Product review: Barracuda Load Balancer leads with value
Barracuda appliance delivers the load balancing essentials, if few frills, at a terrific price
Setting up the additional features beyond basic load balancing is also easy. The Barracuda is not as configurable as the F5 or Juniper solutions, for instance, but it's easier to get started with. The GUI is straightforward. Health checking offers some basic options (such as pinging an IP address or other TCP port numbers to see if an SSL port or database is available, for instance), and Barracuda will write custom health checks for anyone who has a support subscription. F5 and Juniper allow you to create custom health checks rather than relying on customer support people to create one for you. The end result is the same, but you aren’t dependent on the goodwill of the vendor.
The more extensive programmability of the higher-end systems also lets you create more complex rules for managing Web traffic. For instance, you might have a rule that, based on source IP address, sends any traffic from China to a Chinese-language version of the Web site. This kind of advanced routing is not possible with the Barracuda.
As with the other products I’ve tested, I tried out the Barracuda 340 by setting up a virtual cluster of several servers running a demo version of an e-commerce site. I then used an Ixia 400T traffic generator and IxLoad software to simulate a large number of users accessing the virtual Web site, then compared the loads generated on each Web site. The 340 was able to keep actual loads on the servers consistent even though their processing power varied considerably. I then enabled a number of features such as SSL and persistent sessions, and attempted to overload the unit by simulating many simultaneous users. As with the other solutions I've tested, this was only possible with artificially small sessions. When simulating actual traffic, the gigabit connection became saturated before the limitations of the device were reached.
The Barracuda 340 and its brethren belong to the class of basic load balancers rather than Web accelerators. Lacking compression, caching, and TCP optimization features, they are not the most capable units I’ve tested, but they will do the job for basic server farms and even basic e-commerce applications. They aren't capable of pulling off some of the more sophisticated tasks such as geographic load balancing and rule-based policies, either, but considering the very low costs, they deliver all that one should expect, and maybe a little more.