Every year, enterprises lose millions of dollars to site sluggishness and downtime, most of it in the form of missed business opportunities. Slow or unavailable sites and apps also negatively impact internal productivity and degrade search engine rankings. Latency and availability problems can be caused by numerous factors, including overworked or unhealthy servers, geographic distance between end users and servers, slow DNS resolution times, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and even the type of device a visitor is using to access the Internet.
Load balancers mitigate latency and availability problems by uniformly dispersing web traffic across a network of servers, ensuring that no single server becomes overwhelmed and that web assets will still be available even if one server fails. Traditionally, companies deployed physical load balancers in data centers, but as computing moves into the cloud, enterprises are gravitating towards more flexible, less costly, and easier to use cloud-based load balancing solutions.
Understanding Load Balancing
A load balancer is a layer that sits between a network of servers and the internet, managing the flow of information between the servers and end users. The purpose of load balancing is to evenly distribute workloads across multiple servers. This ensures application reliability, efficiency, and responsiveness by ensuring that individual servers do not become overwhelmed during traffic spikes. Load balancing also provides failover in the event of a server crash. Load balancers monitor server health, and if one server goes down, the load balancer simply routes the traffic through healthy servers.
Traditional Load Balancers
Traditional load balancers are hardware devices deployed in on-premise data centers. They are usually deployed in pairs to provide backup if one device fails.
- Hardware-based load balancers have numerous drawbacks.
- They must be purchased upfront, and the cost may be significant.
- They do not scale. To determine how many load balancers to purchase, an enterprise must calculate how much traffic they expect their website or app to generate. If traffic is lighter than expected, the enterprise is stuck with capacity they don’t need. If traffic is heavier than expected, end users will experience sluggishness or downtime until new devices are purchased, configured, and installed.
- They run specialized operating systems and can be quite tricky to configure and maintain, adding to their total cost of ownership (TCO).
- They can only be used in data centers. Deploying applications in a cloud requires a virtual appliance, which must be uniquely configured for each cloud or data center it will operate in.
Next Generation, Cloud-based Load Balancers
While all public cloud providers offer load balancers, they aren’t platform-agnostic. They are native to the vendor’s cloud and can only be used with applications running in that provider’s environment. If an enterprise wants to move the application to another cloud provider or run it on-premise, the load balancer won’t move with it, forcing the enterprise to reconfigure load balancing each time they want to move an application. The situation is even more complex for the 58% of organizations that have hybrid cloud environments and may be using traditional load balancers on-premise.
A robust standalone cloud-based load balancer can be used in conjunction with traditional hardware-based devices in hybrid environments, as well as with load balancers native to public clouds. A standalone load balancer is a neutral, vendor-agnostic layer that sits atop an enterprise’s hardware-based and public cloud-native load balancers. The enterprise selects a primary provider to direct all traffic to. When the load balancer detects a failure, it automatically routes traffic to backup providers or regions. If the enterprise experiences outages or intermittent network connectivity in a public cloud or their own infrastructure, the standalone cloud-based load balancer automatically fails over to healthy providers or servers.
Slow or unavailable websites, apps, and APIs frustrate visitors, reduce conversions, and degrade SEO. Cloud-based load balancers reduce latency and improve availability by distributing web traffic across your cloud servers based on availability and geographic distance.
Cloudflare Load Balancing is a vendor-agnostic, cloud-based solution that expands on Cloudflare’s DDoS-resilient DNS and global CDN.
- ets up in minutes and requires minimal maintenance
- Multi-vendor and cross-cloud seamlessly integrates into any cloud, multi-cloud, or hybrid environment
- Global geolocation-based routing directs user traffic to the closest regional server
- Health check monitoring and near real-time failover route visitors away from failures