When I was an academic advisor, I helped college students put together their schedules quarter by quarter, with the goal of guiding them to graduation before their financial aid ran out. More than once, I heard, “Where do I even start?” Even after we covered which discipline areas they were interested in, I could see that the trepidation to jump in hadn’t really gone away. So, I told them, “You know how you eat an elephant, right? One bite at a time,” paraphrasing Bishop Desmond Tutu’s famous utterance.
Why does this matter? Because setting up an application delivery strategy is similar. There’s maybe (hopefully) a general idea about the starting point, and ostensibly, there’s a goal in mind. But the steps to achieve that goal are numerous, shifting, and expensive. It’s a big elephant to tackle (so to speak). With that in mind, here are seven tips to consider when developing a load balancing strategy. Far from exhaustive, consider them a rudimentary framework to help guide decision-making.
Number One: Security. This should not come as a surprise. What is surprising is that 76% of tech leaders would turn off security measures to improve app performance. Fortunately, there is a way to maintain a robust security posture across all levels of app delivery without sacrificing user experience: start with a solution that has security built in at a foundational level. After all, apps are only as secure as the infrastructure on which they run. And a load balancing strategy that starts with security avoids having to play catch-up with its own development—or attackers—later on.
Number Two: Scalability. Having a high-performance app is great, but when it crashes under heavy app traffic volumes, it quickly becomes unavailable. If you plan on growing app users, having a load balancer that can scale with an app portfolio and not overspend your budget will quickly prove invaluable. Coincidentally, this is why cloud-native load balancers can be tricky: their built-in nature may provide some conveniences, but it’s not impossible to receive an unexpected bill from a provider because an application saw a traffic volume spike, or two, or three. Avoid uncertainty: get a solution that supports the app traffic requirements of your network today and has the ability to scale out to support app growth in future, whether in the cloud, on-prem, or hybrid.
Number Three: Performance. Milliseconds make a difference: survey reports show if an application doesn’t load within two seconds of being opened, its users (and their business) are likely to go elsewhere. While there are dozens of ways to boost a load balancer’s performance, one way to keep up with traffic demands is by employing an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) that supports SSL offloading. Deploy an ADC that can handle SSL decrypt in front of your apps and shift the cryptographic processing onto a dedicated solution and off web servers. What does this mean for a network? Back-end servers are free to do what they do best: deliver app data and business potential.
Number Four: Supportability. Accelerated time to market and deployment efficiency are everything when a business depends on its apps. NetOps, SecOps, and DevOps can better support line of business when they have the tools necessary to deploy, manage, and analyze a portfolio of apps while adapting app delivery to business needs. For many organizations, this means leveraging tools to automate application support, offloading the labor required for efficient provisioning, configuration, and management of app support services to the devices that are actually managing their app and network traffic. But “supporting apps” also means knowing what they are doing, how they are performing, and what kind of traffic they’re experiencing. This is why it’s vital to pick a load balancing solution that provides analysis on URL, throughput, and server latency, reported at different levels of the service. Such functionality reduces the amount of time and effort a team would need to expend to acquire this data manually.
Number Five: Flexibility. Just as a business needs to be flexible to adapt to market demands, its load balancing solution needs to be flexible to keep up with the demands on its apps. This means empowering teams with the tools needed for analysis, manipulation, and detection of all aspects of the traffic into and out of that business’ portfolio of applications. The ability to get “under the hood” opens endless possibilities for customization: implement security mitigation rules, support new protocols, fix application-related errors in real time, and, most importantly, own the tools necessary to keep your apps available and effective.
Number Six: Architectural adaptability. It’s a mouthful, but it matters. Choose a product that grants multi-cloud freedom, and you’ll get a solution that works across environments to simplify operations, management, and tools. It’s easy to picture what that means once such a solution is in place: reduced time-to-market for applications, streamlined training for the teams who will manage these services, and more rapid and uniform deployment of fixes and updates to the app portfolios that live across multiple clouds. To take this versatility one step further, pick a solution that’s platform-agnostic and run it anywhere: in a data center as software, on-prem as hardware, in a cloud, or in a hybrid environment.
Number Seven: App requirements. Some apps may have specific requirements that others don’t. They may end up meriting unique load balancing algorithms or need the support of protocols like SNMP or SMTP. There’s rarely a one-size-fits-all load balancing solution. But there are extremely flexible, adaptable solutions that can deliver apps to your users on demand that end up being that elusive, “this size fits pretty much everything we need” answer.
Ultimately, an organization’s unique needs inform which load balancing solution is best for that group. Use these tips to guide that conversation and decision. Read more about intelligent load balancing or contact an F5 representative and find out more.