AWS ELB vs HAProxy: Which Works Best For You

ELB vs HAProxyAWS’s Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) offers customers an easy way to handle load balancing for applications hosted on multiple Amazon EC2 instances. While using AWS ELB, there’s no need to worry about failover and availability – all that is managed by AWS. In this post, we’ll focus on some key features and then run a useful  AWS ELB vs HAProxy comparison.

Distributing and efficiently balancing incoming traffic is a basic and critical requirement for most web applications. Load balancers help to distribute and balance traffic based on different algorithms to filter for effects like round robin, session affinity, geographical location, and latency. Load balancers have been around for long enough that they’re part of a fully matured market. Both hardware and software balancers are widely available.

Still, while placing a load balancer in front of your application will definitely improve performance, it does carry some overhead, including setup and maintenance costs, and the need to ensure high availability and properly handle failure.

ELB vs HAProxy: ELB concepts

Load balancer types

In Amazon’s architectural design, a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) is an isolated network into which you can launch compute resources. If you have Internet-facing instances in a public availability zone within a VPC, you would place an external load balancer on top of your resources to manage traffic. For devices inside a VPC’s private availability zone (for a corporate intranet, for example), you could deploy an internal load balancer.

SSL termination

ELB supports SSL termination at the load balancer itself, removing the need to manage SSL certificates at the application instance level. Flexible cipher support allows you to control the ciphers and protocols the load balancer presents to clients.

Sticky Sessions

Sticky sessions are central to the design of many web applications, and developers will usually need to write extra code to implement the feature. ELB can take over this task, allowing you to configure session stickiness in just a few steps…again, at the load balancer level.

Monitoring

Monitoring a load balancer can help you to identify all kinds of performance related issues related to metrics like request latency, request counts, and failed request counts. The data provided by Amazon CloudWatch can greatly simplify the monitoring process, leaving you free to concentrate on application development.

Logs

Using access logs to properly analyze web traffic or to diagnose application behavior is obviously very important. However, since AWS manages ELB – effectively keeping you away from the underlying hardware – you can’t get to your logs the way you normally would on servers that you manage directly. Enabling Access Logs and pointing to the S3 bucket where you’d like your logs stored will cause all relevant log data to be transferred to S3. From there, you’ll be able to analyze away to your heart’s content.

Health Checks

Before a load balancer can redirect requests to a server, it’s important to determine the availability (or health) of the underlying server/application. By pointing your balancer’s health check to a custom application endpoint, its status will be regularly monitored. Health checks will then try to ping, say, your index.html page. If it receives a “200” response code, then it will assume everything is fine. “400” responses would mean there’s trouble, and traffic could be routed away from that server.

ELB vs HAProxy

There may be times when you won’t want to use a load balancer provided by AWS. For instance,

  • You may prefer an open source solution.
  • You may wish to avoid vendor lock in.
  • You don’t want to give up control over load balancer management and security.

For such scenarios you should be able to intelligently compare ELB vs HAProxy, a widely-adopted open source (software-based) load balancer. Besides being fairly simple to configure, here are some of the things that HAProxy does well:

  • When comparing ELB vs HAProxy, the former can feel a bit limited as far as load balancing algorithms are concerned. It supports only round robin and session stickiness. But consider cases where you need to load the balancer based on incoming URL, or on the number of connections to be handled by individual underlying severs. HAProxy can handle those, and more.
  • An Elastic Load Balancer can’t be associated with a static IP address – or even a range of IPs. It can therefore be difficult to create a whitelist to filter traffic coming through an ELB balancer. On the other hand, you could always set up HAProxy on an EC2 instance and assign an Elastic IP address to that instance. That IP can then easily be used in your firewall to whitelist requests.
  • Pricing may or may not be a big deal for you, but it can’t hurt to bring it up. AWS charges you for each hour or partial hour that your Elastic Load Balancer is running, and for each GB of data transferred through your Elastic Load Balancer. Since HAProxy is open source, on the other hand, setting it up and running it on an EC2 instance will cost you nothing more than the normal instance usage.

You definitely shouldn’t think I’ve got anything against AWS ELB. In fact, they’re constantly improving their product. Rather, I’ve simply tried to present various scenarios that can have more than one possible solution. It’s up to you to compare ELB vs HAProxy (along with other options) and choose whatever will work best for you.

Therefore, if your business doesn’t require complex load balancing algorithms, and is fine with simple round robin patters then I would recommend ELB for its simplicity. Similarly, if your applications are deployed across different availability zones within an AWS region and the servers are running as part of an auto scaling group, then it will be much easier to seamlessly integrate your AWS resources if you use ELB.

Trying to get the same just done with HAProxy might not be quite so simple.

This post was intended to help you understand some key ELB features and, at the same time, introduce you to an important open source load balancer solution (HAProxy). The rest is up to you.

If you’d like to add your own thoughts on the ELB vs HAProxy conversation, please leave a comment.

If you want to get a jump start on ELB, check out Cloud Academy’s Introduction to ELB course.

