Experience with Open Source load balancers?

Tom Hill tom at ninjabadger.net
Tue May 17 18:23:21 UTC 2011

On Tue, 2011-05-17 at 11:03 -0600, Michael Loftis wrote:
> 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.

+1. I think the list of features covers more than just one FOSS project.

Whilst I've had no end of good experiences using LVS (as some others
have mentioned), I wouldn't expect it to do all that is requested in the
original post. At least, not by itself.

> 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
> functionality.

I worry far more about upgrades to proprietary appliances (where it's
often the whole system image), than I do about a few package updates on
a Linux machine (followed by a service restart, or two).

But still, pretty well worded. :)


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