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New OpenStack load balancer driver – viable alternative to commercial load balancers?

Stephen_Spector

Guest Post: Tim Cuddy, Sr Product Manager, HPE Helion

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A new OpenStack load balancer driver called Octavia was introduced in the OpenStack Liberty release and is now available in Helion OpenStack v3.  The Octavia driver was developed based on the mutual service provider and operator experience of multiple organizations including HPE, IBM, and Rackspace.  The development goals of the Octavia driver included:

  • Offer a viable and production grade, open source software load balancer
  • Integrate with the existing OpenStack Neutron Load Balancer v2 API driver framework
  • Create and load the load balancer software into service created VMs on behalf of the requesting user
  • Automatically configure the requisite Neutron network configurations to provide connectivity to application servers located in private networks
  • Actively monitor each load balancer and enable automatic failover
  • Create a driver model that initially deploys the HAProxy load balancer but can be extended to support other software load balancers in the future

In other words, the Octavia load balancer driver is intended to provide a low cost alternative to external, hardware load balancers while at the same time handle all of the requisite deployment and monitoring functions that an end user would normally have to perform if they deployed a software load balancer themselves.  This is known as the “managed service” model.

Is the OpenStack Liberty release of the Octavia driver ready for production workloads?  One of the requirements for a load balancer to support production workloads is to provide automatic failover to another load balancer if the primary load balancer stops working.  This event requires that each load balancer is actively monitored and that each load balancer has a secondary load balancer auto-created complete with the configuration of the primary. 

The OpenStack Liberty release of the Octavia driver provides limited failover support that consists of a system administrator defined pool of pre-warmed load balancers.  In the case of a failure, the configuration of the failed load balancer is applied to one of the standby load balancers, the access IP address (known as a VIP) is migrated, and the failover event takes place within 2-10 seconds depending on the pool size and available, pre-warmed load balancers in the pool.  Existing connections that rely on application server “stickiness” may need to be re-established but new connections will see virtually no downtime.

The OpenStack Mitaka release (targeted for the next major release of Helion OpenStack) will provide an enhanced load balancer failover function, based on the VRRP protocol, that will automatically create a secondary load balancer that is pre-configured and pre-warmed and a failover event will take place within 1-2 seconds at most.   Session “stickiness” will be maintained during the failover and a new secondary load balancer will be auto-created by the Octavia driver.

We encourage Helion OpenStack customers to actively test the Octavia load balancer driver in Helion OpenStack v3 to be ready for production deployment support in our next Helion OpenStack release.  To learn more about the Octavia load balancer driver, check out a recent OpenStack Summit recorded presentation located at: https://www.openstack.org/videos/video/load-balancing-as-a-service-mitaka-and-beyond.

Senior Manager, Cloud Online Marketing
About the Author

Stephen_Spector

I manage the HPE Helion social media and website teams promoting the enterprise cloud solutions at HPE for hybrid, public, and private clouds. I was previously at Dell promoting their Cloud solutions and was the open source community manager for OpenStack and Xen.org at Rackspace and Citrix Systems. While at Citrix Systems, I founded the Citrix Developer Network, developed global alliance and licensing programs, and even once added audio to the DOS ICA client with assembler. Follow me at @SpectorID

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