Features, Insight, Opinion

5 ways to simplify the chaos of cloud complexity with advanced load balancing

Amr Alashaal, Regional Vice President – Middle East at A10 Networks, explores the complexities of cloud infrastructure and the delicate act of load balancing in this exclusive op-ed for tahawultech.

Load balancing isn’t just about managing traffic anymore. As infrastructure expands to include applications in public, private, and hybrid clouds, traffic management has evolved from a technology function to a business function that delivers value to the business as a whole. It has also become complex.

The average enterprise is running applications in at least five clouds with over 900+ applications. And most clouds have their own load balancers. Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure have native load balancing that provides basic traffic management, and such solutions are good for simple applications deployed in one location or domain. But as multi-cloud environments become more and more complex, how do organisations ensure effective load balancing for their application services deployed in the clouds?

Here are five ways to help unravel cloud complexity:

Visibility and Analytics

Performance and reliability of applications are critical to the business. Advanced load balancing solutions keep apps running with efficiency and reliability in a number of ways. They use machine learning to set baselines for application performance, user behaviour, etc., so organizations have visibility into which assets are doing well and which may be due for an overhaul or have reached end of life. When a problem is discovered, contextual information helps the operations team troubleshoot faster and more efficiently so optimal customer experience can continue with little or no interruption, and anomaly detection can be used to drive proactive and even predictive responses.

Businesses undertaking digital transformation can use advanced load balancing to inform their decision-making and prioritize their development and infrastructure investments. Visibility, analytics, and insights take the guesswork out of app strategy.

Integrated Security

The scale and scope of attacks is increasing. In public clouds, security is a shared responsibility. The public cloud provider is responsible for securing their own infrastructure and data inside their own cloud. Organisations are responsible for the security of their applications. It’s important to understand these boundaries and implement full-stack security at both the infrastructure and application levels. The load balancer plays a key role in security, because it sits in the best place to reveal patterns around the behaviour of clients. The operations teams can use those patterns to differentiate between legitimate and malicious traffic.

Security that is integrated into the load balancing solution provides the best defence. Unless the operations team includes security experts, organisations will be implementing security on the load balancer. Configuration and management of security features and the ability to adjust policies at a granular level need be straightforward and easy.

Intelligent Automation

New brands and technologies are emerging at a pace faster than ever before, and it is essential that application delivery, security, and load balancing solutions are able to integrate with everything.

Many organisations have already implemented continuous integration & continuous deployment (CI/CD) to merge the work of individual developers. Reducing the problems in the release process, CI/CD automatically triggers a build every time a major change is made to the code. Load balancing that is automated and API-driven will integrate with DevOps tool chains, regardless of whether they’re using Ansible, Azure-specific tools, or other technologies.

The need for automation and integration extends beyond the DevOps team. Does an organisation’s load balancer integrate with all the clouds in their infrastructure? An advanced load balancing solution, with strong integration capabilities, gives businesses the flexibility to respond to changes without having to purchase new assets and re-set the ROI clock. New products and services can go to market faster when integration makes the infrastructure easy to modify.

Centralised Management

Today, the typical organisation has technology everywhere, and managing all that traffic can be a challenge. An advanced load balancing solution that provides centralised management will prevent conflicting policies. It will also ensure visibility of the application stack in both public and private clouds, as well as enable multiple regions to accommodate high availability, regulatory requirements, or other needs.

The operations teams can use a central management console to easily create clusters, build elasticity, and scale up or down based on application needs without having to configure each application individually. This applies whether the infrastructure is running on a multi-cloud, multi-region environment or just one cloud. By having a single source of truth through a centralised console, the operations team can drive efficiency by understanding application performance better, detecting anomalies more accurately, and troubleshooting issues faster.

Integration with Containers

Applications have expanded from traditional hardware servers to virtual machines and multiple public and private clouds. With the application infrastructure becoming more and more complex, adoption of containers is critical. It orchestrates computing, networking, and storage infrastructure on behalf of user workloads. This lets organizations deploy cloud-native applications anywhere and control them with confidence.

Kubernetes is the de-facto standard for container orchestration and management, and has been adopted by all the major players, including Microsoft, Amazon, VMware, Red Hat, and, of course, its developer, Google. Use of Kubernetes has had a tenfold uptick in adoption in public clouds, and the size of deployments is also increasing.

Any advanced load balancing technology that integrates with containers not only has to be able to automatically scale to accommodate changes in application traffic, but also must automatically update itself when changes are made to the infrastructure. Operations teams won’t have to configure policies or otherwise actively manage the load after the advanced load balancing solution is configured. The operations team can function more efficiently, and an organisation will get more value from them.

In conclusion, today, business and infrastructure are synonymous. Operations teams are under pressure to deliver a flexible and secure infrastructure that can support evolving corporate strategies. Advanced load balancers reside in the ideal position in the flow of traffic to help the operations team become more agile and efficient in a multi-cloud environment. But the benefits of advancing load balancing don’t just help operations teams: a company’s decision-makers, security teams, and DevOps departments will also feel the benefits.

Image credit: A10 Networks

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