Compare load balancers (f5 vs Citrix Netscaler)

There are many load balancing/ ADC vendors on the market so how do you go about comparing them? What one is best?

The answer as you might expect is not simple and very much depends on your circumstances and requirements. To try and simplify things we will discuss in terms of the categories below that will make comparing load balancers slightly easier.

  • Functionality
  • Usability
  • Performance
  • Value

Functionality

We still talk a lot about “load balancing” or load balancers but really these devices have evolved significantly and do a lot more than just load balancing. This is the reason why Gartner coined the new term ADC – Application Delivery Controller.

Traffic management, Application firewalling, advanced application health checks, GSLB, Security, SSO, Pre-authentication, advanced Logging and reporting  are just some of the features that can be found on a modern ADC.

When comparing load balancer we will compare them with respect to ADC functionality as they will all do a great job of basic layer 4 load balancing and its really it’s dying requirement.

It worth noting that some vendors have an “app store”  that will allow you to download new functionality and /or apps onto the device.

This is useful especially for software ADC. Unlike a Hardware load balancer a software load balancer can be consistently upgraded and as such has no inherent  “shelf life” that dictates at some point it will require a complete load balancer hardware refresh.

Usability

These devices have evolved form a complex geeky networking world where you would only be able to configure them after a 2 week course with command line whilst tapping out binary.

The modern usability assessment is more like this:

“How much useful functionality can you drive out of of the device in relation to how large the investment in training and reading etc.”


For many people managing the ADC is just a small part of their work and as such cant commit the time for drawn out training.

This really ties back into the functionality. Some of the top end devices have all the functionality but the educational investment is so great that it’s wasted.

Whilst this may be ok for the Enterprise where they have the “load balancer/ADC” person it might not work for the mid market where they still may have complex requirements but not necessarily so much dedicated time

So the lesson here is ensure the vendors you are looking at have the feature you require but also ensure its packaged in a useable way

Performance

Many years ago when load balancers were basic layer 4 devices and the next generation of layer 7 ADC devices was emerging this was a massive concern. Layer 7 devices can now deliver outstanding performance. 

Many load balancers use the same open source LVS/HAproxy etc code as such they all have a similar performance profile. 

When we talk about ADC performance is more complex as they typically run at layer 7 and understand the traffic passing through them as opposed to a simple layer 4 shovel.

This understanding means that they can add value to the transaction from SSL, Caching to more complex traffic management modifying the request and response. Depending on how many of these features you enable you will use significantly more or less CPU.

So most vendors will have a device/software that will cope with your capacity its just choosing the right model. Some will offer a “sizing” tool but these are typically inaccurate as they dont consider the use case. You are much better off having a quick call with the vendor to be sure.

If you are building the next version of google then you should consider vendors such as f5  networks as they have the most scalable solutions else most load balancing vendors offer pretty good performance way more than 99.999 could ever use. Ie edgeNEXUS can do 40Gbs+ at layer 7.

It is worth noting that most most vendors don’t publish any performance metrics with layer 7 rules in use as these will have a massive effect on performance. It is common that when load balancing a web application some rules such as URL redirect will be used.

Value

So there is Price and Value.

Price is easy – find the product you need and then get the price for the equivalent model from each vendor.  Value is more complex. (Sales people talk value but there is actually a pretty good reason why ;- )

Typically there are 4 components

  • Purchase price inc any training required
  • Implementation cost
  • Ongoing Support/ consultancy
  • Usefulness factor (see previous) not point in paying for features you can/won’t use

However something else that should be considered is flexibility of the licensing.

You may be purchasing these for 3-5 years as such you may be moving from hardware to software or software to cloud. How can the vendor support this? For example can they offer a free licence migration from hard to software?

Summary

Name

Function

Usability

Performance

Value  

Total

edgeNEXUS ALB-X

 

18

f5

       

15

A10

       

12

Citrix Netscaler

       

14

 

Compare load balancers

We respect all our competitors in this market and the below is our view based on operating in this space for 17 years. Ultimately the best way to decide would be to “Bake of “- download our solution and then compare it to the others.

Compare F5 Networks.

F5 has been around for a very long time and as such have the largest market share. They are heavily based on hardware for the enterprise and as such struggling to adapt their business to a lower pricing point software ADC market.

There technology is very good although very expensive, complex and in 99.9% of use cases an overkill.

We understand the support to be very expensive and and some customer complain of lock in as they are using features such as i-rules that are difficult to migrate from. In addition the complexity means that many organisations are reliant on a people who have the necessary skills or indeed have to draft in expensive contractor to make changes

f5 to jetNEXUS ALB Migration 

F5 can be migrated over to edgeNEXUS using the automatic edgeSHIELD automation migration facility.

I-rules can be migrated using the free professional services to jetNEXUS flightPATH. Check out this blog here to see how i-rules compare to jetNEXUS flightPATH

Compare A10

A10 was set up as a direct competitor to f5 – hence the name. Having settled a patent infringement a10 is now trying to grow their hardware business in the US and european markets.

They seem to be making some process in the large enterprise telco space around 5G especially in Asia. The interface and the usability apparently needs a lot of work and as such they may struggle to gain market share operating in mid market and small enterprise.  More telco than application lead approach

Compare Citrix Netscaler ADC 

Citrix netscaler load balancer came into the load balancing market by acquisition primarily to support their other products. Many years later this  seems to be the main focus. They have recently renamed Citrix netscaler to Citrix ADC. Tends to be pretty expensive

 Citrix netscaler to jetNEXUS ALB Migration

Citrix netscaler be easily migrated to jetNEXUS ALB by simply sending the config files to pre-sales@edgenexus.io. For more complex migrations please contact us and we can look a using the automatic migration tool. Migration consultancy is FREE

Compare loadbalancer.org

This UK based company has a simple and honest business focus. They take a number of open source packages and install this onto a x86 server (primarily Dell) with their own GUI.

They lack much of the ADC features but are a good solution for layer 4 especially if the organisation has linux experience. In addition they claim to offer great support.

Loadbalancer.org to jetNEXUS ALB migration

Loadbalancer.org can be easily migrated to jetNEXUS ALB by simply send the config files to pre-sales@edgenexus.io.

In addition existing hardware can be upgraded to run the jetNEXUS ADC image. Please contact support and we will send you a bootable ISO image. Please ask sales about any special offers on this upgrade.

Load balancer detailed technical comparison

All the vendors use different vendor specific language to describe various features.  For example f5 I-rules that is the very clever layer-7 traffic manipulation and routing function has a comparable feature with jetNEXUS ADC called flightPath.

We will shortly be publishing a detailed technical comparison, however in the mean time please contact us if you would like more detail on how we compare to the load balancers above or even ones  that are not listed.