Kemp Load Master goes beyond the basics

Kemp Technologies puts a shine on basic load balancing with easy and flexible configuration

Kemp Technologies' Load Master 1500 appliance sports three 10/100 ports and a basic set of load-balancing features, so it competes with the likes of the Barracuda 240 at the lower end of the market. Like the Barracuda line, the Kemp family includes other models with additional features such as SSL acceleration, higher capacity, active/passive high availability, and up to eight gigabit ports. The Kemp systems are also very affordable, and go further beyond the basics than the Barracuda systems.

On the downside, setting up the system is a bit of a pain. When configuring the box, the initial connection can be made by serial terminal or KVM. But if you go with KVM, it's a USB keyboard connection, which doesn't work with most KVM switches used in datacenters. In fact, I had to disconnect a monitor from the KVM too, because the KVM won't switch to a port that doesn't have a PS/2 keyboard plugged in.

Patches have to be manually downloaded and installed. Most products in this category (and most enterprise products in this century) check the vendor Web site and download patches automatically. Then they let you know when a new patch is available and you can choose when to apply it. In a similar vein, the Kemp system provided no option to send e-mail alerts if a cluster's status changes. Even the more basic Barracuda covers these tasks.

But once you get past the minor annoyances of the initial setup, you'll find that the Kemp box has a surprisingly broad set of options for its relatively limited feature set. Error handling is exceptionally easy to set up, and it makes a wide variety of responses available from a drop-down menu, rather than requiring you to script them as other products do. Health checking goes beyond the usual three choices of HTTP, HTTPS, and generic TCP port number, with specific built-in tests for e-mail (SMTP, IMAP, and POP3), news (NNTP), FTP, and Telnet servers. The system even includes a rules-based, layer 7 content switching option, as well as cookie-based persistence with an unusually broad range of drop-down selections. These selections let you handle automatically different types of implementations (e-commerce, enterprise systems, SQL Server, Tomcat, and so on) that would otherwise require scripting or complex rules to set up.

Kemp doesn't provide any advanced capabilities beyond basic load balancing; as with the Barracuda, there are no acceleration or security features. But considering the price and options for the features it provides, the Kemp system is an excellent value. For setting up a basic high-availability Web site, the Load Master 1500 should be on the short list.