Load balancing is a vital component of any cloud environment. It plays an important role in maintaining the availability of your cloud-based applications to customers, business partners, and end users. In this post, we review what load balancing is and how it contributes to the overall health and robustness of your cloud environment.
Load balancing is the process of distributing workloads across multiple servers, collectively known as a server cluster. The main purpose of load balancing is to prevent any single server from getting overloaded and possibly breaking down. In other words, load balancing improves service availability and helps prevent downtimes.
Also, when the amount of workload an individual server receives is within its acceptable levels, it would in turn have sufficient computing resources (e.g. CPU, RAM) to process requests within acceptable response times. Fast response times are vital to end user satisfaction and productivity.
Because of the characteristics mentioned earlier, load balancers are highly beneficial to cloud environments, where massive workloads can easily overwhelm a single server and high levels of service availability and response times are critical to certain business processes or mandated by SLAs.
Load balancing also plays a key role in a cloud’s scalability. By nature, cloud infrastructures are supposed to easily scale up to accommodate any uptick or surge in traffic. When a cloud “scales up”, it typically spins up multiple virtual servers and runs multiple application instances. The main network component responsible for distributing traffic across these new instances is/are the load balancer(s).
Without load balancers, newly spun virtual servers wouldn’t be able to receive the incoming traffic in a coordinated fashion or if at all. Some virtual servers might even be left handling zero traffic while others became overloaded.
Load balancers are also capable of detecting unavailable servers and redirecting traffic to those still operational. If you subscribe to one of the large cloud service providers (like AWS) and enabled the required feature, your cloud infrastructure can span multiple geographical regions.
Thus, if one region becomes inoperational due to a natural calamity like a catastrophic earthquake, flood, or tsunami, load balancers can direct traffic to regions that haven’t been affected by the calamity.
Depending on the load balancing algorithms they support, load balancers may even be able to determine if a certain server (or set of servers) is likely to get overloaded more quickly and redirect traffic to other nodes that are deemed healthier. Proactive capabilities like this can significantly reduce the chances of your cloud services becoming unavailable.
As you deliver more services through your cloud infrastructure, you can expect an exponential increase in traffic from a variety of clients – employees, trading partners, customers, suppliers, etc. That’s not even counting the occasional and seasonal surge in demand. In order to scale your infrastructure to support the increasing demand as well as maintain acceptable levels of responsiveness and availability, you need to make sure you incorporate load balancing into your cloud endeavors.