Experience with Open Source load balancers?

Michael Loftis mloftis at wgops.com
Tue May 17 17:03:46 UTC 2011

On Mon, May 16, 2011 at 5:15 PM, Welch, Bryan <Bryan.Welch at arrisi.com> wrote:
> Greetings all.
> I've been tasked with comparing the use of open source load balancing software against commercially available off the shelf hardware such as F5, which is what we currently use.  We use the load balancers for traditional load balancing, full proxy for http/ssl traffic, ssl termination and certificate management, ssl and http header manipulation, nat, high availability of the physical hardware and stateful failover of the tcp sessions.  These units will be placed at the customer prem supporting our applications and services and we'll need to support them accordingly.
> Now my "knee jerk" reaction to this is that it's a really bad idea.  It is the heart and soul of our data center network after all.  However, once I started to think about it I realized that I hadn't had any real experience with this solution beyond tinkering with it at home and reading about it in years past.
> Can anyone offer any operational insight and real world experiences with these solutions?

Honestly I think to get *all* those features you're much better off
with commercial solutions like the ones you're already using from F5,
or something from Cisco, Coyote Point, Brocade, or others.  You can
absolutely put together a solution based on any number of open source
products, but you won't get the single integrated front end for
management and configuration that any of the commercial options will
provide, you may be missing features, and ultimately, you're on the
hook for making it work.  In particular the stateful failover has been
problematic in open source solutions in my experience.  They've come a
VERY long way, but it is a hard problem to tackle.

I've worked with open source and commercial solutions, and while the
open source systems were almost always far more flexible, and cheaper
up front, they certainly required more work to get going..  Once setup
and running though both types of solutions had pretty equal amounts of
maintenance, with the commercial solutions requiring somewhat less
time/babysitting for upgrades and to enable or use new features or

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