Avi Networks Software Load Balancer Review

Great dashboard and GUI, but APM is a separate product

What is most valuable?

As an application load balancer, Avi Networks is great. Its visibility and login mechanism are the best parts. 

In addition to the great visibility it has

  • a great dashboard
  • an easy to configure graphic user interface, a beautiful GUI. 

All these features are great.

What needs improvement?

I really liked Avi Networks, but we are looking for more secure stuff. After downloading the report from IT Central Station, I spoke to the account manager of Avi Networks in the Middle East, and he said that they are selling the module we need as a separate product. I didn't want it because I don't want to have product upon product for each and every functionality.

I work for a major municipality and the whole our infrastructure runs on F5. We have close to eight F5s, the bigger boxes. F5 has a product called APM and that is not in the box with Avi Networks; you need to buy another product. I wish they included everything in one box because that's how we buy a product, especially an application load balancer. 

Everybody has to compete with the market leader and F5 is the market leader. But F5 is very expensive and that's why everybody wants to go to the cheaper load balancers. But to do that the competition has to include all the functionalities of F5. Avi Networks is great. It could be good for a small company, but for the whole municipality, it's just not good enough.

Avi Networks could put all the modules of F5, which are available in their hardware box, inside the software. They shouldn't sell the products separately. I would say 90 percent of the people in the Middle won't buy it. I know the government sector, and they wouldn't buy it.

For example, if you have a washing and the dryer comes separately, you're not going to buy it. The washing machine is great. It does great washing, but you have to buy another apparatus for drying. That just wouldn't work. With Avi Networks you have to accommodate the extra product in the data center. Of course, they say that they are all virtual, all software-based, but there is still a lot of software integrations and connectivity that are required.

Avi Networks is something I really wanted to go with and try because our F5 is a million-dollar-plus contract. Two of our F5s are going out of support, end-of-life. I really thought we could change it but for now, we cannot. If Avi Networks could bundle everything as one...

For how long have I used the solution?

I did a PoC of Avi Networks. We put it in a virtual appliance on a trial for close to a month.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The product is not stable the way we would like it to be. Let me explain. 

I bombarded the box with traffic, like a stress test, taking it to the max from a couple of my servers, generating all sort of malicious traffic to see how that box would end up coping. What we figured out is that it can handle up to 60 percent, but with heavy traffic and with all this malicious stuff, things started to slow down. It may not be the product's fault. It could also be because of the server I ran it on. Maybe a powerful server could have made it better. But I still think that Avi Networks would be better for small to medium businesses.

For a huge infrastructure like ours, with all the security modules running on software, I'm not so sure. They said that Avi Networks runs New York Stock Exchange, but I am really wondering about that.

How are customer service and technical support?

I did not contact tech support.

But I did ask people who are running Avi Networks, even in Citrix, "How many support tickets do you create in a year?" What I learned is that Avi Networks and Citrix end up with about 150 support tickets a year. Some people said 70 to 75. Those are the kinds of stats I got. With F5, I only raised four tickets last year, that's it. And we run the whole show in our city. We have 700 services up and running 24/7 on F5 and we only had four support tickets. 

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was easy. I was able to deploy by myself. It took a couple of hours. I set it up in a couple of hours because I needed to set up the server and then I needed to run different things to enable the firewall rules, etc. But its setup is pretty easy.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

I'm still going to have a meeting with Avi Networks, due to the cost factor. I also want to test their add-on product and see how easily we can actually integrate it and see if it is worth it, because the price factor is great with Avi Networks.

If you're buying a bigger F5 it costs around $1 million dollars, and you can only use it for one data center. With Avi Networks, you can buy a 10-Gig license and, if your primary data center goes down, in the flick of a switch you can move that license to your backup data center and it will generate the traffic. So you don't have to have a box for this data center and another box in a different data center. So there are a lot of cost-effective measures.

What other advice do I have?

Go for it, but do it in chunks. The best way to implement Avi Networks is not to do it like F5. With Avi Networks, you need to understand the product and you need to conceptualize your network exactly like Avi Networks conceptualizes it. You cannot do it in the way that traditional data centers are set up. For example, F5 as a box, holds 700 virtual servers, supporting 700 applications. You cannot do that on Avi Networks. So when I say to do it in chunks, that means you need to set up three or four Avi Networks Software Load Balancers, distribute the licenses accordingly, and then run it. That should definitely work, so that one will not end up with CPU spikes or that kind of thing. 

The fact that it's a virtual appliance, it's not a hardware appliance, is a great thing because with a hardware appliance it's just one appliance and then you need to buy another one. But with virtual, you can always spin up another server and you can make as many application delivery controllers you want.

Avi Networks has some great innovations. It just didn't fit in with our requirements. I did not go with it because their APM module is a different product altogether. It's a common thing that companies do. They sell something and then they add on top of it as a different product. It is a type of marketing strategy. But when it comes to the overall management, it takes a lot of time to really look into it. If it is one box, great. But when it's one module and then another module and another module, separately, there can be a lot of hassle.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

Private Cloud
**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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