The Kemp Load Balancers are a fantastic series of products.
Just this month, Kemp announced that it is offering a free virtual load balancer.
This is a perpetually free license!
This is not a watered-down version of the paid product. Nor is it a watered-down version of the hardware appliance. This is a fully featured Layer-7 load balancer. The main drawback – it is throttled to 20Mbps throughput.
While this may seem restrictive, this is more than enough for any lab, proof of concept, or, for small production environment.
Why is Kemp doing this? Here is a quote from their website.
“The availability of a proven free load balancer from a well-established company will enable many start-ups and QA/Dev teams to focus on the task at hand. They will no longer have to worry about addressing the trade-off between cost, quality and upgradeability associated with some open source and application-embedded load balancing solutions.”
I am certainly a HUGE fan.
The free appliance can be seamlessly upgraded to paid license at any time. This is great for proof of concept engagements, or, if you ever outgrow the free product. It will also alert you when you are getting close to the 20Mbps ceiling.
For a full comparison of free versus open-source check here.
Some restrictions but many freedoms
Let’s examine the offering a little closer.
Deployment couldn’t be easier.
In fact, you can have the appliance up and running in minutes if you pick the OVF deployment method. Coupled with the web-based configuration wizard and Kemp’s purpose-driven templates you can have a fully functional load balancer in less than an hour.
These templates take out much of the guesswork. While creating a VIP you pick a template that fills in many of the selections for you. To configure load balancing for Exchange 2013 simply download and apply the Exchange 2013 template. It gives you a tremendous head start.
Support is limited to the Kemp community forums. Coupled with precooked OVF files (just requires heating), templates and excellent install guides I don’t consider this much of a hindrance. Should you need it, there are buy-up options for telephone support.
The free appliance can not be directly upgraded. Kemp allows you to transfer your configuration to a newer build of the appliance. This may seem like a chore but, it doesn’t take much to get a Kemp Virtual Load Balancer up and running. I don’t consider this a hindrance either.
This one is a bit of a gotcha. The free appliance offers no high availability of the appliance itself. This means the single point of failure shifts from what you are load balancing (e.g. Exchange) to the load balancer itself.
While the load balancer could be placed in a highly available virtualized environment, this is a minimal substitute for Kemp’s built-in high availability. If you need this functionality then you will have to buy the commercial license.
Don’t get me wrong, virtualized HA does eliminate hardware failure, which is a significant cause of service loss. However, it does not provide high availability within the virtual machine itself (e.g. stalled service, corruption).
Proof is in the pudding
This offer came at an excellent time for us at SuperTekBoy.
We had rebuilt our Exchange 2013 lab and were trying to determine how best to load balance.
We were about to settle on IIS Application Request Routing (“ARRrrrr”). But, when Kemp announced its free virtual load balancer there was only one choice for us. Any inkling of an alternative had all but evaporated.
We are happy to report the free virtual load balancer is serving our lab! Stay tuned for guides and videos.
What do you think? Will you take advantage of this offer? Does this create an edge over open source solutions? Does this negate some deployments of IIS ARR?