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Virtualization Authors: Elizabeth White, Mike Kavis, Liz McMillan, XebiaLabs Blog, Lori MacVittie

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Server Load Balancing

Incoming Traffic! We Have Incoming Traffic!

Traffic. In our Internet-centric world, traffic is almost the end-all be-all of conversions. Just as if you ran a small mom and pop grocer establishment, getting people in the door is more than half the battle. Incoming traffic to a website is the equivalent of customers entering your mom and pop shop. The more traffic – the more customers you have – coming in and viewing your merchandise, the more you have a chance of making a good profit. But let’s say getting people in the door isn’t your problem. Let’s say, your problem is handling all of the traffic coming into your site because you just created the single greatest service on the market today. Whatever you created – a never ending energy supply – is having such an impact on the market that you can’t keep people from entering your store and ripping all the merchandise from the shelves. In this equation, your online website, due to all the increased traffic, might experience downtime. Your site, like your store, due to the overwhelming demand, might falter causing you to loss business and suffer a large reputation hit.

It goes without saying, but when you have lots of customers – tons of traffic – the last thing you need is for your website to fail. Due to this, you need to understand the concept of server load balancing and more importantly, how it can save you from experiencing a hard hit to your sales and reputation.

What is Load Balancing?

Load balancing, sometimes called Server Load Balancing or Network Load Balancing, is the process of distributing incoming traffic across multiple virtual machines (VM’s) to ensure your machine – by extension your website – does not fail under peak traffic influxes. Think of server load balancing as an experiment in breaking water surface tension. In this hypothetical experiment, you place five lily pads on top of a stagnate surface of water. Following placement, to test the surface tension which allows the lily pads to continue floating, you begin to place small pebbles on one of the four pads. As you add more weight to the one pad it begins to show signs of breaking and sinking. Due to the growing weight, the pad is still floating but the surface tension of the water is slowly breaking. You can see signs of this from the middle of the pad dipping further into the water. Finally, after enough pebbles are placed on the pad, it slips below the surface of the water. However, if this process were to play out again wherein you placed equal amount of pebbles on each pad as opposed to one, all pads would stay afloat without any failure. This is load balancing. Spreading load, spreading incoming traffic across multiple servers to ensure each servers uptime.

But What if My VM Does Fail Under Increased Duress?

Fail safe. Remember that word when it comes to server load balancing and network load balancing. The truth of the matter is sometimes, regardless of precaution, your server – your website – might fail. Maybe your traffic spikes quickly enough that the pebble experiment doesn’t hold water anymore (sorry, little pun there). In this situation, traffic spikes so quickly that although load balancing is taking place, one of your VM’s fail. In this cause, server load balancing acts as a fail safe to keep your website up and running. In the case of VM failure, server load balancing transfers incoming traffic to the remaining servers under the aforementioned load balancing method. As mentioned by our Dedicated Server page,

“Solutions deployed with DedicatedNOW use a host of advanced services to ensure that your hardware and network environment scales to whatever user load you may require. Load Balancing enhances redundancy by distributing the load on a single server across multiple servers. Should you experience hardware failure on one server, our load balancing solution will push your visitors and processes to a redundant server to keep your website online. Clustering works in tandem with load balancing by coordinating the resources of several servers, for use in a single application (i.e. hosting a database-driven website). DedicatedNOW is expert at delivering high-availability infrastructure aimed at providing the maximum in redundancy and reliability.”

Never Ending Energy

Bringing this full circle, your newly developed never ending energy supply – cold fusion – has just hit the market and customers are pounding down the doors to get their hands on it. By utilizing scalable load balancing solutions for your dedicated server hosting needs, you won’t have to worry about your customers being locked out of your ecommerce website due to spiking traffic. With network load balancing (spreading out your traffic over a network) and server load balancing (spreading your traffic across multiple VM’s) you can supply your cold fusion to the world without downtime worry.

And now, if you don’t mind, we have to go fish out a few lily pads from our in house science experiment tank. We love everything Web Hosting and Cloud Hosting but truth be told, we are large nerds who love nothing more than safety glasses and beakers. Until next time.

Want to Know More?

Learn more about Dedicated Servers vs. Virtual Private Servers.

Learn more about the Importance of Domain Names in Web Hosting.

Learn more about Web Hosting Mistakes.

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