Load Balancing Best Practices

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In the modern digital landscape, speedy and dependable application performance for staff and customers is of utmost importance. As more businesses rely on online applications, handling fluctuating traffic volumes or infrastructure issues has become essential. This is where load balancing excels for on-premises, cloud and hybrid server and application deployments.

Load balancing spreads incoming traffic across multiple servers, providing optimal resource utilization and preventing bottlenecks. By distributing fluctuating workloads in real time, load balancing enhances application responsiveness, improves scalability, minimizes downtime and helps create a better user experience.

How Does a Load Balancer Work to Improve Performance?

A load balancer is like a traffic director for your infrastructure. Load balancers monitor various factors on application servers, such as server health, workload and response times. When an access request arrives, the load balancers direct the request to the most suitable servers based on the monitored factors. Different load balancing algorithms are available, and these range from relatively simple methods such as round robin to more complex methods like least connections and even routing based on the content.

Efficient load balancing spreads the load across the available infrastructure so that no single server gets overloaded, minimizing performance issues and potential service outages. Follow this link to read an explanation of “What is load balancing?”

Load Balancing FAQs

When discussing load balancing with organizations, we are frequently asked the questions that follow. In fact, several of these questions come from system admins who have been using load balancers from multiple suppliers for years! Everyone is on a continuous learning journey and that’s a good thing.

Here are the most common load balancing best practice FAQs we encounter.

1. What are the advantages of hardware-based load balancers?

Hardware-based load balancers offer exceptional performance and scalability, making them ideal for high-traffic environments. They provide dedicated hardware resources, resulting in a more consistent performance and much lower latency. However, they can be more expensive and less flexible than software-based options. In some high-security environments, specific regulations require a physical and dedicated device.

2. Can software-based load balancers handle high-traffic loads?

Modern software-based load balancers can handle large traffic volumes and often offer more flexibility and cost-effectiveness than their hardware-based siblings. Advancements in software load-balancing technology can bridge gaps between hardware-based and software-delivered load balancers. Today, you can pick the best option for your deployment model without worrying about performance issues if you don’t need or want to select hardware-based load balancers.

3. What are the benefits of cloud-based load balancers?

Cloud-based load balancers are convenient for distributing workloads across multiple cloud computing resources. They are easy to deploy, highly scalable and reduce your operational burden as cloud-based load balancers are maintained by the provider. However, some factors must be considered before choosing a cloud-based load balancer.

One is the possibility of vendor lock-in, which occurs when you become dependent on a specific cloud provider’s load balancer offering. Another factor is the siloed skills needed for each cloud provider’s load-balancing solution, which may require additional training and expertise to cover the load balancers. Also, it’s important to note that costs for bandwidth and storage can quickly add up when using cloud-native load balancer offerings.

4. What are the best practices for a load-balancing implementation?

Deployment design and ongoing systems administration should include a focus on these actions:

  • Assess your needs: Analyze traffic patterns, expected loads and critical applications to determine the optimal solution and adjust the configuration as required.
  • Choose the correct algorithm: Based on your application needs and server characteristics, select an algorithm (round robin, least connections, etc.) from those available.
  • Monitor and troubleshoot: Continuously monitor performance metrics and implement proactive measures to address potential issues before they cause downtime or performance bottlenecks.
  • Consider redundancy and security: Implement failover mechanisms and security best practices to maximize availability and security protection.

5. How can we build redundancy and fault tolerance?

The redundancy called out in the last point is extremely important, as using redundant load balancers and servers is fundamental to a good application experience. If one component fails, redundant load balancers and servers maintain availability. Implementing multiple load balancers (hardware or software) in a failover configuration to continuous availability provides redundancy. Regularly test these failover setups to see if they will work as expected during an unplanned outage.

6. What security measures should you take for load balancers?

As we mentioned, load balancers can provide a boost in network security. You can and should deploy additional application security components such as Web Application Firewalls (WAFs) and other security enhancements with your load balancer instances.

Additionally, you should implement the following:

  • TLS/SSL encryption to help secure communication between the load balancers, servers and clients.
  • Restrict access to the load balancer management interface with strong authentication and authorization policies.
  • Promptly patch and update load balancer software to address known vulnerabilities.

