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27 Oct

Are You Balancing the Load - Be sure with Effective Performance Management

Balancing Silver and Gold Metal Balls

As today's networks continue to move to an all IP infrastructure (if they have not done so already), the virtualization and consolidation of network capabilities and resources becomes a key requirement of any new data center technology. Every device has to do more than its predecessor. Today we are taking a few moments to look at this trend which is especially true in the load balancer arena.

So what does a load balancer actually do? Load balancers have the ability to distribute a workload across a collection of servers, network devices, or other elements in the infrastructure to avoid overloading a single device and distribute the “load” to achieve balanced utilization across devices. Load balancers have been around for many years and started out as a way to front end large server farms with a virtual address in order to distribute the load of requests across the farm. Today, they perform much more than load balancing. Systems today provide acceleration, a migration path from IPv4 to IPv6, NAT and SIP load balancing to name just a few.

Wondering why all of this matters in a performance monitoring blog, right? Well, being able to manage load balancers has historically been challenging for network performance management vendors. The RFC MIBs do not have much information in the way of load balancing stats, and as one can guess, each vendor has their own way of representing performance of their devices. If you cannot collect the relevant performance data, you put yourself and your customers at risk. Generally, these devices perform well but in the event they have degradation, how do you collect, baseline, trend and alert on the data to find a problem before it impacts your customers?

A10 Networks, based in Silicon Valley, is a perfect example of the positives of a multi function device and at the same time the challenge of collecting all the performance statistics that you need for complete visibility. Founded in 2004, they have quickly moved to the forefront in load balancing (as well as acceleration, optimization, and security of applications). Their AX Series platform is being deployed at carriers and large enterprises around the world due to its scalability and flexibility.

SevOne works with vendors like A10 to understand the most relevant and useful information to collect, and the best way to collect that data. Besides getting all of the “standard” stuff off of an A10 load balancer, like CPU, memory, interface stats, etc., SevOne pulls specific metrics about how the device is actually balancing traffic. Looking at connection level statistics at a global level is just one view into how the A10 device is performing. Having the ability to look at the number of L4 and L7 sessions as well as the incoming requests combined with the total number of current connections going through a device is paramount to understanding how the device is performing and in turn, how well it is serving valuable content to users.

Looking into the device at the global level is great, but equally important is to be able to look down at per Virtual IP Address (VIP) level. This is where most folks who manage these devices want and need visibility. A10 does a great job of populating the same global metrics discussed above down to a per VIP level. It is at this level, where one sees how the traffic is being handled for a specific service or function that the load balancer is providing.

As consumers continue demanding more and more content at greater speeds, whether it be over the wireless or the wired infrastructure, carriers and enterprises will need to ensure their infrastructure can handle this demand. By leveraging a platform from A10 and combining it with network performance management solution from SevOne, your network team and your boss is guaranteed complete and immediate visibility into how their infrastructure is performing, hence ensuring their consumers demand for content is met.

We've written a few blogs on the impact of IP on mobile and backhaul traffic, so for more information read: Transition to IPv6 without Impacting Your NetFlow Reporting Increasing Performance Visibility with EXFO/Brix Response Time Metrics

Pete Cruz is the Senior Director of Product Mangement and Marketing for SevOne.

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