The team at Avi Networks is a fiery, passionate team that has set their sights on disrupting the load balancing industry. And that goal hasn’t changed since we’ve become part of VMware.
“Disruption” may have sounded like mighty big talk from a relatively small team but we are not small anymore. Our actions always speak a lot louder than our words. And we continue with our mission — not because we can, but because the market demands it.
Let’s explore some of the reasons why the load balancing industry needs to be disrupted.
Legacy Appliances Set the Bar
Most of the load balancers on the market today were architected in the 1990s. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. Your business is different, your infrastructure is different, and your applications are different. But load balancers are roughly still the same. I mean, you have developers that were born after today’s load balancer appliances were architected. Let that sink in.
The appliance-based model is ancient. Hardware is more valuable when it is commoditized and has its complexities abstracted away. The real value is the software. VMware and cloud titans like Amazon, Microsoft, and Google are designed to root out the headaches of managing discrete appliances (like servers, load balancers, and WAFs) through software and automation. One step forward. Only to have the legacy load balancing vendors re-introduce hardware and virtual appliances into your tech stack when it comes time to deploy your applications to production. One step backward.
Every Application Requires Load Balancing
Applications are the lifeblood of most companies today, and every single one of those applications require load balancing. And because load balancer appliances are expensive, rigid, and difficult to manage and scale, many of our customers refer to these appliances as a “necessary evil”.
Businesses need their ever-growing number of applications to be secure and available. So load appliance-based balancing isn’t just some isolated pain point. It is a constant, ubiquitous pain point that grows with your business.
Lack of Competition
In most tech industries, there are dozens of competitors pushing each other to innovate and keep each other honest. In the load balancing and WAF industry (~$5 billion market), 2 vendors control about 70% of the discrete market. The only real threat to their 85% margins comes from cloud vendors (e.g. AWS and Azure) and their proprietary load balancing services, and from a scrappy little startup called Avi Networks (sure, we’re VMware now but we’re still a scrappy team).
The cloud vendors only offer their load balancing services within their respective cloud. This is a great solution for single applications or small businesses that need just a single cloud, but average enterprise uses 5 different private and public clouds and often look for consistent services across all their environments.
Avi Networks’ innovation was in re-architecting load balancing entirely through software and doing away with appliances. The Avi Controller is a centralized management plane that spans clouds and data centers and deploys Service Engines (load balancers) to provide load balancing and WAF services.
Innovation like this makes products and services better, faster, and cheaper, all of which hurts the bottom line of legacy load balancing vendors, which is why they’ve resisting change for decades.
- Better: Modern software-defined load balancers offer better performance with less resource consumption. And no need for hardware refreshes every 3-5 years.
- Faster. Modern software-defined load balancers are designed for self-service and automation. “Self-service” is scary for legacy vendors as over 50% of revenue comes from attached services. To them, it pays for their solutions not to work out of the box.
- Cheaper. Modern software-defined load balancers are also significantly less expensive than appliance-based load balancers.
Legacy load balancing vendors are stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s a tough proposition to convince the business to invest in the next generation of a product that would undercut their existing revenue streams. This is also why Cisco and Brocade got out of the game years ago.
The Rise of Multi-Cloud
As mentioned earlier, most enterprises deploy applications across multiple private and public clouds. The goal of behind the multi-cloud strategy is to introduce choice, but not at the cost of complexity. Enterprises can’t afford to have siloed environments or services. They need to expect similar performance and features across all their clouds.
The legacy vendors, however, don’t have a strong multi-cloud story. They still promote hardware appliances in the data center and virtual appliances in the cloud. The various “editions” of their appliances are rife with tradeoffs and complexity as each appliance still requires manual care and feeding.
VMware, on the other hand, can deliver on the multi-cloud goals of enterprise, especially through their partnerships with Amazon, Microsoft and Google. And now, through their acquisition of Avi Networks, is the sole provider of centrally managed multi-cloud balancing.
At the end of the day, you may not get as excited about load balancing as we do (we’re not normal, we know). But hopefully now you understand why we do what we do — not because we can, but because the market demands it.