How do you Load Balance in a Hybrid or Multi-cloud World?
As hybrid cloud and multi-cloud infrastructures become the norm, organizations need to ensure that traffic is managed optimally across every environment they use to deliver the best experience for users and customers. Multi-cloud load balancing introduces new challenges beyond traditional on-premises load balancing, as companies often use a range of diverse on-premises, public cloud, and private cloud environments with differences in configuration. Traffic management has grown more complex as well, encompassing both traditional and modern applications as well as containers. These requirements have placed even more importance on the application delivery controller (ADC), which must now provide a central point of unified management while ensuring consistent application availability, application performance, and security across this heterogeneous infrastructure.
A definition of terms can be useful for framing this discussion. While hybrid cloud is generally understood to refer to an infrastructure comprising multiple deployment modes, such as legacy on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud environments, there is less consensus around the term multi-cloud. Definitions can specify the use of multiple public cloud environments from multiple vendors only, but the term is also used more broadly to refer to any combination of public and private cloud resources from multiple vendors.
Why your ADC Needs Multi-cloud Load Balancing
Using an ADC to perform load balancing for your multi-cloud environment can help you meet several key needs.
Reliable application availability and performance are critical to helping organizations meet the demands of digital business. As users around the world access content and applications hosted in multiple environments, the visibility and analytics of advanced load balancing provide information about application performance, user behavior, and more to enable effective management, consistent service, and fast troubleshooting.
End-to-end Monitoring and Management
Optimal application performance and load balancing depend on end-to-end visibility. Traditional application delivery infrastructures and processes developed for on-premises applications typically fall short of the requirements of today’s more distributed and complex architectures. The same is true for the built-in load balancing offered by many cloud providers. An ADC with multi-cloud load balancing can help IT monitor or manage even highly complex and distributed applications end-to-end.
While application performance management (APM) suites have been useful for visibility and analytics in the past, they often struggle with TLS encryption or add overhead through an agent-based design. An ADC solution, on the other hand, can offer a complete, detailed view of traffic across the multi-cloud infrastructure through a single pane of glass, and allows key capabilities to be deployed wherever applications are hosted, including environment-specific performance enhancements, TLS management, performance monitoring, and security.
A multi-cloud load balancer can play an important role in high availability by providing redundancy in the event of a failure. An organization can deploy to multiple cloud providers in an active-passive configuration in which one site acts as a backup for the other. The load balancer can then perform health checks and failover as needed. This global server load balancing (GSLB) function can also provide geographic site selection based on factors such as content localization, regulatory compliance, proximity to the requesting client, and the site best able to provide an optimal experience.
Web and Application Security
Working with multiple cloud platforms can lead to a complex multi-vendor security environment with web application firewalls (WAF), encryption, DDoS protection, and other tools from multiple cloud providers and third parties. This makes it necessarily to adjust each platform manually to achieve some level of consistency. By using a single multi-cloud load balancer to perform these functions, organizations can more easily configure and manage standardized security policies across cloud platforms to avoid gaps, simplify management, and better protect the company’s assets and brands.
Supporting Modern Application Platforms
Containers and microservices play a central part in agile development methods like DevOps, allowing organizations to deliver applications more quickly and ensure a consistent experience across platforms. However, they also pose challenges such as frequently changing IP addresses, a lack of access control between microservices, and a lack of application layer visibility. An ADC that provides advanced load balancing across containers, public clouds, and private clouds can overcome these problems and provide the visibility needed to keep modern applications running reliably and efficiently.
Multi-cloud Load Balancing for Microsoft Azure, AWS, and Oracle Cloud
While cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, and others, provide application delivery and load balancing capabilities, these are typically native and specific to their own environment. Organizations using multiple cloud services must configure, monitor, and manage delivery and security individually for each environment, and make adjustments for any applications that change hosting locations over time. This greatly increases complexity, overhead, and the possibility for error. An ADC with multi-cloud load balancing is by definition cloud-agnostic, allowing all workloads to be managed in the same way across the diverse infrastructure without the need for multiple dashboards and consoles. By allowing consistent security and application services within each public cloud environment, a central point of management provides a more efficient and reliable foundation for polynimbus secure application services deployment.
Key Multi-cloud Load Balancing Features
Visibility and Analytics
A multi-cloud load balancer should give IT the control needed to provide an optimal experience regardless of where applications and content are hosted. Analytics can be used to understand baselines for application performance and user behavior, helping to track the health of assets and troubleshoot problems quickly and accurately. Anomaly detection can be used to drive proactive and predictive maintenance. Deep visibility, analytics, and actionable insights can also help inform decisions on development and investment priorities.
While public cloud providers take responsibility for securing their own infrastructure and the data inside it, enterprises are responsible for the security of their own applications in public cloud environments. This shared responsibility model means that to protect against a rising tide of attacks, companies need to implement full-stack security at both the infrastructure and application levels. The multi-cloud load balancer is an essential part of this stack, offering visibility into client behavior throughout the multi-cloud infrastructure to help uncover patterns that might indicate malicious traffic. Security, operations, and SecOps teams can automate security functions and policies via APIs across the diverse infrastructure.
With resources and traffic distributed across a complex array of cloud providers, management can quickly become cumbersome, inefficient, and error prone. Centralized management allows operations teams to easily create clusters, build elasticity, and scale up or down through automated means. Unified policies across environments can help ensure consistency and avoid conflicts. Unified visibility into the application stack in both public and private clouds, across regions, can help the organization meet requirements for performance management, anomaly detection, troubleshooting, high availability, regulatory compliance, and other needs.
Modern continuous integration & continuous deployment (CI/CD) methods automatically trigger a build every time a major change is made to the code. An automated, API-driven multi-cloud load balancer can integrate with the DevOps tool chain to support this process and ensure optimal availability and performance for new applications.
Containers using technologies like Kubernetes and Docker have quickly become a key technology for the deployment and control of cloud-native applications across diverse environments. An ADC’s multi-cloud load balancing technology should integrate easily with containers to accommodate changes in application traffic, as well as to update itself when changes are made to the infrastructure.
How A10 Networks Enables Multi-cloud and Hybrid Cloud Load Balancing
A10 Networks’ Thunder® Application Delivery Controller (ADC) provides security, performance, and availability for application delivery that can be on-premises, cloud, or hybrid. Mastering multi-cloud environments requires a polynimbus secure application services approach to ensure that policies, features, and services are consistent. To learn more about multi-cloud load balancing with A10 Networks application delivery controllers, view our webinar on “How to Boost Application Delivery Consistency in a Multi-cloud World.”
Our infographic, “Mapping the Multi-Cloud Enterprise,” offers a high-level view of the drivers, benefits, and challenges of multi-cloud adoption.