Welcome!

Linux Authors: Elizabeth White, Mike Kavis, Carmen Gonzalez, Kevin Jackson, Avi Rosenthal

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java, Linux, Virtualization, Cloud Expo, Security

SDN Journal: Blog Feed Post

Why Network Load Balancing Is Not the Same as Application Load Balancing

Things you need to know before diving into SDN...

Way back in the early days of the Internet scalability was an issue (the more things change...). One of the answers to this problem was to scale out web servers using a fairly well-proven concept called load balancing. Simply put, distribute the load across web servers to make sure everyone gets served in a timely fashion. We see this in action at stores every day when more checkout lines are added as demand increases. Well, we hope we see this in action. Too often we don't, much to our chagrin.

Anyway, the way in which early load balancing worked was simply to take a couple variables (IP address and TCP port) and then hash them together and stick them in the equivalent of a queue for a web server. Because hash values tend to distribute fairly evenly, this worked well (until we ran into the mega-proxy issue, thanks to folks like Compuserve and AOL).

This is called "network load balancing" because, well, it uses network variables to distribute load. It's quite fast, actually, because it's based on variables that are in fixed locations within a single packet: source or destination IP and TCP port. All the work is on the ingress, on the inbound side, and once the decision has been made it's a pretty simple thing to hash future packets and match it up before sending it on its way. Voila. Network load balancing.

Application load balancing, however, arose because network load balancing was all based on inbound variables. It couldn't take into consideration how loaded the chosen server was, or whether its response time was falling within acceptable business parameters, or whether it was at capacity or not. Those variables were all on the server side, and required visibility into the application, not the client.

It also couldn't account for the fact that virtual servers were popping up everywhere (multiple applications served from the same IP address and port) and forced the web server to become a load balancer itself. Which, if you think about it, was kind of crazy. If a single server couldn't scale well enough to meet demand, how is putting a single server in front of them going to help the situation?

Application load balancing (which has also been given other fancy names over the years like content switching or routing, application switching, application or page routing, etc...) is really focused on distributing load across applications intelligently. While it can use ingress variables like IP address and port, it generally doesn't because that doesn't offer the insight into which server (application, web, virtual, whatever) is going to be able to respond (has capacity) in a time frame acceptable to the business (response time) for a specific application (or piece of the application like images).

The difference between the two lies primarily in the variables used to distribute load. Network load balancing relies solely on network variables while Application load balancing relies mainly on application variables.

This change in load balancing techniques opened up all sorts of new efficiencies and scalability options because it allowed architectures to specialize - route requests for images to servers focused on serving images, requests for static content to servers focused on serving static content, etc...). It also enabled persistence (sticky sessions) which greatly accelerated the ability to scale out stateful applications in a web format.

Why Is It Important to SDN?
The reason this is important to SDN architectures is because layer 3 switches can, in fact, support network load balancing. Fairly easily, in fact. If you look at how Link Aggregation (trunking) is implemented in most switches, you'll see it's using network load balancing techniques to distribute load across trunked links and that the algorithms used are pretty much the same ones we used back in the day to load balancing servers based on network variables. The hash is pretty simple (and easily implemented) and doesn't require storing state because the hash is always based on the same variables, easily extracted from IP and TCP headers, and don't really tax the system. Forwarding tables are basically sets of inbound IP addresses, TCP ports and (switch) ports matched to outbound IP addresses, TCP ports and (switch) ports. So you can see that network load balancing wouldn't overly tax a controller (it just has to hash the right values and insert a forwarding entry) or a switch.

But it wouldn't be application centric, or be able to take into consideration things that modern load balancing services care about - like application status, connection capacity, and response times, not to mention enabling specialization of services. But in order to be application centric application load balancing must participate in the data path and have visibility into variables that aren't available in packets - they're in payloads and in the application server (instances) itself. Like the implications of being stateful versus stateless, the burden on a centralized controller would be overwhelming.

Thus while SDN principles are certainly applicable, the same architecture used to implement SDN for lower order network layer services is not going to be the same architecture used to implement SDN for higher order network layer services. When evaluating SDN solutions, it's again important to consider how any two SDN network (core and application) architectures complement one another, integrate with one another, and collaborate to enable a complete software-defined network architecture that supports the unique needs of both layer 2-3 and layer 4-7.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

@ThingsExpo Stories
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons. Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as...
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.