Today it would be unthinkable to conceive the functioning of the Internet without the load balancer.
However, since its inception, this solution has been struggling with the growing pains of the Internet to allow applications and infrastructures to adapt to the ever-faster and exponential growth of data, in a race in which each of its functional innovations was a breath that didn’t last long, quickly frustrated by the idea of “it’s not enough anymore.”
It’s not until the arrival of edge computing that we can deal with these significant tensions in a new way since this computing paradigm is revealing itself as a key element for the future of Internet growth and, of course, for load balancing.
To Understand the Future, a Bit of History: Traditional Load Balancers
The First Load Balancers, Based on DNS
The first method used on the commercial Internet in the 90s managed to implement the redundancy principle—that is, the distribution of requests among several physical servers when one server wasn’t enough to handle them— was the load balancer based on DNS.
In principle, when the flow of requests increased, it was enough to add a new server to the network, and that’s it.
But, immediately, the system’s performance revealed itself to be insufficient because it couldn’t identify if the server to which data was sent was working or not, and there was no way to organize the distribution of requests.
Also, physical server groups were very limited systems that already, at that time, had to cope with a data flow that was growing intensely and uninterruptedly.
The result? Chaotic data distribution, high levels of latency, and high frequency of system crashes.
Proprietary Software-based Load Balancer
The following technology was the proprietary software-based load balancer, which allowed the creation of virtual server clusters.
Although it also offered significant drawbacks, such as the need for the servers in a cluster to be in constant communication to determine which of them the next connection should go to.
On the other hand, the quantity of servers that could be connected was even smaller than the previous load balancers generation (DNS-based), and there were also difficulties in absorbing the exponential traffic growth.
Again, the solution wasn’t enough.
Network-based Load-balancing Hardware
The next evolutionary leap was network-based hardware load balancing, where a single virtual server is connected to physical servers and can decide to which ones the requests will be sent.
It also makes it possible to incorporate observability systems that show, for example, when a server responds appropriately and automatically stops sending traffic to it when necessary.
The result is a considerable increase in the system’s stability and scalability, although its capacity is also limited to physical servers.
Observability features are also limited in capacity, usually less sophisticated than those created by the application developers.
Traditional Load Balancers Today
A traditional application load balancer generally operates within a cloud, between on-premise servers or data centers, or between any combination of these structures.
Today, many of them are becoming more sophisticated by going beyond the primary function of load balancing and distribution. They incorporate extra resources such as observability and cybersecurity tools or consider system connections with external applications, as do the ADCs (Application Delivery Controllers).
However, if the balancers aren’t sophisticated enough, they can have the same old inadequacies.
For example, not eventually distributing traffic between servers or even blindly sending connection requests to offline servers will, of course, perpetuate the old problem of long page load times due to server overloads and even lead to the crash of applications and websites.
Again: Do they meet the demands of the market? Yes, but in many cases, it’s not enough.
Application Load Balancing at the Edge
When a load balancer operates at the edge, it can expand its field of action much further than traditional load balancers. It can easily balance loads between data centers of diverse geographical regions, among several servers within the same data center, among different networks, different cloud providers, and on-premise servers, in the cloud and at the edge.
For example, if you want, you can process part of your data in Google Cloud, another in AWS, and another in edge locations (geographic points where edge servers are located).
The development of this technology has implications such as:
1. The Applications Are Always Working
As long as at least one of the backend target systems is running, availability will always be 100%.
It could even go down the system of the largest cloud provider in the world. There’s no problem: an edge load balancer would simply send your data to another location.
2. Much Shorter Waiting Times
Since the load balancer can select the fastest-performing edge location from the edge, web application performance improves compared to the cloud.
3. Increased scalability and resilience
An edge computing platform is the opposite of centralized systems, composed of a few data centers that characterize a cloud platform.
It has a distributed network with hundreds or even thousands of edge locations, taking the concepts of scalability and resiliency to a whole new level, paving the way to absorb the future demands of increasingly exponential Internet growth.
Azion’s Load Balancer
Since it operates on our edge computing platform, Azion’s Load Balancer has all the advantages that we have already mentioned associated with the edge. But it also has other important particularities, such as:
- It’s free of vendor lock-in.
- Its intelligent programming allows you to use customer and end-user data to customize system settings so that requests go to servers running most efficiently or avoid going to downed servers.
- It offers high observability by monitoring the status of servers and nodes in real time.
- It offers an extra layer of security against cyberattacks by operating at the edge.
- Azion’s REST API lets you easily integrate Load Balancer into your system.
There is much talk of edge computing as a technology of the future, but this isn’t an exact idea since the promises it offers today are already a reality, and on a large scale as well, as demonstrated by the large number of global companies and governments that have already adopted it.
Load balancer technology has already jumped on this bandwagon, ensuring it continues its process of technological evolution, but with a new force accompanying the rhythm and scale of our times.
At the edge, the future is now.
If you want to know more about Azion’s Load Balancer or its implementation, contact one of our experts.
Still haven’t opened your free account on Azion’s Edge Platform? Don’t wait any longer! You’ll get 300.00 USD of service credits to use with any of your applications.