Scalable AWS Load Balancing and Security With HAProxy Fusion

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is renowned for providing a comprehensive ecosystem that supports the computational and data storage needs essential for developing, deploying, and managing applications across different regions, ensuring that users experience fast and seamless service. However, as applications evolve, and especially when traffic increases significantly, management complexity increases, necessitating more intricate setups, additional attention to security, and the ability for the application to work across various regions. These changes may increase latency as well. 

This complexity is particularly evident when Kubernetes, a system designed to automate the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications, is integrated into AWS environments. Despite the fact that its intended effect is to simplify networking, Kubernetes often adds layers of complexity to AWS load balancing, especially in multi-cluster, multi-region setups. Businesses find themselves facing the daunting task of managing application and load balancer sprawl, a challenge HAProxy is uniquely equipped to address.

HAProxy is sometimes referred to as a load balancer, but its capabilities go well beyond that. It serves as a solution for many of the challenges faced when using modern web infrastructure, in areas that include security and support for agile infrastructure. 

This blog post describes how HAProxy supports scalability and security along with load balancing. This blog post summarizes Jakub Suchy’s talk on "Scalable load balancing and security on AWS with HAProxy Fusion" from AWS re:Invent 2023, demonstrating in detail how HAProxy is revolutionizing AWS load balancing.

AWS load balancing in complex environments

Initially, deploying an application on AWS seems straightforward, but as businesses scale, complexity escalates. 

Managing multiple applications across various AWS regions and legacy data centers introduces a new layer of complexity, necessitating advanced setups, enhanced security, and seamless cross-region operability.

The challenge of Kubernetes in AWS load balancing

Kubernetes is often introduced into an already complex environment to help with scaling. While serving this purpose, it can inadvertently add complexity to AWS load balancing across multi-cluster and multi-region setups. 

Many users aim to have a Kubernetes cluster in every AWS region, so as to seamlessly move traffic between them during failures or upgrades. This leads to a profusion of load balancer instances. What starts as a manageable setup can quickly grow into thousands of load balancer, application, and database instances, significantly complicating the request path.

HAProxy solves this problem by streamlining the request path through applications and load balancers. Our solutions adapt to the complexities of Kubernetes environments, making it easier to handle the challenges of large-scale load balancing in AWS.

Simplification and scaling

HAProxy stands out for its dual capability to simultaneously scale network infrastructure and simplify it.  

The principle we operate on is straightforward:

Nothing is harder to scale than complexity; so to scale effectively, you need to simplify first.

We achieve simplicity by consolidating the request path across multiple supportive capabilities, such as a WAF, rate limiting, and access control list (ACL) functionality, into a single layer led by load balancing capability. This approach significantly reduces complexity, merging various load balancing-related capabilities into one cohesive HAProxy Enterprise layer.

This simplification is complemented by HAProxy's scalability, which efficiently handles traffic spikes and traffic growth while providing features such as EC2 auto-scaling. This blend of simplification and scalability makes HAProxy a powerful tool for handling the demands of complex network infrastructures. 

Multi-layered security with HAProxy Enterprise

Integrating multiple functionalities into a single layer doesn't just simplify operations, it also enhances security. In environments where web traffic demands are high, HAProxy Enterprise stands out for its robust security measures. 

The simple act of consolidating functions enhances security. There are fewer vendors to deal with, fewer interfaces between different services, and less traffic on the network. 

HAProxy Enterprise employs advanced techniques such as IP anycast and Route 53 DNS for smart traffic routing, while also offering strong DDoS protection and rate limiting crucial for maintaining service availability and performance under attack - all within the load balancer. 

The built-in next-generation HAProxy Enterprise WAF provides ultra-low latency protection against application attacks, with exceptional balanced accuracy that virtually eliminates the security impact of false negatives and the noise of false positives. At the same time, HAProxy Enterprise’s fingerprinting and bot management capabilities help identify and mitigate sophisticated attacks. Rate limiting and IP-based access control further bolster security, managing traffic flow and ensuring that only authorized access to web resources is allowed. 

This comprehensive suite of features ensures protection in demanding web traffic environments, all of which contribute to reduced latency and faster processing speeds.

Flexible, customizable, and extensible

HAProxy is not a fixed solution; it can be fine-tuned to fit the demands of any network environment.

Use case: rate limiting across VPC regions using VPC ID identification

Many AWS users face challenges when managing web traffic across different virtual private clouds (VPCs) in various regions. VPCs with overlapping IP addresses make it difficult to identify the origin of incoming traffic. Traditional load balancing approaches, which typically rely on the source IP address for rate limiting, are inadequate. 

HAProxy Enterprise provides a solution, using the VPC ID to identify each request. This is made possible by leveraging a feature from AWS's Network Load Balancer (NLB) that transmits the VPC ID alongside the traffic, utilizing the PROXY protocol. By rate limiting based on the VPC ID, HAProxy Enterprise achieves a more accurate and efficient traffic management system, overcoming the challenges posed by overlapping IP addresses. (The basics of rate limiting on AWS are described in our blog post.) 

HAProxy's architecture allows for high customizability and flexibility, making it adaptable to a wide range of network environments. Unlike rigid, one-size-fits-all solutions, HAProxy can be precisely tailored to meet the specific demands and challenges of any setup, ensuring optimal performance and security tailored to each unique scenario.

Centralized management with HAProxy Fusion Control Plane

The HAProxy Fusion Control Plane provides centralized management, monitoring, and automation for multiple clusters of HAProxy Enterprise instances in a distributed load balancer layer. It simplifies the task of overseeing numerous load balancers spread across different regions by enabling auto-scaling and facilitating automatic configuration inheritance. 

This centralization reduces the burden of management, promotes consistency, and enhances the efficiency of traffic handling across the network.

Promoting infrastructure flexibility and observability

HAProxy strongly advocates the concept of infrastructure immutability, emphasizing the idea of replacing components rather than upgrading or repairing them. This approach, similar to modern practices observed in Kubernetes environments, ensures that the infrastructure remains agile and capable of quick adaptation to changing needs without being bogged down by legacy issues.

In addition to promoting flexibility, HAProxy plays a crucial role in enhancing the observability of complex systems. It aids in the easier tracking of traffic flows and provides insights into system performance in real-time. This level of observability is essential for maintaining an efficient and responsive infrastructure, allowing for immediate identification and resolution of issues in real-time.

HAProxy is a game-changer in AWS load balancing

HAProxy goes beyond being just a load-balancing tool. It serves as a complete solution to the complex challenges faced by modern web infrastructures. By effectively managing traffic at scale, ensuring robust security, simplifying traffic flows, and fostering agile infrastructure, HAProxy Enterprise and HAProxy Fusion present a game-changing option for AWS users.

Watch Jakub’s talk on "Scalable load balancing and security on AWS with HAProxy Fusion" from AWS re:Invent 2023 to dive deeper into how HAProxy is revolutionizing AWS load balancing.

Subscribe to our blog. Get the latest release updates, tutorials, and deep-dives from HAProxy experts.