Countless IT admins are opting for a Windows web server deployment with an architecture that uses Windows’ Internet Information Services — also known as IIS — in conjunction with a SQL server and Microsoft Active Directory. But with user experience and performance an increasing concern, many are left wondering, “What are IIS load balancing options?”
Load balancers offer significant advantages in terms of performance, scalability, and reliability, amongst other benefits. Fortunately, there are numerous load balancing options for IIS, opening the door to optimal performance that can bring about a significant ROI.
The Basics and Benefits of IIS Load Balancing
Windows Internet Information Services (IIS) is a web server that is known for its high performance capabilities and its versatility. When deployed with a load balancer, IIS servers can deliver exceptional availability which is an increasingly important feature for websites and other web-based architectures.
IIS load balancing involves the placement of a hub server — also known as the load balancer — between the client and the server pool (also called a server cluster.) The load balancer intercepts incoming client requests before they reach the servers, preventing a situation where a single server is overwhelmed by client requests. An overloaded server is not only slow, but it may also be prone to crashing, which will result in downtime, error messages, and an all-around poor user experience.
Once the server requests arrives at the load balancer, the request is evaluated according to a predetermined load balancing algorithm. This evaluation is used to determine how the request is handled. It is then dispatched to a server with high availability.
The IIS load balancing process can be configured to include server health checks. The load balancer server pings a server and evaluates its response. If a problem is detected, the server is removed from the cluster and flagged for maintenance. Load balancer server health checks are very effective at preventing error messages, poor website performance, and a negative user experience.
The best IIS load balancing options ensure consistent availability, good scalability, and stable, high performance levels. Additionally, admins can isolate a server with ease, which makes maintenance, repairs, and upgrades much easier and less disruptive to the system.
Windows’ In-Built IIS Web Farm Load Balancers
Windows offers its own in-built load balancer solution using IIS Web Farm load balancing. There is a feature within IIS called Application Request Routing or ARR that can be used to establish a load balancing web farm. ARR is also used to configure server health monitoring and caching capabilities.
The process for creating a Windows IIS load balancer using a web farm begins with the installation of the ARR within the IIS Manager portal. This will result in the creation of a new “Server Farms” node within IIS Manager. Admins must then follow the prompts to complete the server farm load balancer configuration and setup process. This includes the selection and creation of a load balancing algorithm, which determines how incoming client requests are evaluated and distributed. Once all of the set-up steps and configurations are completed, you simply update your DNS to point to the IIS ARR load balancer.
As an in-built IIS load balancing solution, ARR web farm load balancers offer a straightforward deployment. Although the opportunities for customization are rather limited when compared to some of the alternative load balancing options.
Google Cloud Load Balancing for IIS
Google Cloud load balancers are one option that can work well for Windows Internet Information Services deployments. The configuration is fairly straightforward, with the set-up of a Microsoft SQL server instance and domain controller on a Google Cloud project platform.
IIS load balancing using Google Cloud entails the creation of at least two network subnets spanning two different zones. Microsoft SQL server virtual machines are deployed within these two zones and they must be added to the Active Directory domain. The admin must then create a SQL server bookshelf sample database and Windows Server fallover cluster. The SQL server is then set up with the “Always On” availability group.
This configuration lends itself to server health checks, which are very effective at improving user experience through a reduction in server error messages and consistently good performance.
This Google Cloud IIS load balancing option also allows for simplified load balancer redundancy testing. Admins have the ability to test their server cluster behavior with the selective shut down of various components, including the SQL server, Active Directory, and the Windows IIS servers.
Notably, admins also have the freedom to host their Active Directory and SQL server instance on-premise when using Google Cloud load balancing for IIS. This is an option that can be beneficial for those who require a unique configuration due to elevated security requirements, for example.
Other Third-Party IIS Load Balancing Options
There are numerous other third-party load balancing options for IIS. Many of these other load balancer service providers, such as Resonate, allow for a tremendous degree of customization which is ideal for deployments with unique properties or requirements.
Geographic load balancers, for instance, are ideal for web platforms with a broad worldwide user base. This is especially true in cases that involve backup and recovery systems or mission-critical web-based components that require extremely high levels of reliability and uptime. Global load balancing involves the use of multiple server clusters, situated in different geographic regions. This dramatically increases reliability while simultaneously minimizing the chances of downtime arising from a single event such as a power outage, social conflict or inclement weather. Windows does not offer an in-built geographic load balancing option, which makes a third-party solution your best option.
In cases where an organization requires a third-party load balancing service for Windows IIS, the team at Resonate is here to help with reliable, cost-effective, scalable, and high-performance load balancers. Our load balancing technology can be used in conjunction with numerous Windows platforms, from IIS to the many Windows apps and beyond. We invite you to contact the team here at Resonate. We look forward to helping you find the best load balancer for Windows IIS or another server-dependent platform.