If you are trying to decide which load balancer product is right for your business, you’ve probably already discovered that it’s a market of two extremes. There are load balancers with very low prices and load balancers with very high prices; products with standard features and others with absolutely exceptional features. These two extremes are typified by the vendors Kemp Technologies and F5, which occupy each polar end of the load balancer market. If you want to understand which side of the market you need to be shopping at, here’s my unbiased comparison of F5 and Kemp.
The first and most obvious point of difference is price. F5 load balancers are the most expensive in the market while Kemp load balancers (known as the Kemp LoadMaster) are among the cheapest. This reflects the range of features provided by each vendor. F5 products, it is generally agreed, offer all the features that you might ever need – and a great many more, that you will almost certainly never use. In contrast, lower-end products, such as those provided by Kemp, offer a more limited, standard range of features that will nonetheless meet the requirements of the majority of businesses.
The size of your business and the scale of your application usage will be key factors in determining whether you are justified in making an investment in F5. Typically, F5’s customers use their solutions for around 300 load-balanced clusters (called virtual IPs) and handle more than 3 Gbps throughput and over 10,000 SSL transactions per second (TPS). As a point of comparison, the majority of Kemp’s customers are likely to have somewhere in the region of 2-5 load balanced clusters, with less than 100 Mbps throughput and less than 5 SSL TPS. Obviously there’ll be exceptions at both end of the scale, but these figures probably sum up your typical customer.
F5 load balancers are mature products engineered to meet the demands of the world’s largest multi-national corporations. They offer compliance with pretty much every industry standard, can balance traffic across global locations and incorporate advanced application security features, such as web application firewalls (WAF) and virtual private network (VPN) capabilities. In contrast, Kemp customers would probably need to buy separate WAF and security appliances, as the in-built features are far less robust than F5’s, and not all of Kemp products are fully certified/validated for all industry standards.
That said, if you are not the IT manager of a large or multi-national business there is much to be said for the relative simplicity of the more standard products offered by companies like Kemp. F5 products will take longer to procure and implement and will probably require a team of in-house, F5-accredited technicians to manage and maintain. Kemp’s less feature-rich alternatives are almost off-the-shelf products. They can be procured and implemented easily and managed in-house with your existing teams. And, don’t forget, F5 and Kemp both offer the same choice of hardware-based, virtualised or cloud load balancers.
While F5 stands fairly alone at the top end of the load balancer market, there are a number of well-established companies that provide comparable solutions to those offered by Kemp, including, Loadbalancer.org. Indeed, Kemp and Loadbalancer.org products use the same open-source software stack, making the feature set extremely similar. So, if you have, after reading this blog, decided you are more at the Kemp end of the market than the F5 end, don’t assume Kemp is your best option. It might be. But it might not.
Before making your decision, there is one critical success factor that you must consider: support. It doesn’t matter how fast the throughput of your chosen solution or how great the value for money; if you cannot get the help you need to optimise its performance in your network or resolve unexpected issues you will not achieve your application uptime goals. Unsurprisingly, F5 offers a high standard of technical assistance (at a high cost), which is necessary to support what is a very complex product range. Kemp, on the other hand, relies on its resellers to provide first-line support, which can lead to delayed issue resolutions and an unnecessary degradation in the user experience in the meantime.
Loadbalancer.org bridges this gap, offering a suite of products with the same features and affordable pricing as the Kemp LoadMaster, but with the top-quality support you might expect from F5. Our customers never have to pass through a reseller and, given the simplicity of our products, we can identify and resolve issues very quickly, for an annual support fee that is significantly less than F5’s. All our engineers have not only an in-depth knowledge of our products, but knowledge of partner solutions too, so they can optimise our customers’ entire application environments.
After reading this blog, you should now have a clearer idea about whether F5 should be on your procurement shortlist or Kemp. Just remember this. It may be a market of two extremes, but you’ve got more than two choices.
If you have any questions about any of the above, feel free to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or if you want to know more about what we can offer then check out our online demo by clicking here. Alternatively, you could just leave a comment below.