7. How can you optimize performance with load balancing?

Matching your traffic patterns with the appropriate load-balancing algorithm and regularly updating your configuration based on current usage and server performance metrics is important. Optimization steps include:

  • Adjust algorithm parameters based on real-world performance data for optimal distribution.
  • Maintain user sessions using affinity on specific servers for improved user experience.
  • Implement data and web page caching strategies to serve static content efficiently.

8. What are some common load-balancing issues and how do you troubleshoot them?

Common issues you may encounter include server overload, which causes performance bottlenecks. These can be reduced by monitoring server health, identifying overloaded servers and adjusting load-balancing instances, parameters and settings to eliminate the problem.

Poorly implemented session persistence can often impact the user experience. For example, when users return to a site, the activities they undertook last time are not remembered across sessions. A common example of this is items in shopping carts disappearing when users connect to a session on a different server than the one they used previously.

Another common issue is a general configuration error, where load balancers are not optimized for particular applications and networks. IT teams can fix this by having a load-balancing expert review the settings to make or suggest changes to the deployment.

9. What should we know about load balancing for web applications?

Application servers that reside on a cloud platform, such as AWS, Azure or Google Cloud are not immune to the management and configuration required by on-premises servers. Some of the server management burden is transferred to a cloud provider when you deploy on their platform but load balancing management and other required infrastructure typically aren’t.

For web applications deployed in the cloud, you still need load balancing to efficiently distribute the load across multiple web servers and possibly across cloud platforms or on-premises data centers if you are using global server load balancing.

10. Can we load balance database servers?

In some cases, it can be beneficial to load balance multiple database servers. Many database servers have built-in mirroring and data replication between master databases and replica copies. Depending on the database, it is possible to use load balancers to present a single database IP address to clients and other services using the database while spreading the load for writes (especially!) and reads across multiple database servers. This delivers the same benefits as for other server types—scalability, redundancy and downtime reduction.

You should consult your database provider before attempting to load balance database instances, as data sync issues are possible if not done correctly. The Progress Kemp LoadMaster consultancy team can discuss database load-balancing options with you.

11. Can we load balance for email servers?

Despite the wide adoption of cloud email services like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace™, many organizations still run local email servers. The most widely deployed is still Microsoft Exchange in full on-premises deployments or as federated deployments with Microsoft 365. In this deployment model, some mailboxes are in the cloud and some are on-premises. The latter case is common for organizations in security-conscious or regulated industries where data managers must track and control email data for selected users.

Load balancers are essential in both scenarios. They can distribute incoming email traffic among multiple email servers, improving email processing efficiency and preventing message delays in on-premises configurations. In hybrid cloud deployments, load balancers can increase the performance of the ADFS (Active Directory Federation Services) that link authentication and email services across on-premises and cloud domains.

12. How does load balancing help streaming and media servers?

Video content creation and sharing is growing exponentially on the Web. Like with email delivery, the servers that deliver video tend to get split across cloud services and private on-premises infrastructure.

Load balancers deliver a smooth video streaming experience by distributing video and audio traffic across multiple servers. They can also enable session persistence, so users stay connected to the same server for uninterrupted media delivery and a better streaming experience.

Progress Kemp LoadMaster Can Deliver Your Load-Balancing Needs

Progress Kemp LoadMaster is an ideal solution for multiple load-balancing needs. It provides a range of features for:

  • Versatility: Suitable for on-premises, cloud-based and hybrid environments.
  • Performance: High-capacity traffic and low-latency processing.
  • Security: Robust security features, including WAF, an Edge Security Pack, SSL offloading and intrusion prevention.
  • Ease of Use: User-friendly interface with more thorough monitoring and reporting tools.
  • Popular Workflows: Friendly for RESTful API, PowerShell and Java APIs to integrate into DevSecOps and other workflows.

In conclusion, LoadMaster offers a robust, adaptable solution for various infrastructures and application needs. This makes it a top choice for IT decision-makers and senior system administrators who are looking for reliable, efficient and more secure load-balancing options.

Try a LoadMaster Load Balancer free for 30 days to see the benefits and ease of use for yourself.

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Rochelle Wheeler

Rochelle Wheeler is a Global Demand Generation Marketing Lead with Progress’ Infrastructure Team and focuses her efforts on the Kemp LoadMaster load balancing solution. With over two decades of successful marketing and project management experience, she has launched campaigns for companies ranging from boutique agencies to Fortune 500 enterprises. You can follow her on LinkedIn.