June 12, 2018

Load Balancer Migrations Demystifying the Dark Art

by: Align

Align Contributing Author: Louise Bunting, Senior Program Manager of Align


Load balancing, the key to distributing incoming network traffic across a group of backend servers, has always been a dark art, practiced by engineering wizards on devices that are rarely touched because of the enormous impact they have on service. Take the recent Lloyds TSB outage, which involved a significant data transfer that failed in part due to load balancer configurations not being updated. Customers experienced intermittent access to accounts, leaving the bank in turmoil and subject to regulatory scrutiny. One of the problems with load balancer configuration failures is that they are hard to detect until customers call to complain that they have been routed to an odd server or are struggling even to access the service.  

Load balancers are critical devices that sit in-line and route customer traffic to servers (among other activities). They are difficult to understand and difficult to update in bulk in a large-scale migration. This is particularly tricky for bulk migration to the cloud when infrastructure IP addresses change during the move and, as a result, the load balancer configuration needs to be updated.

There are also other issues where load balancing is used for many native cloud services by the cloud providers. For example, load balancing existing load-balanced services is not good architecture and could severely impair performance and application access. You may also then need to change the functionality the load balancers are performing entirely, or move to the cloud-based load balancer provision. In all of these scenarios, understanding your existing load balancer configuration is essential to working out what you need to update, transform or remove.

After understanding your current configurations and determining what you have and what you need to change, the next challenge is how to migrate. There is a degree of maturity when it comes to migrating servers and numerous tools that enable seamless bulk migration to XaaS or the cloud. When it comes to load balancers (and firewalls), very little exists to support bulk migration. Load balancers pool servers to create a load balanced service; however, unfortunately, the server migrations tend not to comply with these groupings, and they move inconsistently depending on who’s approving the move. This can entail layers of complexity and operational risk if you are responsible for migrating a load balanced service to the cloud or a new vendor.

To combat this, Align has recently developed a sophisticated tool to extract data instantly from the load balancers, organize it and tie load balancer configuration to servers, applications and firewalls, finally exporting the new configurations. It has been designed to demystify load balancing and create the level of visibility needed to manage server moves and a load balancer vendor change. With the help of this advanced tool, we have successfully migrated over 2,000 load balancer vServers in the span of a recent three-month project.

Align offers a suite of specialist migration services and tools to meet your business’ individual needs. The load balancer migration service and tooling are now a packaged service available to all Align clients. See the difference our cutting-edge tools and expertise can make for your business and contact us today by clicking on the button below:

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Data Center. Image Credit: Align

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