Economics of Load Balancing When Transitioning to the Cloud

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One of the concerns I hear often is that application delivery controller (ADC) licensing models do not support cloud transitions for the enterprise or address the business needs of cloud service providers that have a large number of tenants.

Of course, there are many models to choose from – perpetual pricing per instance, bring-your-own license (BYOL), consumption and metered licensing models by licensing by CPU cores, per-user, by throughput, service provider-licensing agreements (SPLA), to name a few. The biggest concern is the complexity in licensing of ADC capacity. In a cloud environment, the performance profile for a particular instance may need to change to accommodate traffic spike. The licensing infrastructure and automation needs to accommodate this characteristic.

Traditionally, load balancers were deployed as physical devices as a redundant pair supported by perpetual pricing, a non-expiring license to use an instance, whether it’s hardware, virtualized or in the cloud. The customer has no obligation to pay for support or update services, although they are offered at an additional yearly cost. As virtualization took hold in the data centers, ADCs began to be deployed as virtual appliances and started supporting subscription licensing model – a renewable license, usually annual or monthly, that includes software support and updates during the subscription term. The license is automatically terminated unless it is renewed at the end of the term. Now, as applications move to cloud, ADCs are being deployed as a service in the cloud and consumption-based pricing is becoming common.

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Evaluating Choices: The Problem of Plenty

There are many licensing models to choose from – perpetual , subscription, consumption/metered, so how do you decide what to choose? The key is to understand what problem you’re trying to solve, identify the *MUST* have capabilities you’d expect for your applications, and plan how much of the capacity you’d need and then do an apples-to-apples comparison.

Understand the use case

Let us consider a cloud service provider (CSP) tenant onboarding as an example. The provider offers service to its tenants (medium and large enterprises), which consume their own homegrown applications and those offered and hosted by the CSP.

[You may also like: Application Delivery Use Cases for Cloud and On-Premise Applications]

For example, a CSP whose tenants are hospitals and physician networks offers patient registration systems as a shared SaaS offering among multiple tenants. Each tenant has varying needs for a load balancer – small ones require public cloud-based ADCs, whereas mid-sized and large ones have both public and private cloud solutions. Some of the larger tenants of the CSP also require their application services proxied by hardware ADCs due to low latency requirements. Self-service is a must for the CSP to reduce cost of doing business and so it automation and integration to support the tenants that administer their own environments.

Based on the use case, evaluate what functionality you’d need and what type of form factor support is required

CSPs are increasingly concerned about the rapid growth and expansion of Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform into their markets. Hosting providers that only provide commodity services, such as co-location and web hosting, have realized they are one service outage away from losing customers to larger cloud providers.

[You may also like: Embarking on a Cloud Journey: Expect More from Your Load Balancer]

In addition, many CSPs that provide managed services are struggling to grow because their current business is resource intensive and difficult to scale. In order to survive this competitive landscape, CSPs must have:

  • Cost predictability for the CSP (and tenants)
  • The ability to offer value-added advisory services, such as technical and consulting opportunities to differentiate
  • Self-service to reduce resources via the ability to automate and integrate with a customer’s existing systems
  • Solutions that span both private and public cloud infrastructure and includes hardware

For the CSP onboarding use case above, from a technical requirement, this breaks down to: Self-service, ability to create ADC instances of various sizes, automated provisioning, support for Ansible, vRO and Cisco ACI. From a business perceptive, the CSP needs to offer a host of solutions for their tenants that span cloud, private and hardware based ADCs.

[You may also like: Digital Transformation – Take Advantage of Application Delivery in Your Journey]

Plan Capacity

Once you understand the use case and have defined functional technical and business requirements, it’s time to review what kind of capacity you’ll need – now and in future. You may use existing analytics dashboards and tools to gain visibility into what you consume today. The data may be your HTTP, HTTP/S, UDP, SSL certificates, throughput per application at peak, connection and requests per second. Based on your growth projections you may define future needs.

Compare Available Options

The next step is to look at the various vendors for the performance metric that’s important to your applications. If you have a lot of SSL traffic, then look at that metric as a cost/unit across various vendors.

[You may also like: Are Your Applications Secure?]

Once you have narrowed down the list of vendors to those that support the functionality your applications MUST have, now it’s time to review the pricing to be within your budget. It’s important to compare apples-to-apples. So based on your capacity and utilizations profile, compare vendors on your short list. The chart below shows one example of comparison on AWS using on demand instances versus Radware Global Elastic Licensing subscription as a yearly cost.

As enterprises and service providers embark on a cloud journey, there is a need for simpler and flexible licensing model and infrastructure that eliminates planning risk, enables predictable costs, simplifies and automates licensing for provisioned capacity and enabled the ability to transfer capacity from existing physical deployment to cloud to realize savings.

Read “Radware’s 2018 Web Application Security Report” to learn more.

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Prakash Sinha is a technology executive and evangelist for Radware and brings over 29 years of experience in strategy, product management, product marketing and engineering. Prakash has been a part of executive teams of four software and network infrastructure startups, all of which were acquired. Before Radware, Prakash led product management for Citrix NetScaler and was instrumental in introducing multi-tenant and virtualized NetScaler product lines to market. Prior to Citrix, Prakash held leadership positions in architecture, engineering, and product management at leading technology companies such as Cisco, Informatica, and Tandem Computers. Prakash holds a Bachelor in Electrical Engineering from BIT, Mesra and an MBA from Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

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