Load balancers, which to choose – hardware or virtual? Let’s take a look at these and compare some of their features.
Let’s take a look at the classic hardware load balancer…
Is it quick? Oh yes! The main reason many choose a hardware unit is guaranteed speed.
The downside is that it’s another machine to maintain, especially when it’s a large server estate, then things can get complicated. For example, tracking warranties for multiple servers, when to replace an appliance – 3 years, 5 years, 7 years…?
And now the virtual:
They can free up quite a bit of prime office real estate!
They are quick however there is a slight performance hit for going virtual. Each virtual appliance (VA) you use will cut some of the power of the virtual machine (this is usually between 10% or 15% but of course will vary depending on which type of VA you use). So the virtual load balancer will always be slightly slower than the hardware equivalent. That’s not to say virtual load balancers are bad. In fact, for many deployments, they are actually quite good and have a range of advantages.
With virtual, it is possible to allocate resources however, if those resources to the virtual machine are maxed out, then something will always have to give.
The main advantage of virtualization is that you have the flexibility to move the software running on it to another virtual server. You will still have hardware sitting under it but replacing and migrating the software is much easier.
Another difference is the price. 9 times out of 10, the virtual price is lower than the hardware equivalent. This is because you don’t have to pay for the physical hardware kit.
When you buy hardware, it comes with a spec/resource that you can’t use somewhere else. But virtual means you only need to allocate the resources you need. Right out of the box our VA allocates a set number of resources, but these can then be increased (or decreased) as you see fit. This advantage means that you can spread the resources of your virtual machine across many applications.
|Virtual Pros||Virtual Cons||Hardware Pros||Hardware Cons|
|Speed||Allocate recourses||If resources are maxed out, it’s only slightly slower 10%-15%||Faster|
|Resources||Flexibility to increase or decrease||Set amount of spec/resource – hard to scale|
|Maintenance and Repair||There are no physical appliances to maintain or replace after time||After some time: warranties, repairs/replace|
|Use of Space||There are no physical appliances to store||Could take up valuable office space|
Overall, we can say that hardware is designed specifically to handle what it does. But if you host your virtual on a powerful enough virtual machine, then you could (in fact) have a very good load balancer – that rivals most hardware counterparts.
Why have we not all gone virtual yet?
It’s all about the features. High-end hardware like the F5 (the Rolls Royce of load balancing) has a hefty number of features and along with that, a hefty price tag. Not a problem if you’re a huge company with a massive budget, but just because you can afford it, does that mean you should buy it? No, of course not. Chances are that you don’t need all the features that an F5 has to offer. So why pay more?
Bottom line. If you want to only pay for what you need, then Loadbalancer.org is your solution. At the end of the day, you need to find a load balancing vendor that can serve your individual needs. If you are considering your options, and you’re interested in testing loadbalancer.org, then contact us for a demo and trial and see for yourself!