Before we present the two opposing arguments about Internet load balancers and the trends around it, let’s start with defining what we mean with the term “Internet load balancer”. Internet load balancer usually refers to the technology that is is the Internet gateway that is responsible for deciding how the Internet traffic is handled between several WAN (Wide Area Network) Internet access connections. Internet load balancers can also fulfill firewall’ing and perhaps some additional services, but we will focus on the core Internet load balancing aspect of such devices. We will not include the “Server load balancers”, which refers to the technology that sits in front of a server farm and manages the inbound traffic destined to the servers.
Why and when do you need more than one of something? For example, if you need storage, would you not go for a single storage device that has enough capacity versus a RAID based storage solution where several storage devices are brought together with a intelligence layer that manages the storage devices to present a single interface to the higher layers?
Similarly, why would you need more than one computing core in a CPU? Shouldn’t you go for a single core CPU that is fast enough for your needs, or should you consider a multi-core CPU where the cores are intelligently managed?
One can easily see where I am going with this: if you need bandwidth, shouldn’t you get a fastest Internet connection from your service provider and not care about having more than one Internet connection?
One argument is that if the service provided has the ability to fit the quality of service, reliability and target value price points, there should never be a need for a secondary Internet line for connectivity to the Internet.
Yes, in theory, that argument makes sense. But how about the observations that support the counter point, i.e. why have the RAID based storage solutions, multi-core CPUs and multi-WAN Internet load balancers turned out to be the winners throughout the technology trends, compared to their single resource counterparts such as non-RAID, single-core, single WAN technologies? The answer lies in the fact that when the ultimate objective is to get high performance, high reliability at a lower cost, to hit the better value proposition, technologies that intelligently combined and optimize underlying resources seem to have enjoyed the upper hand over unsophisticated single-source approaches.
The fundamental question to consider is this: can you intelligently combine several of something, to get a better end result. Especially with the wide diversity of WAN services from cellular, to MPLS, from DSL to fiber, from low cost best effort, to expensive dedicated services, it is not surprising that technologies that can combine resources from these variety of options and cater to the specific needs of the user will always have an advantage.
Cahit Akin, CEO, Mushroom Networks, Inc.
Mushroom Networks is the provider of SD-WAN (Software Defined WAN) and NFV solutions capable of Broadband Bonding that enables self-healing WAN networks that route around network problems such as latency, jitter and packet loss.