Load balancers have been a core part of application infrastructure since the mid-1990s. The load balancer, located between the application layer and network infrastructure, ensures high application performance and scalability, along with advanced capabilities that include security, visibility, automation and much more.
There is no denying that we live in an application-driven economy. Application experience is synonymous with business growth and superior customer satisfaction. In fact, my research shows that customer experience is now the top brand differentiator. This makes load balancers one of the most crucial infrastructure components as they ensure that the user experience is never compromised, and the applications continue to perform as expected.
VMware Inc. has been a major infrastructure provider with its virtualization and cloud solutions and moved into the load balancer market when it acquired the startup Avi Networks Inc. in 2019. The product, now known as VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer, was designed to be a software-defined load balancing solution purpose-built for cloud operating models.
There are other, larger load balancing vendors, but VMware is aiming to disrupt the industry with a “better together” story as it has tied its product to its many cloud platforms. These include VMware Cloud Foundation or VCF, VMware Cloud on AWS or VMC, VMware Telco Cloud Platform and VMware Cloud Provider Program or VCPP, as well as Tanzu and Horizon. Each of these provides a different flavor of cloud depending on the use case.
To highlight the benefit, I’ll use VMware Cloud Foundation, its hybrid cloud platform, as an example. VCF is designed to bring greater enterprise agility, reliability and efficiency in the deployment of private and hybrid clouds. The VCF stack comprises a number of VMware products including software-defined compute (vSphere), storage (vSAN), network (NSX), in addition to a complete cloud management suite through Aria, formerly vRealize. Primary VCF use cases are private cloud, application modernization and accelerated workloads.
The VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer or ALB, in addition to its server load balancing capabilities, enables Global Server Load Balancing or GSLB with intelligent traffic distribution across data centers and addresses important use cases such as disaster recovery with ease. With the inbuilt web application firewall, NSX ALB can provide application protection. Lastly, it helps analyze and optimize end-to-end application experience proactively while simplifying troubleshooting and automatically builds a self-healing infrastructure for ongoing operations and troubleshooting.
VMware NSX ALB elevates VCF from an infrastructure platform to an application platform as it adds application load balancing, application security and application awareness capabilities. When third-party load balancers are used, there can often be months of tuning and tweaking, whereas NSX ALB has been specifically designed for VMware environments.
Here are a few ways NSX ALB makes your VMware Cloud Foundation investments better:
Intelligent traffic distribution for scale and resiliency:
- GSLB services for geographically dispersed applications.
- Load balancing of often overlooked elements such as LDAP, Radius and DNS servers for better scale and resiliency.
- Load balancing for traditional and modern applications, as well as VCF elements such as Log Insights, Aria operations and Aria automation.
Optimized application experience:
- Reduced latency by eliminating hairpinning of traffic.
- Accelerated application response time by offloading resource-intensive services, including connection management and access control list lookups, from routers or switches.
- End-to-end visibility of the application experience.
Stronger security posture:
- Application protection from common threats, including cross-site scripting, SQL injection, cookie poisoning, Layer 7 DDoS attacks and Web scraping.
In addition, NSX ALB together with VCF offers validated designs from VMware. This curated prescriptive architectural approach, which includes the load balancer, ensures that these implementations are never an afterthought, nor are load balancers deployed in silos. This considerably reduces operational and testing efforts.
For most businesses, the use of the cloud is shifting away from public-only to a true multicloud model. My research shows that 95% of enterprise-class companies are planning to leverage a combination of multiple public clouds as well as private cloud deployments. In addition to tight integration with the VMware cloud stacks, NSX ALB can act as an abstraction layer and provide advanced load balancing services across clouds.
Typically, businesses use the native load balancers offered by cloud providers, such as AWS load balancers that only work in that specific environment. Managing distinct Amazon Web Service, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and private cloud instances creates a management headache. NSX ALB can provide consistent, automated services across any cloud deployment configuration.
There are many options available for load balancers, but if a business is looking to leverage VMware for the foundation of the cloud, VMware NSX Advanced Load Balancer is a sensible option.