What is Geographic Load Balancing?

geographic load balancing

Geographic load balancing is a critical aspect of the network management landscape. Without effective network management, your network doesn’t stand a chance of achieving the reliability, speed, and responsiveness that we have all come to expect of this technology.

If you operate off servers in a densely-populated area and fail to perform geographic load balancing, your chances of server crashes and downtime increase significantly. Therefore, when selecting a network specialist or service provider, it is critical that you choose one that offers geographic load balancing. This load balancing strategy is key for maintaining availability, network reliability, responsiveness, and fast speeds.

What’s the Purpose of Load Balancing?

To understand geographic load balancing, you need to be familiar with the general functionality and purpose of the core networking solution which is server load balancing.

Load balancing is performed in an effort to distribute network traffic across multiple servers. Think of the load balancing software as the digital equivalent of a baker who breaks up clumps of flour and spreads that flour across the kneading board.

Once distributed across a broader range of servers, this network traffic moves much faster because you have successfully lessened the load on any given server. This leads to improved responsiveness and a reduced risk of server overload — a scenario that can cause network traffic to grind to a screeching halt. In extreme cases of overload, the server crashes, leading to dreaded network downtime.

How Does Geographic Load Balancing Work?

Geographic load balancing is one type of load balancing — one of many types, in fact. This approach can be used with on-premise servers and cloud-based servers (both public clouds and private clouds.)

Network traffic tends to occur in geographic clusters, with more networking traffic arising from more densely populated areas at certain points in time. For example, you can expect to see a high demand for geographic load balancing during business hours in a major city.

With geographic load balancing — also called global server load balancing or GSLB — “clumps” of server traffic are identified and that traffic is automatically spread across servers in different geographical locations. This can occur at a local regional level or at a global level — it all depends on the data center and what agreements are in place with data centers in other regions.

Geographic load balancing should not be confused with local load balancing, which happens at a hyper-local level within a single data center. So while local load balancing involves spreading traffic across multiple servers within a single data center, geographic load balancing entails spreading that traffic across servers in other locations.

Why Use Geographic Load Balancing?

Geographic load balancing has an advantage over other forms of load balancing thanks to the ability to redistribute traffic to servers in other locations — potentially, far-off locations. This can be an advantage in many scenarios, such as the case of a natural disaster or social turmoil such as a war. Local and regional events frequently impact multiple data centers, so you may not achieve any improvements by shifting traffic to a data center in another part of the state.

For example, let’s say a hurricane moves across Florida, Georgia and up into the Carolinas. Data centers are damaged across a wide swath of geography and network traffic spikes, with more people turning to their devices to communicate and pass the time. The few servers that are up and running are overloaded. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to redistribute to servers in the affected area. Enter: geographic load balancing. Geographic load balancing allows you to spread the traffic across servers in unaffected areas of the nation — areas that have data centers with low server load that can accommodate a bit of extra traffic.

Geographic load balancing can be very effective for ensuring continuity of service for mission-critical networks. This can be especially important during a natural disaster, social conflict or any other situation that can lead to higher-than-average server loads.

The best geographic load balancing algorithms are tied to service providers who can strategically re-distribute server traffic in a way that takes advantage of time zone differences. For example, you may see a network traffic spike at 11:00 am on a Tuesday in New York City. That traffic can be re-distributed to servers in Tokyo, which is 13 hours ahead of NYC. It’s midnight in Tokyo and server load is minimal, so the added traffic does not create an undue burden.

What is DNS Geographic Load Balancing?

A variant of geographic load balancing is called DNS geographic load balancing. This approach involves configuring domains within the domain name system (DNS) as part of the load balancing process. When the network traffic resolves to an IP address, the load balancing system considers this information and subsequently diverts the traffic to a location with low server load and minimal latency. This is different from most other load balancing algorithms which decide where to send traffic by evaluating other properties such as server availability, location, and performance.

Geographic load balancing is just one option. There are numerous load balancing algorithms that are commonly used, including resource-based, round-robin, least connection, fixed weighting, and hash-based load balancing.

Using Geographic Load Balancing Software for Your Data Center

Finding the right load balancing software service provider can be a challenge. At Resonate, load balancing software is what we do. We understand that networks are a mission-critical component of an organization’s IT system and today’s companies demand extreme speed and reliability. Our innovative load balancing solutions — which include geographic load balancing algorithms — help data centers to achieve their goals with greater operational efficiency.

Are you ready to learn more about some of the most cutting-edge load balancing solutions? Contact the team at Resonate today to find out what our geographic load balancing technology can do for your business and the customers who rely upon your data center’s servers.