Saturday, December 1, 2007

“Load Balancer” Defined/Explained

For high-availability systems, we usually want to cluster our servers. That is, instead of having one, very powerful server, we might want to split the processing between two or more servers. Requests can be processed by any of the servers in the cluster. This way, if any of the servers crashes, the other servers can handle the load, until the broken server is fixed.

However, most client applications can’t deal with a cluster; they need one place to go to, to get requests processed. So in order to enable clustering, there usually needs to be a load balancer put in place. The client applications only know the address/location of the load balancer, and the load balancer takes care of forwarding those requests to the servers in the cluster.

Load Balancer

Depending on your needs, you may use a software load balancer, or a hardware load balancer. A software load balancer is simply a program running on an existing server, whereas a hardware load balancer is a dedicated networking device, which does nothing but balance traffic between different servers.

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