I just purchased a hardware load balancer for redundency. I just wanted to ask, with the introduction of "Grid" AppLogic OS, will hardware load balancers now become obsolete? Especially if they cost about $25k and are still a single point of failure? Will this new software have an impact on the necessity for dual + quad cpu servers?
Especially if they cost about $25k and are still a single point of failure?
They don't necessarily have to be a single point of failure. f5 devices (among others, I'm sure) will talk to your IGP; if they're configured to fail properly, routes will fall out of your IGP and that particular loadbalancer will no longer be considered a valid path to next-hop your loadbalanced traffic. You could theoretically scale an unlimited number of loadbalancers that way, although I realize that relatively few sites will implement LBs in the manner i've described.
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For us, we strictly deploy load balancers in high availability pairs but only in warm standby mode (state not retained, resolved a lot of HA problems). In the event of a primary failure, the secondary gratuitously ARPs itself as the active IP and takes over operations. F5 has a great deal of automation to make the sync process very nice to work with. The Cisco CSS 115xx's have a script you can play to do the same thing, only the gotcha is that it doesn't copy SSL certs to the secondary box so you have to do that manually.
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I am the architect of AppLogic, and my view is that hardware appliances are becoming obsolete as we speak. The reason is very simple: performance and cost.
During the nineties, when load balancers first came into existence, the processors were not fast enough to do layer 7 tasks at wire speed. So, if you wanted to build a decent load balancer, firewall, SSL gateway, etc. your only choice was to build a custom chip that does datapath processing in hardware, and then build a box around it.
Today, a decent Intel/AMD processor has both the performance and the memory throughput to allow wirespeed processing of these tasks in software. In fact, since the major CPU vendors (Intel, AMD, IBM) all have highly advanced proprietary chip production capabilities, in many cases C code running on a good Opteron ends up being faster than a custom chip made by any other company.
The consequence of this is that a software load balancer running on a grid of commodity servers is way cheaper, more flexible and not slower than a hardware box. The same applies to firewalls, NAS boxes, intelligent routers and any other hardware appliance we have gotten used to in the last 10 years.
The future belongs to commodity servers connected with "dumb" and fast L2 switches. Everything else will move to software. (At least until we move to 10 Gbps networks - then the situation will reverse again :-))