Described as, “the cloud-ready operating system that delivers new layers of security and Azure-inspired innovation for the applications and infrastructure that power your business,” an increasing number of companies are turning to load balancing technology to maximize performance.
But with so many choices and options to consider, deploying a load balancer is far easier said than done. Should you opt for a hardware load balancer or software load balancer? What algorithm should you use? And what options are compatible with Windows Server 2016?
What is a Load Balancer and Why Do I Need One?
Load balancers have evolved from a “nice to have” feature to a mission-critical feature that is essential for achieving the level of performance that today’s users have come to expect and demand. Load balancers are used with servers, which means that a wide variety of different technologies can benefit from load balancing. That is because any server-reliant technology — including websites, web applications, mobile applications, and networks, amongst others — will enjoy a boost in speed, reliability and performance when the right type of load balancer is put into play in conjunction with the appropriate load balancing algorithm.
Load balancers come in a few different forms and load balancer algorithms are used to determine how the load balancer evaluates incoming client traffic for distribution across a server pool (also known as a server cluster in Windows documentation). Load balancing works by intercepting incoming server traffic, which is then evaluated in accordance with the load balancing algorithm. The traffic is then distributed to a number of different servers with high-availability within a large pool or “cluster.” This mechanism serves to reduce the load on any given server, thereby maximizing speed, reliability and overall performance.
Many load balancers also perform “health checks” on servers prior to dispatching incoming client traffic. If a problem is detected, the server is typically removed from the available pool and maintenance staff are alerted to the issue so the server can be repaired. This improves performance by minimizing instances of bad server errors.
There are several types of load balancers and the preferred in-built option for Windows Server 2016 is known as a software load balancer or SLB. Typically running on a virtual machine, software load balancers evaluate incoming client traffic by examining application-level traits such as the HTTP header, IP address and the contents of the actual server request.
Options for Windows Server 2016 Load Balancing
For those using the Windows Server 2016 operating system platform, load balancing options are a bit narrower than what you might see with the newer, more well-supported Windows Server 2019. Even so, Windows Server 2016 can be used in conjunction with the in-built “Azure-inspired” software load balancer (SLB). This load balancer can be configured and activated from within the Windows Server 2019 admin portal, with no third-party integrations required.
Part of the Windows Server 2016 Software-Defined Networking (SDN) infrastructure, the in-built software load balancer can perform non-TCP-based load balancing and it has the ability to handle several different processes and workload types, including non-Windows workloads and outbound network address translations (NATs).
It is also possible to use the Windows in-built network load balancer (NLB) with a Windows Server 2016 platform, provided you’re not planning to use the Software-Defined Networking infrastructure with your deployment. The Windows SDN serves as a centralized platform that allows for the configuration and management of data center gateways, routers, switches and other physical and virtual network components. The Windows network load balancer algorithm uses a TCP/IP networking protocol to distribute incoming client traffic across the server cluster. This mechanism must be considered because you must ensure that the incoming client traffic can be effectively evaluated on this basis. Network load balancing can be configured within the Windows Server Manager interface.
Benefits of Using Load Balancers With Windows Server 2016
Load balancers bring many advantages and the in-built nature of this load balancing technology makes it a logical choice for those who are using Windows Server 2016. In fact, with its in-built nature, it’s impractical not to deploy this feature with all of its advantages. Here are a few of the numerous benefits that your company will enjoy when your business opts to leverage load balancer technology on your Windows Server 2016 platform.
- Speed – You’ll see improved speed because you won’t end up with “clusters” of incoming server traffic overwhelming a single server. When overwhelmed, a server’s performance drops significantly and you can even see an all-out crash with downtime in more extreme cases.
- Reliability – In addition to improved speed, you’ll enjoy better reliability because load balancers reduce the risk of a server crash and related downtime. Beyond this, load balancers can also perform health checks prior to dispatching incoming client requests to those servers. If a problem is detected, the server is removed from the cluster and marked for maintenance. This minimizes the chances that users will encounter server errors.
- Performance – Overall performance is optimized thanks to all of the aforementioned points — less downtime, better speed, server health monitoring and so on. This results in a better user experience, which is a key consideration for today’s business, regardless of industry or business type.
Finding and configuring the right load balancer solution can be a challenge. You need the right type of load balancer, the right algorithm and it all needs to be compatible with your platform, whether it’s Windows Server 2016 or another server-related platform. If you fail to implement the right solution with the right configuration, you may not see the maximum benefit from your efforts. For this reason, it is important to work with tech talent that has experience with both Windows Server 2016 and load balancing technology.
At Resonate, we specialize in providing clients with reliable, cost-effective load balancing solutions that deliver exceptional performance, maximum uptime, optimal scalability, and significant profitability. Contact the team at Resonate today; we look forward to discussing your load-balancing needs.