With much of the recent talk about cloud computing and virtualization you may have also come across the term load balancing. When implementing a cloud computing architecture, a load balancer can actually be a key to making sure your cloud has some flexibility to expand and contract capacity on demand. So what is load balancing? It is a network solution that distributes workloads across multiple servers that host the same application content. Load balancing allows you to optimize your resources and increase reliability by scaling out your application server infrastructure.
A key component of cloud computing
Load balancing is most often used to provide a single service from multiple servers such as an internet service or supporting databases. Using a load balancer can be a key component of cloud computing because it works to balance requests between additional instances of an application. Cloud computing architecture requires some kind of load balancing because there is no other good way to take advantage of additional capacity introduced by multiple instances of an application. Other methods aside from load balancing would require modifications to multiple network devices in order to distribute requests across the instances of the application. A manual process would be too time consuming and inefficient but a load balancer works automatically to provision multiple instances of an application. It can also automatically handle any increase and decrease in capacity to adapt to each request.
Changes without affecting the server
A load balancer can be an important part of a cloud-based system because it makes each change to capacity without affecting the server. It can make multiple resources, whether physical or virtual, appear to be one resource. The user is abstracted by the load balancer from the actual implementation and it does not affect the user even when it is provisioning an increase or decrease in capacity. Load balancing can be necessary for companies that receive a lot of web traffic because the load balancer can route additional requests to other servers to balance the workload. It prevents any single device from getting overwhelmed and is especially helpful when it is difficult to predict the number of requests that will be issued to a server at any given time. If there is too much traffic on one server it can be quickly switched to another server with more capacity.
Anyone implementing a cloud-based architecture will need at least a basic form of load balancing to successful use their cloud system. You will need a load balancer to run an application on multiple servers and increase or decrease capacity without any disruption to the user. You can begin with a simple kind of load balancer but as your environment grows more complex you might need more advanced features of load balancing. The right load balancing solution will let you start off with the basics but can also provide more advanced functionality when you need it in the future. Load balancing is an essential aspect of cloud computing so if you are planning to use the cloud then familiarize yourself with this term and find a load balancer to use for your system.
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