Essential Enterprise Traffic Management Tools You Should Know

Addo Zhang
5 min readOct 20, 2023
Photo by Damir from Pexels

With the rise of cloud computing, the network infrastructure of enterprises has developed and evolved rapidly. Whether it’s public clouds, private clouds, or edge computing, they bring unprecedented opportunities and challenges to businesses. Traffic management technologies, such as CDN, tunnels, WAF, etc., are also constantly adapting to new demands and environments.

Background

Why are there so many traffic management facilities?

Network Infrastructure

Cloud Computing Drives Network Transformation

Public clouds, like AWS, Google Cloud, Alibaba Cloud, Huawei Cloud, and Tencent Cloud, offer businesses scalable, pay-as-you-go computing resources. Compared to traditional data centers, public clouds save businesses a lot in initial investments while offering high elasticity and scalability. These leading cloud providers have deployed high-quality cross-regional networks outside of the carriers and have driven high bandwidth and software-defined networking within data centers.

Private clouds provide businesses with tailored solutions, integrating cloud advantages into an enterprise’s private environment. This allows businesses more control over data and applications while still enjoying the benefits of cloud computing. Driven mainly by VMWare, OpenStack, and Kubernetes, this has propelled the evolution of private cloud networking within proprietary data centers.

Edge computing is an emerging technology that moves computational resources from centralized data centers closer to data sources. This increases data processing speed and efficiency, especially for real-time applications like the Internet of Things and Virtual Reality. The rapidly growing number of edge nodes and their computational power have gradually offset the load on the cloud, leading to the rapid evolution of networks.

Security and Regulatory Requirements

As businesses become more reliant on cloud computing, regulatory issues become increasingly critical. Data security, privacy protection, and compliance are all matters businesses must consider. To meet these needs, traffic management technologies must also adapt accordingly.

Continuous Evolution of Enterprise Systems

The types of applications running in modern enterprises vary, including traditional monolithic apps, microservices, and containerized apps. These applications require different types of traffic management tools for support. Whether due to technological evolution, workload requirements, or legacy issues, enterprises inevitably use centralized traffic management facilities, and over time, the number of these facilities might increase.

Traffic Management Facilities

1. CDN (Content Delivery Network)

A CDN consists of a globally distributed network of servers that cache the content of websites and Web applications. When users request this content, the CDN chooses the node closest to the user, improving content loading speed and availability. It reduces the load on the origin server, enhances content load speed, and increases website availability.

2. Tunnel

Tunneling technology establishes a private link over public networks, ensuring data privacy and integrity. This is often achieved through data encryption and encapsulation. It provides secure remote access, and data confidentiality, and can bypass geographic or network restrictions.

3. WAF (Web Application Firewall)

The primary purpose of a WAF is to protect web applications from various threats, especially attacks targeting HTTP traffic. It offers real-time traffic monitoring, prevents common web attacks, and shields applications from zero-day threats.

4. 4LB (Layer 4 Load Balancer)

This is a load balancer that operates at the transport layer. It decides how to distribute traffic based on the source and destination IP addresses and port numbers. It enhances system availability, disperses high traffic, and reduces single-point-of-failure risks.

5. Static Web Services

These services host infrequently changed content, such as HTML, CSS, or images. Compared to dynamic content, static content responds faster since they don’t require any backend processing. These infrastructures feature high performance, low cost, and simplified content deployment.

6. Reverse Proxy

A reverse proxy sits between the client and the web server, receives client requests, decides which server to forward them to, and then returns the server’s response to the client. It also provides load balancing, SSL termination, content caching, compression, acceleration, and other functions.

7. Forward Proxy

Situated between the client and the target server, it serves the client’s external network requests. When using a forward proxy, the client’s request is first sent to the proxy server, which then forwards it to the target server. The proxy server receives the target server’s response and forwards it to the client. Forward proxies also offer content management, access control, data compression, logging and auditing, protocol conversion, and other capabilities.

8. 7LB (Layer 7 Load Balancer)

This type of load balancer operates at the application layer and can decide traffic routing based on HTTP headers, URL, or other app-layer information. It provides flexible traffic routing, application-level health checks, rate limiting, blacklisting/whitelisting, session persistence, logging, and other features.

9. API Gateway

An API Gateway is the infrastructure that handles API calls. Its main roles are API management and intermediation. Before or after processing requests, it performs many functions like request routing, authentication, and rate limiting. It simplifies API calls, offers a unified entry point, enhances security, and fine-tunes traffic control.

10. Egress Gateway

This infrastructure component controls and manages all outgoing traffic, especially in containerized or microservices environments. It provides secure traffic control, traffic auditing, and prevents data leaks.

While it might resemble a forward proxy, an egress gateway is more commonly used in microservices or service mesh environments, whereas a forward proxy is typically used in traditional network and data center settings.

11. Sidecar Proxy

In a service mesh architecture, each service instance has a sidecar proxy (not the only form; it can also extend to virtual machines, entire hosts, or even entire data centers). This proxy handles communication with other services and tasks like security and traffic management, as well as decoupling services, fine-tuning traffic control, and secure communication between services.

12. DNS Proxy

Upon receiving a DNS query request, a DNS proxy will process, cache, or forward it, accelerating DNS resolution, adding an extra security layer, and content filtering.

Conclusion

Traffic management technologies play a crucial role in the design of modern networks and applications, providing users with a fast, stable, and secure experience.

These traffic management facilities play a key role in designing and deploying modern networks and applications. They ensure efficient, safe, and steady data flow. In an era of increasing digitization, selecting and configuring these traffic management tools correctly is crucial for establishing an efficient and secure IT infrastructure.

Challenges

Using various traffic management infrastructures, tech stacks, and configuration methods indeed provides businesses with significant flexibility. However, it also introduces a series of challenges:

  • Increased complexity
  • Consistency issues
  • Security risks
  • Operational difficulties
  • Learning costs
  • Ecosystem integration issues
  • Overlapping redundant features
  • Version management and upgrade challenges
  • Increased costs
  • Inconsistent policies and governance

How to cope?

Network Infrastructure with Pipy

Flomesh’s open-source programmable proxy, Pipy, can implement the functionalities of all the aforementioned infrastructure through programming, providing a one-stop traffic management solution. Interested readers can keep an eye out, as we will introduce various scenarios and how to use Pipy to achieve the required functionalities in upcoming articles.

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Addo Zhang

CNCF Ambassador | LF APAC OpenSource Evangelist | Microsoft MVP | SA and Evangelist at https://flomesh.io | Programmer | Blogger | Mazda Lover | Ex-BBer