Web applications are everywhere, and their reliability, performance and availability have grown increasingly mission-critical for many organizations. To address web application delivery challenges, Lagrange Systems' CloudMaestro SaaS offering is designed to eliminate most of the pain points associated with keeping web applications alive and well, allowing businesses to better service customers while potentially reducing operating costs and preventing application failures.
A Closer Look at CloudMaestro
Boulder, Colorado-based Lagrange Systems created CloudMaestro as an alternative to hardware-based Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs), such as those available from F5 Networks, Riverbed, Coyote Point Systems and KEMP Networks. Lagrange moved the application control mechanism into the cloud instead of tying it to hardware housed in the corporate data center.
That makes CloudMaestro a quickly deployable, infinitely scalable, and extremely flexible solution, which successfully combines application delivery with resiliency and security while helping keep costs down. In other words, CloudMaestro is much more than a cloud-based ADC. The service incorporates failover, elastic scale, high availability and methodology to improve the economy of cloud services. Add to that API access, Decentralized ADC (clusters of ADC Brokers)and path-based routing, and it becomes very clear that CloudMaestro (with the application scaling option) becomes the foundation of a software defined network that is completely cloud based.
To accomplish that, CloudMaestro offers an extensive feature set, which includes the following primary features:
- Decentralized ADC Architecture: Independent and autonomous ADC broker cluster that performs real-time calculations to optimize traffic routing and dynamically auto-recover failed ADCs.
- High Availability: Automated failover, as well as path monitoring used to maintain connectivity even when ADCs fail.
- Security: Detection of DDoS attacks and SQL injections to validate application traffic and protect backend servers from malicious traffic.
- Traffic Optimization: CloudMaestro uses a proprietary "Price Setting" auction mechanism to manage traffic, performing real-time calculations to optimize traffic distribution.
- Automated Load Prediction: CloudMaestro uses predictive analytics to determine near-term load increases and uses the information to auto-scale the ADC architecture to avoid downtime or slow response times.
- Centralized Control: Centralizes the management of separate ADCs using a platform that institutes system monitoring and the mechanisms required to auto-scale to meet increases in demand without congestion or outages.
- Sticky Sessions: Once a session is started, traffic from the client is routed to the same server for that session, helping to simplify implementations of web apps.
- API availability: CloudMaestro offers several functions via API, allowing developers (or customers) to garner more control over the ADCs.
- Multi Cloud Deployment: CloudMaestro supports a distributed infrastructure, where ADCs can be deployed across multiple cloud service providers, hybrid clouds, private clouds and so on.
I tested CloudMaestro's interface, deployment, flexibility and suitability to the task using a Lagrange Systems-provided account. For testing purposes, I was able to select some existing hosts, such as a Wordpress account, to validate CloudMaestro's failover and traffic management capabilities.
Initial integration of the service proved quite simple. The application configuration module walks administrators through the configuration procedure, asking for a host name, validating server IP address and then choosing security settings and, finally, options. It takes only a matter of minutes to create the basics to build an ADC.
Application setup requires a few simple steps.
From here, users can set up Caching and Web Optimization, activate Sticky Sessions, define a Web Application Firewall, and configure a performance-enhancing Web Cache. The Web Application Firewall is a particularly interesting option, offering an application-aware firewall service that can block anomalous traffic before it impacts the application server.
Selecting optional services is a matter of clicking on the appropriate box.
Once the applications/servers are incorporated into the CloudMeastro service and options are selected, the management console offers an application configuration screen. It would probably be a good idea to print that screen out for future reference. Here, a "print" or "email configuration" button would have been a nice addition to the screen.
The setup procedure summarizes the configuration options selected.
Activation of the initial setup takes a single click and is automated after that.
As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and Lagrange systems serves up that pudding in the form of real-time charts, history reports and other graphical elements. For example, one of the optimization screens provides time numbers, cache hits and measured response times, all of which can be filtered via date ranges and other criteria stored in the log.
A graphical representation of traffic events makes it easy to spot improvements.
What’s more, administrators can drill down into performance details and also build graphical maps of traffic flow to quickly determine what servers, services and applications were experiencing loads, allowing administrators to better plan for high-utilization events.
A map-like representation of utilization loads makes it simple to spot performance problems.
Further enhancing CloudMaestro's diagnostics and monitoring abilities are the detailed logs kept by the system. Those logs can be mined to identify events, validate security and delve into the automated operational decisions made by the platform’s algorithms. A log screen makes it easy to scroll through events, and logs can be exported out for further analysis.
Detailed logs help administrators validate uptime, track services and validate performance levels.
I was very impressed with how CloudMaestro hides the complexity of failover and load balancing, thanks to the intuitive dashboard. Easy setup, low maintenance and automated scaling further enhance the value of the service, while integrated security controls give administrators peace of mind, at least when it comes to DDoS attacks, SQL Injections and other forms of distributed attacks.
Other benefits include the elimination of onsite hardware. Going the service route does mean making a major commitment to cloud based technology, however.
Direct competitors are far and few between, with the primary competitors being physical ADC device vendors such as F5 Networks, Riverbed Systems, KEMP Networks, Coyote Point Systems and Citrix Systems. Where CloudMaestro primarily differs is in the fact that its ADC is service-based and works with a multitude of cloud services vendors, such as RackSpace, Amazon Web Services, and others.
All things considered, CloudMaestro may be a near-perfect solution for application uptime, load balancing and elastic scale. It offers nearly everything that nearly anyone could want in an ADC product – all without the need to purchase expensive hardware.
Header photo courtesy of Shutterstock.