Today we'll talk about application experience which is and always has been the number 1 focus of every IT department in every organization. It all comes to the user's happiness. It does not matter that your full-blown virtualization environment has top-notch performance today, because one day when an application performs poorly, your users won’t be happy. That's where load balancing comes into play, to provide the uptime and the performance needed. If you're into application performance, read on.
Load balancing is a key component of highly-available infrastructures and is used to improve the performance and reliability of web sites, applications, databases, and other services. Load balancers can spread the load if spikes of traffic occur by distributing the workload across multiple servers.
If you're an IT guy, perhaps you know the saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This applies to your application stack as well. Any application in your company should have a disaster strategy for as many failure types as you can think of. The best way to ensure that failure isn’t a disaster is to have redundancy and an automatic recovery mechanism and load balancing enables this type of strategy.
Why use load balancers? Here are the top 3 reasons:
- Your company is growing and you're adding more seats
- The traffic is growing or has seasonal peaks and demands
- You need high availability (HA) without the high cost
One of the specialists of load balancing is Kemp which we know as a while back we reviewed their LoadMaster load balancing solution for VMware (which has L4 and L7 content switching, SSL Offload, Server and Application Health Checking, Persistence, Caching, Compression, IPS and much more). Since then their offering evolved to provide more for less with ease.
Today we'll focus on Application Experience (AX) fabric in this post which is the first post in the series. Application Experience Fabric is part LoadMaster, which is an ADC (application delivery controller) and functions as a load balancer. LoadMaster supports multi-platform environments and can be deployed on physical servers, virtual servers or even deployed in the cloud.
Before we lose you and jump into AX fabric, let's first learn what's ADC.
What is ADC?
An application delivery controller (ADC) is a network device that helps direct user traffic to remove the excess load from two or more servers. In addition to providing Layer 4 load balancing, ADCs can manage Layer 7 for content switching, and also provide SSL offload and acceleration. They tend to offer more advanced features such as content redirection as well as server health monitoring.
Now let's start with AX fabric, which is a nice name for a set of services and products provided by Kemp technologies.
AX Fabric – What is it?
The AX fabric is composed of 3 key elements.
- Kemp LoadMaster – It is the actual ADC and load balancer, which is located at the central plane of traffic flow between the application, application server and the user. Can be deployed as physical, virtual on-prem or in the cloud – video here.
- Kemp 360 Central – Is the main UI, the main control console where you monitor the traffic flow, manage the Loadmasters and can view usage data in NGINX, f5 Big-IP, AWS ELB and HA proxy (throughput, utilization etc.) – video here.
The 360 Central is really the single console access you need. From there you manage the configs, system and monitor the performance.
You can do many tasks and configs:
- Auto deployment of ADC
- Configuration Management
- Performance Monitoring
- Centralized Logging
- Firmware Management
- Application Template Management
- ADC Backup Management
More detailed view is here:
Another part of the AX fabric is 360 vision.
- Kemp 360 Vision – looks at data from 360 central for patterns that indicate an upcoming outage – for example, DDoS, incorrect firewall settings, degrading server performance that goes above and beyond server monitoring. (video here).
All 3 components work hand in hand to provide a seamless experience to the admin.
In the past, your typical ADC architecture would look something like this. A couple of load balancers protecting some large array of servers which were running applications.
As we've got many clouds and heterogenous environments, the situation changed a bit. Now with Kemp, it looks like this. Each application (running on-prem, in the cloud as a VM, stateless or containerized) is protected by a dedicated ADC, but as you only pay for what's consumed, the number of instances doesn’t matter.
There are videos which show the architecture, the UI of the 360 Central, 360 Vision, and shows much more than we can put into a single blog post. I highly recommend watching the different details and possibilities of the platform.
To get you started, you can use an automated deployment to automatically install Kemp 360 pre-configured virtual appliance (VM) to VMware vSphere (ESXi) 6.5 (and higher) or KVM. For VMware vSphere you'll download an OVF file which you'll then import to vCenter. Instructions are available here. Very simple and nothing new for VMware admins. A version for Microsoft Hyper-V is also available.
If you don't have your own on-prem virtual infrastructure, you can deploy Kemp 360 to Amazon AWS or Microsoft Azure and still be able to ensure your application performance.
LoadMaster has been deployed on 100k+ worldwide deployments and is the most popular load balancer for VMware ESXi
In this introductory article, we haven't had enough space to cover everything about Kemp and their offerings. We haven’t even talked much about their new licensing model, Metered Licensing, which is a key element. With Kemp, you can deploy unlimited load balancing instances with unlimited throughput and only pay for what you use. Their licensing is flexible and not based on a number of instances, but rather on the actual throughput.
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