijacks and injections to be detected and neutralized.