AWS ELB (CLB) vs ALB vs NLB


At the time of writing, there are 3 types of Elastic Load Balancer: CLB (Classic Load Balancer), ALB (Application Load Balancer) and NLB (Network Load Balancer). AWS releases CLB first, then ALB, thats why CLB sometimes is referred as ELB-V1, and ALB is referred as ELB-V2. Then NLB comes as the latest release.

From my point of view, the reason to have 3 types of ELB is that AWS was initially trying to do both TCP (L4) and HTTP (L7) load balancing in CLB/ELB-V1. But for some technical limits, it could not do it well – both L4 and L7 comes with limited functions. Then AWS decided to split it into two types: http/https only and tcp only (as Jobs said less is more!). That’s why it ends up having 3 types ELB.

Here is my guess: CLB will be end of life sooner or later as there are increasing demands of http/2. ALB and NLB will be the two types of ELB eventually. ALB will be the product for http/https (L7) load balancing. It works sort of like Nginx or HAProxy. NLB is focus on tcp (L4) load balancing, technically it should be something like LVS.

One good use case of ALB is to consolidate CLB, here is a real example that I have done.

FeatureApplication Load BalancerNetwork Load BalancerClassic Load Balancer
ProtocolsHTTP, HTTPSTCP, TLSTCP, SSL/TLS, HTTP, HTTPS
PlatformsVPCVPCEC2-Classic, VPC
Health checks
CloudWatch metrics
Logging
Zonal fail-over
Connection draining (deregistration delay)
Load Balancing to multiple ports on the same instance 
WebSockets 
IP addresses as targets
Lambda functions as targets
Load balancer deletion protection 
Path-Based Routing  
Host-Based Routing  
Native HTTP/2  
Configurable idle connection timeout
Cross-zone load balancing
SSL offloading
Server Name Indication (SNI)
Sticky sessions 
Back-end server encryption
Static IP  
Elastic IP address  
Preserve Source IP address  
Resource-based IAM
permissions
Tag-based IAM permissions
Slow start
User authentication
Redirects
Fixed response

References:
https://aws.amazon.com/elasticloadbalancing/details/#details
https://aws.amazon.com/documentation/elastic-load-balancing/

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7 thoughts on “AWS ELB (CLB) vs ALB vs NLB

  1. Are there any notable disadvantages when comparing a NLB to a CLB? Or migrating from CLB to NLB is a no-brainer? Thanks!

    1. It really depends on your requirements. For example, what protocols do you use? Do you need path-based or host-based routing? Use the matrix as your guidance to make a decision.

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