Review: Web app delivery controller Kemp Application Experience

Product: Kemp Application Experience

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As more and more applications become web enabled, IT pros increasingly find themselves needing to perform tasks such as deploying application delivery controllers or making sure that applications are properly load balanced. To date, this has been a largely manual process, and there really hasn’t been a good way of collectively managing all of an organization’s web applications.

Kemp Application Experience is designed to provide load balancing, monitoring, and management services for web applications regardless of how those applications are hosted. I decided to take Kemp Application Experience for a test drive to see how it would handle a large collection of applications in a multi-platform environment.

Kemp Application Experience components

There are three main components that make up Kemp Application Experience. The first of these components is something that Kemp calls LoadMaster. LoadMaster is Kemp’s Application Delivery Controller (ADC), which also acts as a load balancer.

The thing that makes LoadMaster different from other load balancers is that it is designed to provide a consistent experience in multi-platform environments. LoadMasters can be deployed for services running on physical servers, virtual servers, and even cloud workloads. Kemp Application Experience allows all of these workloads to be managed in a consistent way, regardless of where they reside.

The second component within Kemp Application Experience is Kemp 360 Central. Kemp 360 Central is essentially the GUI environment used to deploy, monitor, and manage LoadMasters. In addition, Kemp 360 Central has some built-in orchestration capabilities that can be used to automate routine maintenance tasks.

The third component of Kemp Application Experience is Kemp 360 Vision. Kemp 360 Vision is essentially a monitoring and alerting system that correlates the various events that are occurring, and then provides predictive insights that IT pros can act on before a problem actually occurs.

Kemp 360 Central

As previously noted, the primary user interface provided by the Kemp Application Experience software is Kemp 360 Central. As you can see in the screenshot below, this interface includes a nice dashboard that provides all sorts of useful and relevant statistics. For example, the dashboard summarizes device health, real and virtual server status, and workload utilization.

Kemp Application Experience
This is the Kemp 360 Central global dashboard view.

Workload migration

One of the really nice things about the Kemp software is that it allows a virtual service to be migrated on demand. This can be useful when you want to balance out the demand that is being made on your infrastructure.

For this particular test, I chose a web application that was running on two different web servers and then performed a virtual service migration. The migration process involves clicking on the VS Motion Migrate icon, and then populating the dialog box that is shown below, and clicking Move. In my test, the migration happened almost instantly.

This dialog box is used to migrate an application to a different location.

Excessive CPU load

Next, I was curious as to what would happen if a virtual service were to be overloaded. In order to overload the server, I used a stress application to increase the CPU load on the domain controller that provides authentication services for an Exchange 2016 virtual service.

Once the CPU resources started to become inadequate, the software generated an alert. One thing that I especially liked was that the software sent a detailed alert to Slack. This Slack alert detailed the resource’s IP address, the CPU load, and what the resource is being used for. It also provided some helpful text designed to help the IT staff to resolve the problem. You can see what the alert looks like in the screenshot below.

Kemp Application Experience
An example of the kinds of alerts that the Kemp software can send to Slack.

In case you are wondering, Kemp uses Slack as a repository for the alerts that it generates. This holds true regardless of whether the alert is related to excess resource consumption, a failover of a highly available resource, or something else.

Speaking of high availability, I was curious to see how the software would handle the failover of a highly available resource. If you look at the screenshot below, you can see that there is a high availability pair that has been defined among my resources. One of these is listed as active, while the other is listed as being on Standby. In order to test a failover, I decided to force a reboot of the Active resource.

Kemp Application Experience
What a highly available pair looks like within the Kemp 360 Central console.

Upon rebooting the active resource, the software sent a detailed alert to Slack. The failover happened as expected, although I had to update the console several times before it showed the result of the failover. If you look at the figure below, you can see that HA1 is not active, whereas HA1 had previously been the resource that was on standby.

The failover completed successfully.

Uneven load balancing

While I was evaluating the software, I wanted to find out what would happen in an uneven load balancing situation. Initially, a LoadMaster was configured to use round-robin scheduling to deliver traffic to two different servers. I modified the LoadMaster in a way that forced it to deliver all of the traffic to one server, with the other server remaining connected, but idle. The idea was to mimic a type of configuration error that might occur in the real world, and see how the software responds.

Upon making the change, Kemp generated a detailed alert, which provided helpful information about the load balancing problem.

Kemp Application Experience: The verdict

When I write a review for this site, it has become customary to conclude the review by assigning the product a star rating, ranging from zero to five stars, with five stars being the highest score. So with that in mind, I decided to give Kemp Application Experience a score of 4.5, which is a gold star award.

Overall, I really liked Kemp Application Experience. It seemed to work exactly the way that it was supposed to, and I especially liked the way that it brought consistency to a wildly inconsistent environment. The environment that I used to evaluate Kemp Application Experience included a few dozen virtual services that were scattered across AWS, Azure, and even some physical servers. Kemp Application Experience did a great job of bringing all of those resources together within a single pane of glass interface (Kemp 360 Central), and allowing me to collectively manage and monitor those workloads.

The only thing that I didn’t like about this software was its complexity. Although I eventually learned my way around the software I did not find it to be super-intuitive. There is definitely a learning curve associated with using the Kemp Application Experience. In all fairness though, monitoring and load balancing web applications is complicated business, so some complexity is to be expected.

Prior to writing this review, I did not receive a copy of the software’s full documentation, so unfortunately I cannot tell you whether or not the documentation does a good job of helping you to get up and running with the Kemp software. What I can tell you, however, is that the Kemp reviewer’s guide that I was provided with was adequate but could benefit from being a bit more detailed.

In spite of Kemp Application Experience’s complexity, I liked the software. I thought that it did a really good job, and I did not encounter any bugs during my review process.

 

Rating 4.5/5

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