How Kemp Brings Full Visibility to Multi-Cloud Load Balancing

PRODUCT ANALYSIS: Kemp offers relief to the pains of multi-cloud environments with innovative application delivery control and load balancing tools that keep administrators in the know.


New York City-based Kemp Technologies, known for its application delivery controllers and load balancers, is fully embracing the multi-cloud approach of application delivery. What’s more, the company is further developing its management and monitoring platforms to support heterogeneous environments that use ADCs from the likes of F5, NGINX, HAProxy and AWS (ELB). 

The company is taking a three-pronged approach to the ADC and load balancing market with its core product, LoadMaster, and has added Kemp 360 Central and Kemp 360 Vision to the mix. The trifecta of offerings can be bundled together under what the company calls the Kemp 360 Application Experience, or AX, Fabric.  

The foundation of the Kemp Application Experience Fabric comes in the form of LoadMaster, which is the company’s ADC (application delivery controller) and also functions as a load balancer. Thanks to ideology behind the Kemp AX Fabric, LoadMaster proves to be somewhat unique in the ADC market. LoadMaster has the ability to support multi-platform environments and can be deployed on physical servers, virtual servers or even deployed in the cloud. 

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Normally, deploying ADCs across multiple platforms would complicate management chores, meaning that administrators would need to use multiple dashboards and consoles to manage the various ADCs. Kemp is able to eschew that potential management nightmare by enforcing a commonality that allows all of the various workloads, regardless of how the associated ADCs are deployed, to be managed in a uniform fashion. 

'Next-Generation ADC'

Kemp calls LoadMaster a next-generation ADC, which can be deployed as a physical appliance, a virtual appliance or via the cloud. LoadMaster offers all of the expected bells and whistles, such as Layer 4 connection persistence, Layer 7 connection persistence, L7 content switching, support for WAF (Web Application Firewall), and numerous other features. Kemp LoadMaster is fully cloud-ready and is supported under Azure, AWS, and GovCloud.  

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True unified management comes in the form of Kemp 360 Central, which is a management application that provides a GUI (graphical user interface) that displays all of the pertinent information. Often referred to as a dashboard, Kemp 360 Central functions as the primary management console for the Kemp Application Experience Fabric. The management console, which is installed as a local application, offers statistics about the application environment in easy-to-understand graphs. 

However, 360 Central is a lot more than just a bunch of pretty screens. The dashboard supports full drill-down capabilities, which allow administrators to start with a global view of the managed devices and then dive deeper into individual devices, data elements or alerts. The dashboard is user configurable and offers the ability to define critical alerts. 

Kemp 360 Central also allows administrators to automate tasks, such as routine maintenance, backups, updates and other chores that were once manually executed. 360 Central goes to great lengths to simplify tasks such as service migrations, application deployment and ADC configuration. The management console offers pre-defined templates and profiles that allow administrators to use a wizard to deploy new LoadMasters, or virtual services. 

Can Run Load Balancers Across Any Cloud

Live configurations can be quickly migrated to other managed LoadMasters using Kemp 360 Central’s VS Motion technology. With Kemp LoadMaster’s platform ubiquity, the management system can copy or move configurations between load balancers running in any form factor and any cloud or on premises location. 

For new deployments, the management system offers both quick and advanced modes, where administrators can configure services and deploy to hypervisors, and then store the core information in a template for later use, or as a method to reduce duplicated efforts. An emulator is provided so that administrators can create configuration profiles for complex environments. Kemp 360 Central offers additional capabilities via a robust API, which can be used to further automate functionality. By default, 360 Central offers cross-platform support, allowing the product to be used in hybrid environments that may have 3rd party ADCs. That further helps to centralize the management of the Kemp 360 AX Fabric.  

The final piece of the Kemp Application Experience puzzle comes in the form of Kemp 360 Vision, a hosted service that brings predictive analytics into the world of ADCs and Load Balancing. Kemp 360 Vision works by monitoring application performance across public, private, and hybrid cloud environments.

Kemp 360 Vision is able to monitor Kemp LoadMaster ADCs, as well as ADCs from F5 Networks (Big-IP) and Nginx. The product is a SaaS (Software as a Service) offering and is hosted by Kemp. The service gathers data from ADCs using a virtual machine agent that gathers syslogs, SNMP data, and other information using APIs of ADCs and load balancers. Each deployed agent incorporates basic rules and logic for first level analytics and can detect basic problems and then quickly deliver relevant information into the 360 Vision management console. More complex issues are fed into the SaaS application for more thorough analytics. Identified problems can be converted into notifications that are delivered to administrators via email, text message or Slack.  

Using Slack to Aid in Notifications

Administrators can create policies that trigger notifications, which then can be routed into Slack (a collaboration product), where the appropriate individual can be notified of a potential problem. By using Slack, Kemp solves one of the biggest issues of network management, team communications. Slack supports the concept of channels, where team members can interact and share information. By pushing alerts into a Slack channel, Kemp is able to notify team members of problems and create an actionable log item. Kemp’s integration with Slack proves to be an elegant solution to the problem of unnoticed alerts, potentially helping networking and application teams be more proactive.

However, the most impressive capability offered by Kemp 360 Vision comes in the form of predictive analytics. The product is able to correlate data over time and identify trends that could indicate potential problems. In other words, Kemp has been able to combine its extensive knowledge base with machine learning to create actionable insights for managing the Kemp 360 fabric. 

Kemp is offering its products under three different tiers (Standard, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus). Both Enterprise and Enterprise Plus tiers provide both Kemp 360 Central and Kemp 360 Vision. Kemp also uses an interesting licensing schema, where customers pay based upon use and not maximum seat counts, called Metered Licensing, which allows the user to deploy as many load balancers as they need without incurring a cost for each appliance.

The company offers several different licensing models, including perpetual licensing, which is based upon specific performance levels. There is also subscription-based licensing that offers licenses for a fixed amount of time and an additional option called PAYG (pay as you go) licensing, which based upon hourly usage and consumption, mirroring the type of licensing used by Azure or AWS. Companies can also choose metered licensing, where overall usage is aggregated and turned into a monthly charge.   

Kemp is surely pushing the bar forward when it comes to hybrid clouds that use heterogeneous methodologies to deliver and load balance applications. The company has successfully designed and delivered a multi-platform fabric that centralizes control and incorporates advanced analytics.

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Frank Ohlhorst is a veteran IT product reviewer and analyst who has been an eWEEK regular for many years.