Avatar

Written by

Vineet Badola

Working as a cloud professional for last 6 years in various organizations, I have experience in three of the most popular cloud platforms, AWS IaaS, Microsoft Azure and Pivotal Cloud Foundry PaaS platform. Having around 10 years of IT experience in various roles and I take great interest in learning and sharing my knowledge on newer technologies. Wore many hats as developer, lead, architect in cloud technologies implementation. During Leisure time I enjoy good soothing music, playing TT and sweating out in Gym. I believe sharing knowledge is my way to make this world a better place.


Related Posts

Avatar
Stuart Scott
— October 16, 2019

AWS Security: Bastion Host, NAT instances and VPC Peering

Effective security requires close control over your data and resources. Bastion hosts, NAT instances, and VPC peering can help you secure your AWS infrastructure. Welcome to part four of my AWS Security overview. In part three, we looked at network security at the subnet level. This ti...

Read more
  • AWS
Avatar
Sudhi Seshachala
— October 9, 2019

Top 13 Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) Best Practices

Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) brings a host of advantages to the table, including static private IP addresses, Elastic Network Interfaces, secure bastion host setup, DHCP options, Advanced Network Access Control, predictable internal IP ranges, VPN connectivity, movement of interna...

Read more
  • AWS
  • best practices
  • VPC
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— October 2, 2019

Big Changes to the AWS Certification Exams

With AWS re:Invent 2019 just around the corner, we can expect some early announcements to trickle through with upcoming features and services. However, AWS has just announced some big changes to their certification exams. So what’s changing and what’s new? There is a brand NEW ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Certifications
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— October 1, 2019

New on Cloud Academy: ITIL® 4, Microsoft 365 Tenant, Jenkins, TOGAF® 9.1, and more

At Cloud Academy, we're always striving to make improvements to our training platform. Based on your feedback, we released some new features to help make it easier for you to continue studying. These new features allow you to: Remove content from “Continue Studying” section Disc...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • ITIL® 4
  • Jenkins
  • Microsoft 365 Tenant
  • New content
  • Product Feature
  • Python programming
  • TOGAF® 9.1
Avatar
Stuart Scott
— September 27, 2019

AWS Security Groups: Instance Level Security

Instance security requires that you fully understand AWS security groups, along with patching responsibility, key pairs, and various tenancy options. As a precursor to this post, you should have a thorough understanding of the AWS Shared Responsibility Model before moving onto discussi...

Read more
  • AWS
  • instance security
  • Security
  • security groups
Avatar
Jeremy Cook
— September 17, 2019

Cloud Migration Risks & Benefits

If you’re like most businesses, you already have at least one workload running in the cloud. However, that doesn’t mean that cloud migration is right for everyone. While cloud environments are generally scalable, reliable, and highly available, those won’t be the only considerations dri...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Cloud Migration
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— September 12, 2019

Real-Time Application Monitoring with Amazon Kinesis

Amazon Kinesis is a real-time data streaming service that makes it easy to collect, process, and analyze data so you can get quick insights and react as fast as possible to new information.  With Amazon Kinesis you can ingest real-time data such as application logs, website clickstre...

Read more
  • amazon kinesis
  • AWS
  • Stream Analytics
  • Streaming data
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— September 6, 2019

Google Cloud Functions vs. AWS Lambda: The Fight for Serverless Cloud Domination

Serverless computing: What is it and why is it important? A quick background The general concept of serverless computing was introduced to the market by Amazon Web Services (AWS) around 2014 with the release of AWS Lambda. As we know, cloud computing has made it possible for users to ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— September 3, 2019

Google Vision vs. Amazon Rekognition: A Vendor-Neutral Comparison

Google Cloud Vision and Amazon Rekognition offer a broad spectrum of solutions, some of which are comparable in terms of functional details, quality, performance, and costs. This post is a fact-based comparative analysis on Google Vision vs. Amazon Rekognition and will focus on the tech...

Read more
  • Amazon Rekognition
  • AWS
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Google Vision
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— August 30, 2019

New on Cloud Academy: CISSP, AWS, Azure, & DevOps Labs, Python for Beginners, and more…

As Hurricane Dorian intensifies, it looks like Floridians across the entire state might have to hunker down for another big one. If you've gone through a hurricane, you know that preparing for one is no joke. You'll need a survival kit with plenty of water, flashlights, batteries, and n...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • New content
  • Product Feature
  • Python programming
Joe Nemer
Joe Nemer
— August 27, 2019

Amazon Route 53: Why You Should Consider DNS Migration

What Amazon Route 53 brings to the DNS table Amazon Route 53 is a highly available and scalable Domain Name System (DNS) service offered by AWS. It is named by the TCP or UDP port 53, which is where DNS server requests are addressed. Like any DNS service, Route 53 handles domain regist...

Read more
  • Amazon
  • AWS
  • Cloud Migration
  • DNS
  • Route 53
Alisha Reyes
Alisha Reyes
— August 22, 2019

How to Unlock Complimentary Access to Cloud Academy

Are you looking to get trained or certified on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, DevOps, Cloud Security, Python, Java, or another technical skill? Then you'll want to mark your calendars for August 23, 2019. Starting Friday at 12:00 a.m. PDT (3:00 a.m. EDT), Cloud Academy is offering c...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • cloud academy content
  • complimentary access
  • GCP
  • on the house