We exhibited at Cloud Expo Europe a few years ago, promoting the release of our cloud products; ENTERPRISE AWS + ENTERPRISE AZURE. We love trade shows. They provide a platform to meet existing customers, as well as potential new ones.

Several people visiting our stand mentioned the announcement that Kemp Technologies had released a free load balancer. Understandably, they were interested to hear if we would be responding in kind. However, in his usual politically correct mood, our boss responded with:

"No, it's not bloody free - and never will be" Malcolm Turnbull - CEO, Loadbalancer.org

Do I really want a free load balancer?

For a development environment, sure. If you are not pushing real traffic through it and exploring the concept, it's a great idea.

Even if you are in production, but budget constrained then you have to weigh up the true cost in managing headaches if things don't go to plan. It's on you after all!

So I want a free load balancer, what do I need to consider?

Free load balancers fall in to two categories:

  1. Open source, unrestricted (HAproxy, LVS, Seesaw etc.)
  2. Heavily restricted version of proprietry, commercial product (Kemp, NetScaler)

There are benefits and drawbacks to both approaches, so you need to ask yourself the following:

  • What features are important to me/my application?
  • What is the learning curve?
  • Is there any restriction?
  • How mature is the product?
  • What does it cost to scale when needed?
  • How easy is it to port the configuration?
  • Is there (good) community support?

We would always recommend open source, specifically HAProxy community edition. We've declared our love for it more than enough times in our blog.

Whilst the drawback is arguably a slightly steeper learning curve, you benefit from awesome community support, a well established product and ease of porting the configuration to a commercial product. Obviously we support direct migration from HAProxy to all of our enterprise load balancers.

Why go to the effort of learning a proprietary product (where licence terms can suddenly change) and force your hand when it comes to your upgrade path?

Free(mium) versions typically:

  • Are restricted in throughput, around 20Mbps
  • Instead of community support, give you none
  • Have a big cost hike to move to commercial version

So, if you don't offer a free version where do I sit?

Our model is simple, we are committed to providing:

  1. 30 day, fully featured trial (plenty of time for testing and proof-of-concept)
  2. Free 24/7 support for all customers under trial
  3. Seamless upgrade to full version, no interruption
  4. Fair, simple licensing with a 90 day, no questions, money back guarantee
  5. Easily migrate your open source configuration to and from us

Conclusion

The TL;DR, put simply:

If you want free, use HAProxy

If you want similar benefits and more, with great support and a low barrier to entry, consider downloading our trial.