Load balancers play a critical role in the world of infrastructure. They improve the performance of applications by distributing network or application traffic across the servers in your environment. There are a number of different load balancing solutions, including many hardware-based options as well as software-based load balancing tools. The right choice ultimately depends on the requirements of the user.
Because those requirements are different for every organization, Rackspace wanted to offer an alternative to a hardware-based control plane load balancing option for our OpenStack Private Cloud customers. Our engineering and operations experts dug into a variety of options, and quickly found that HAProxy offered the right feature set and performance levels.
We also compared resiliency capabilities and determined that HAProxy could meet or exceed the uptime of a traditional hardware load balancer. On top of that, it’s open source, which we always prefer.
In an earlier post discussing the technical benefits of HAProxy, Farouk Khan also described how Rackspace leverages our operational expertise to tune the HAProxy node while maintaining our SLAs, rounding out our portfolio.
This post will focus on the economic benefits of using HAProxy, so if you’re exploring different load balancing options for your OpenStack cloud, this post is for you.
Evaluating the economics
It seems like it would be easy to reduce the costs associated with a private cloud, right? Just look for the most expensive parts and replace them with lower cost equivalents. But our years operating private clouds for hundreds of customers have taught us many things, one of which is that sound cost-optimization is never easy.
Evaluating various alternatives for technical functionality, usability, reliability, resiliency, performance and scalability is expensive and time-consuming. Of course, you can expand or condense your list of considerations, but you get the idea; it isn’t a trivial effort. That’s one reason our customers prefer that we do it for them.
And while performance, features, and resiliency are important, they don’t necessarily contribute to cost reductions. So when we began evaluating the cost savings of HAProxy, we looked for cost benefits across acquisition costs, licensing, implementation and operations.
Acquisition and licensing costs were a clear win. Using HAProxy on commodity servers allowed us to reduce the acquisition cost of the firewall and load balancer combination by more than 50 percent. And since HAProxy is open source, there are no proprietary or licensing fees, further reducing up-front costs by thousands of dollars a year.
Implementation and operation costs are a little harder to capture. From an implementation standpoint, our engineers consider the two options to be a wash. Operations, however, was a slightly different story. HAProxy has fewer configurable options than hardware balancers, which reduces the complexity and effort required for ongoing operations.
So in almost all categories we looked at, the HAProxy solution met our goals. And since it complements our hardware load balancers in the portfolio, tradeoffs in configurable options were acceptable.
Unlocking the value — everywhere
Rackspace supports many different hardware deployment models for customers — hosted in Rackspace data centers or hosted using OpenStack Everywhere roll-in cabinets, which can be deployed in any data center in the world. With HAProxy, we saw price reductions in both cases.
For example, in our standard reference architecture deployed in a Rackspace data center, we swapped out the hardware load balancer and firewall and implemented HAProxy running on commodity servers with a dedicated firewall. This change triggered a 40 percent reduction in the overall price of the load balancer and firewall.
Each private cloud has only one control plane load balancing solution, which means the overall price reduction for the entire private cloud depends on the overall size of the cloud. For a small configuration (which would have the highest impact), the overall price reduction was near 10 percent. That discount shrinks as the cloud grows, but it is still a significant part of a total price reduction.
For our initial OpenStack Everywhere offer, we lowered the starting monthly price by 40 percent. By adding the HAProxy offer to our OpenStack Everywhere anchor cabinet (the base deployment cabinet with everything you need to deploy a private cloud), we saw a similar cost reduction to the Rackspace data center deployment described above — saving an average customer $45,000 over three years.
One size never fits all
While an HAProxy load balancer is the most economical option that meets the performance and reliability requirements of our most demanding customers, we understand that one size never fits all. That’s why we offer customers a choice in control plane load balancing — we help them choose the solution which best fits their needs and budget. Proving the value of HAProxy is just one in dozens of steps we’ve taken to reduce the price of private clouds.
Curious about how private cloud as a service can boost your business? Contact us! With well over one billion server hours of experience operating OpenStack clouds, and an industry-first 99.99 percent uptime guarantee, we know how to make OpenStack a success for our customers.