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AWS hybrid cloud push delves into load balancing

AWS hybrid cloud architectures may start to lean on Application Load Balancer as the service can now be used to route traffic to the cloud or on premises.

AWS has set its sights on networking in its latest bid to address hybrid workloads.

A year ago, Amazon added Application Load Balancer to move routing capabilities up the stack to the application layer, a move to appeal to modern workloads rather than underlying infrastructure. Now, Amazon has extended those capabilities beyond its own data centers for AWS hybrid cloud applications, disaster recovery or migrations.

Previously, Application Load Balancer could only route traffic to Elastic Compute Cloud instances, often for microservices that run in containers on AWS. Now, customers can use it to route traffic directly to their private data centers via an IP address. It also can spread traffic to web servers or databases on multiple Virtual Private Clouds within a region. A single instance can host more than one service, with containers with multiple interfaces or security groups, or services with a common port number and distinct IP addresses.

IT can distribute traffic on premises or in AWS with a single load balancer or with separate load balancers for each destination. Amazon CloudWatch can automatically track metrics, and users can perform health checks on individual load balancers.

This new capability is designed for AWS hybrid cloud applications, and it continues the cloud provider's strategic shift to address users that need or want to maintain a presence on premises. Days ago, VMware Cloud on AWS became available, which represents the public cloud giant's largest foray yet into supporting workloads beyond its own data centers.

Amazon needed to address the fact that enterprise environments are a mix of public cloud and private data centers, and this tool could be particularly beneficial to users who are in the midst of a transition, said Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.

"Most customers will not make a sudden transition where all workloads magically appear on AWS," he said. "It takes time to make the move."

The Application Load Balancer service is better suited for containerized workloads than AWS' Classic Load Balancer, for example, to enable multiple containers on an instance, said Adam Book, principal architect at Relus Technologies, an IT services provider and AWS consultancy in Peachtree Corners, Ga. Moreover, containers generate random ports, and Application Load Balancer will force traffic to the appropriate target group.

"We're big on containers and making the move to container-based microservices, and the Application Load Balancer is a big key in doing that," he said.

Still, the move out of the data center is a multistep process, so routing traffic directly to an IP address along a secure connection could be a viable way for enterprises to architect AWS hybrid cloud applications, Book said.

AWS pushes into yet another IT sector

Extending Application Load Balancer capabilities beyond Amazon's data centers pulls AWS into the application delivery controller (ADC) market, said Brad Casemore, an analyst with IDC. But to AWS, it's just another area to reduce friction for its users, not a competitive goal to be an ADC vendor for all workloads in the enterprise, he said.

Nevertheless, while this upgrade doesn't address multicloud architectures as do some of the vendors in this space, it certainly could eat into a market where providers such as VFI, Citrix NetScaler and A10 Networks likely didn't expect or want AWS to deliver on-premises capabilities, Casemore said.

This also is part of AWS' as-a-service continuum that's focused squarely on developers in the enterprise who embrace AWS' hybrid cloud, he added.

"Obviously, this isn't speaking to legacy IT folks who have stood up ADCs for their client-server apps from time immemorial," Casemore said. "[AWS] is looking at this new wave of apps that are coming now, and they want to make sure there's a smooth conduit between what happens in the enterprise and in the cloud."

Trevor Jones is a senior news writer with SearchCloudComputing and SearchAWS. Contact him at [email protected].

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