The Cloudflare Load Balancer was introduced over three years ago to provide our customers with a powerful, easy to use tool to intelligently route traffic to their origins across the world. During the initial design process, one of the questions we had to answer was ‘where do we send traffic if all pools are down?’ We did not think it made sense just to drop the traffic, so we used the concept of a ‘fallback pool’ to send traffic to a ‘pool of last resort’ in the case that no pools were detected as available. While this may still result in an error, it gave an eyeball request a chance at being served successfully in case the pool was still up.
As a brief reminder, a load balancer helps route traffic across your origin servers to ensure your overall infrastructure stays healthy and available. Load Balancers are made up of pools, which can be thought of as collections of servers in a particular location.
Over the past three years, we’ve made many updates to the dashboard. The new designs now support the fallback pool addition to the dashboard UI. The use of a fallback pool is incredibly helpful in a tight spot, but not having it viewable in the dashboard led to confusion around which pool was set as the fallback. Was there a fallback pool set at all? We want to be sure you have the tools to support your day-to-day work, while also ensuring our dashboard is usable and intuitive.
You can now check which pool is set as the fallback in any given Load Balancer, along with being able to easily designate any pool in the Load Balancer as the fallback. If no fallback pool is set, then the last pool in the list will automatically be chosen. We made the decision to auto-set a pool to be sure that customers are always covered in case the worst scenario happens. You can access the fallback pool within the Traffic App of the Cloudflare dashboard when creating or editing a Load Balancer.
Load Balancing UI Improvements
Not only did we add the fallback pool to the UI, but we saw this as an opportunity to update other areas of the Load Balancing app that have caused some confusion in the past.
Facelift and De-modaling
As a start, we gave the main Load Balancing page a face lift as well as de-modaling (moving content out of a smaller modal screen into a larger area) the majority of the Load Balancing UI. We felt moving this content out of a small web element would allow users to more easily understand the content on the page and allow us to better use the larger available space rather than being limited to the small area of a modal. This change has been applied when you create or edit a Load Balancer and manage monitors and/or pools.
The updated UI has combined the health status and icon to declutter the available space and make it clear at a glance what the status is for a particular Load Balancer or Pool. We have also updated to a smaller toggle button across the Load Balancing UI, which allows us to update the action buttons with the added margin space gained. Now that we are utilizing the page surface area more efficiently, we moved forward to add more information in our tables so users are more aware of the shared aspects of their Load Balancer.
Shared Objects and Editing
Shared objects have caused some level of concern for companies who have teams across the world – all leveraging the Cloudflare dashboard.
Some of the shared objects, Monitors and Pools, have a new column added outlining which Pools or Load Balancers are currently in use by a particular Monitor or Pool. This brings more clarity around what will be affected by any changes made by someone from your organization. This supports users to be more autonomous and confident when they make an update in the dashboard. If someone from team A wants to update a monitor for a production server, they can do so without the worry of monitoring for another pool possibly breaking or have to speak to team B first. The time saved and empowerment to make updates as things change in your business is incredibly valuable. It supports velocity you may want to achieve while maintaining a safe environment to operate in. The days of having to worry about unforeseen consequences that could crop up later down the road are swiftly coming to a close.
This helps teams understand the impact of a given change and what else would be affected. But, we did not feel this was enough. We want to be sure that everyone is confident in the changes they are making. On top of the additional columns, we added in a number of confirmation modals to drive confidence about a particular change. Also, a list in the modal of the other Load Balancers or Pools that would be impacted. We really wanted to drive the message home around which objects are shared: we made a final change to allow edits of monitors to take place only within the Manage Monitors page. We felt that having users navigate to the manage page in itself gives more understanding that these items are shared. For example, allowing edits to a Monitor in the same view of editing a Load Balancer can make it seem like those changes are only for that Load Balancer, which is not always the case.
Manage Monitors before:
Manage monitors after:
Lastly, when users would expand the Manage Load Balancer table to view more details about their Pools or Origins within that specific Load Balancer, they would click the large X icon in the top right of that expanded card to close it – seems reasonable in the expanded context.
But, the X icon did not close the expanded card, but rather deleted the Load Balancer altogether. This is dangerous and we want to prevent users from making mistakes. With the added space we gained from de-modaling large areas of the UI, we have updated these buttons to be clickable text buttons that read ‘Edit’ or ‘Delete’ instead of the icon buttons. The difference is providing clearly defined text around the action that will take place, rather than leaving it up to a users interpretation of what the icon on the button means and the action it would result in. We felt this was much clearer to users and not be met with unwanted changes.
We are very excited about the updates to the Load Balancing dashboard and look forward to improving day in and day out.