Beyond Load Balancing

By David Strom  |  Posted 2009-04-09 Print this article Print

Today’s applications deliver content across a wide swath of Internet and local network infrastructure. Yesterday’s network tools just don’t do the job anymore.

“It’s more than just simple load balancing,” says Gartner’s Skorupa. “You can’t live without these products. In addition to significantly improving performance and reducing server loads, they are ideally positioned to look at coming and going traffic and find performance and security problems.”

Another complicating factor is the increasing role that virtualization plays in delivering enterprise applications. As more virtualized servers are turned on, the load balancing, proxy servers and other tools have to coordinate their movements and be able to work with this new infrastructure.

Wells Fargo’s Littlejohn talks about how “load balancing is really about finding the most effective way to deliver content, and its intent is to deliver a solution that virtualizes a service.”

The separate tools are now starting to combine into something more integrated. “Pure load balancing will evolve into a content delivery system, providing customers with predictable levels of performance,” she says. “In the WAN optimization space, a seamless integration is key. The manufacturers appear to be converging on a common feature set that includes transparency and effective replication of LAN services. Technologies will continue to evolve, and the transition to application delivery controllers will likely be part of the evolution.”

O’Berry of the Department of Probation adds: “Sometimes it seems more voodoo than science, although it continues to get better and better. But the days of the pure load-balancing appliance are numbered, and we are going to need something more integrated that goes up the entire applications stack.”

Improving applications can dramatically enhance performance. Take the case of Virgin America, an airline headquartered in San Francisco. Prior to upgrading its reservation system, on peak days, Virgin would reach 80 percent of its bandwidth capacity as customers bought tickets online. After deploying Radware’s AppDirector load balancer and upgrading its servers, Virgin’s pipes are now below 5 percent of their capacity, and the airline can focus on improving its customers’ Web experience.

“You have to balance saving money with making sure your business is supported effectively,” says Ravi Simhambhatla, director of IT infrastructure for Virgin America.


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