Top 5 Reasons To Use Load Balancers

Load balancers play a vital role in any organization where productivity must remain high. Here are five reasons you need to put a load balancer to work in your environment.

By Chris Heyn

You might ask why it is necessary to use load balancers as part of your business at all. Surely if you are concerned about content servers being overloaded, just get bigger servers. That should solve the problem, shouldn't it?

Load balancers play a vital role in any organization where server uptime, client and staff connectivity, and performance are considered essential. Here are five reasons you need to use a load balancer in your enterprise.

Reason #1: Your company is growing and you're adding more seats

This is good news. Congratulations! Unfortunately, a potential problem is lurking that you must address: network server overload. How are you going to solve this problem? You can't afford for your users and external clients to be denied access to the applications they rely on to run your business or to conduct business with you. You have options: you could use freeware load balancers, software load balancers, dedicated hardware, or virtual load balancers.

A load balancer solution allows you to plan for handling increased traffic by inserting devices into your network that can ensure that the traffic is directed to servers that are performing and have spare capacity. This "traffic cop" feature is called Application Distribution Control (ADC), and as its name suggests, it is the most intelligent way to keep your servers up and running and your internal and external clients happy.

Reason #2: The number of network users isn't growing but traffic is

Your CFO will be delighted if this traffic is being generated by hungry clients looking to buy more products and services from your Web site, but less so if this increase is caused by a greater internal load. However, your CFO can remain content that if there is more internal and/or external traffic, the business is running briskly and demand for all that the company can supply is increasing.

What is the problem? You need to analyze server loads to examine what is happening and when. Different servers will be affected with higher traffic volumes at different times of the day. For this reason, load balancers are essential to balancing the traffic and making sure that new sessions are brought to servers with adequate spare capacity so that overloaded servers can process their backlog successfully and then be returned to the pool of resources available for new sessions.

Consider a typical business day. Each morning the staff arrives and accesses e-mail servers by sending and receiving messages, thus generating e-mail traffic. As the morning progresses video conferences begin and the unified communications (UC) traffic increases. Then clients and suppliers access the portals and the e-commerce sites in increasing numbers. This process repeats itself in the afternoon until the business day ends and the traffic volume declines. If you are using load balancers, traffic is directed smoothly to the servers that are operating as expected.

Reason #3: You need to balancing load across globally-distributed servers -- that is, perform global server load balancing (GSLB)

Having invested in a globally distributed server infrastructure, it is important to make sure that these servers can provide a satisfactory provisioning service for all users. For this reason, you should look out for "Geo" solutions from the load balancer suppliers. You will find that there are a certain number of vendors who can offer you a solution; however, you need to choose carefully.

Some manufacturers simply will offer you a local load balancer that can be configured to act as a "Geo," while others have developed a specific load balancer that is optimized to act as a "Geo." There are key differences: price and functionality.

One vendor's approach might be to take a standard local load balancer with all of the functionality it needs to perform locally and add "Geo" functionality. Another vendor may take a completely different approach and design a "Geo" to do its specific job -- that is, to direct traffic to local load balancers alone. Not surprisingly. the latter solution is very cost effective because it's the right tool for the job.

Reason #4: You cannot decide if you need to virtualize your environment

Once you have configured virtual machine applications on a single server, what happens if the server goes down? You may not have a problem of you have set up a second server in High Availability (HA) mode. However, if you have users or clients working with the primary server and it fails, all of their input (such as sales orders) could be lost because the servers alone cannot seamlessly pass the session from one server to another in HA mode for all applications.

The solution is to implement a HA load-balancing solution.. Make sure to choose a Virtual Load Balancer solution that is available for VMware as well as Microsoft Hyper-V and with a GUI and management consoles that are the same for both.

Reason #5: You need high availability without the high cost

Enterprises are moving toward unified communications environmenst in which e-mail, voice, documents, and instant messaging can all be integrated. UC appliances are needed that support Microsoft Lync high availability. "Uh huh for failover, right?" Yes. If one server fails, traffic needs to be redirected to the best operating one. In this example, a payout of $10,000 or more minimum for all licenses.

With a load balancer that has "stateful failover" built in , there is no need for those expensive Microsoft SQL Server licenses. Better still, such a load balancer is available in an HA configuration either in the virtual or hardware form factor.

A Final Word

These are just five reasons to use a load balancer. As application delivery and high availability of these applications become even more critical, load balancers make an easy business case. There are affordable load balancing solutions available so any-sized business can reap the many benefits load balancing provides. So what are you waiting for?

Chris Heyn is the general manager of KEMP Technologies Italy. You can contact the author at cheyn@kemptechnologies.com
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