Operating systems abound, these mission-critical software systems serve as the digital core of virtually every modern platform, framework or system that’s currently in use. An operating system — or OS — plays a major role in terms of whether a particular technology is compatible with another specific technology. This rings true for the many forms of load balancing that are used in conjunction with server-reliant technologies.
In some cases, a tech team may find themselves with multiple operating systems across several different server pools and other tech. This can lead them to wonder, “What are the mixed OS load balancing options?” There are a few choices to consider when using load balancing with multiple operating systems as part of your IT infrastructure.
A Different Frontend and Backend OS as a Mixed OS Load Balancing Option
In a vast majority of cases, it is possible to have a mixed OS load balancing configuration that involves two separate operating systems: one for the load balancer server that comprises the configuration’s front end and a different OS for the servers that comprise the backend server pool.
An example of how this mixed OS load balancing configuration works can entail the use of a central virtual machine serving as a hub server on the front end. This hub server intercepts incoming client requests, which are then evaluated and distributed to the server pool in accordance with a predetermined load balancing algorithm. Depending upon the exact type of load balancer, it may also perform health checks on the backend pool servers before those client requests are dispatched. Once the server requests arrive at the backend server pool, they are processed as they would be without a load balancer in place. The primary difference is volume. Load balancers prevent a scenario where you have a large, overwhelming volume of client requests sent to a single server.
Managing a load balancer with a single OS does tend to be easier from a perspective of convenience. But for elastic load balancers (ELBs) and many others, mixed OS load balancing configurations are perfectly acceptable.
In the case of a mixed OS load balancing configuration, the frontend hub server — the actual load balancer — would run one OS while the servers in the server cluster that ultimately receives those incoming client requests would be running on a different OS.
As long as the hub server has a valid server pool to direct its requests, the operating system of the servers in the cluster typically has little or no impact. The same applications do need to be installed across the entire system, though, so everything remains consistent.
What About the Operating Systems on the Technologies Using the Load Balancer?
Load balancing can be used to improve performance, reliability, scalability and availability for any technology that uses a server. That includes networks, websites, mobile apps, web apps and software systems. All of these technologies generate server requests that are sent to the load balancer’s hub server. Each of these technologies can also be associated with different operating systems, but they rarely have any meaningful impact on load balancing. That is because they are sending server requests to the load balancer using very specific protocols — like TCP/IP.
These protocols are very rigid and formulaic, and as such, they are not impacted by the device’s or platform’s underlying operating system. For this reason, the client’s operating system matters little. In these cases, mixed OS is not problematic and there is no need to consider load balancer server operating system relative to the client’s.
Switching Operating Systems as an Alternative to Mixed OS Load Balancing
Another option for those confronting the implementation of mixed OS load balancing is to modify your systems so they all use the same operating system. This is a suitable alternative to mixed OS load balancer configurations.
To achieve this, the tech team will need to evaluate its two operating systems and determine which they prefer. Top considerations when picking an operating system may include user-friendliness, technical specs and capabilities, and the ability to use a specific operating system with an indispensable app or software platform that may not be available for the other OS in question.
Switching to a new operating system in a mixed OS configuration can bring some challenges, especially when you consider that you will need to do a fair amount of setup and reinstallation for all of the apps and other software systems that are in-use. That said, you will enjoy an IT landscape that is much easier to manage if you are using a single OS across the board. Although it is important to address precisely how and why you ended up with multiple operating systems in the first place. A predecessor may have had a very good reason for implementing a mixed OS configuration and you do not want to find yourself in a position where you make the OS switch and find that you need to switch back because the new operating system has created a major roadblock.
It should also be noted that in-built load balancers such as those offered by Windows may pose some challenges if you opt to implement mixed OS load balancing. Therefore, you’ll want to perform some research to ensure that your desired configuration is possible with the technology that you have in place.
Finding the Best Platform for Mixed OS Load Balancing
Not every load balancing service provider offers compatibility with every server operating system. For this reason, it is important to perform some research into your load balancer service provider’s offerings and servers before you make any changes to your OS or infrastructure.
Some may opt to take their business to another, more flexible third-party load balancer service provider, such as Resonate. At Resonate, we are experts in cutting-edge load balancer technology. Our high-performance load balancing solutions are reliable, scalable and cost-effective. We invite you to reach out to Resonate’s team today to discuss your load balancing needs and we’ll work to help you find the perfect load balancer solution for your unique requirements.