Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Stefan Bernbo, TJ Randall

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java IoT, Linux Containers, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo, Cloud 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.

@CloudExpo Stories
Complete Internet of Things (IoT) embedded device security is not just about the device but involves the entire product’s identity, data and control integrity, and services traversing the cloud. A device can no longer be looked at as an island; it is a part of a system. In fact, given the cross-domain interactions enabled by IoT it could be a part of many systems. Also, depending on where the device is deployed, for example, in the office building versus a factory floor or oil field, security ha...
In addition to all the benefits, IoT is also bringing new kind of customer experience challenges - cars that unlock themselves, thermostats turning houses into saunas and baby video monitors broadcasting over the internet. This list can only increase because while IoT services should be intuitive and simple to use, the delivery ecosystem is a myriad of potential problems as IoT explodes complexity. So finding a performance issue is like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.
The idea of comparing data in motion (at the sensor level) to data at rest (in a Big Data server warehouse) with predictive analytics in the cloud is very appealing to the industrial IoT sector. The problem Big Data vendors have, however, is access to that data in motion at the sensor location. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Scott Allen, CMO of FreeWave, discussed how as IoT is increasingly adopted by industrial markets, there is going to be an increased demand for sensor data from the outermos...
"Qosmos has launched L7Viewer, a network traffic analysis tool, so it analyzes all the traffic between the virtual machine and the data center and the virtual machine and the external world," stated Sebastien Synold, Product Line Manager at Qosmos, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Between 2005 and 2020, data volumes will grow by a factor of 300 – enough data to stack CDs from the earth to the moon 162 times. This has come to be known as the ‘big data’ phenomenon. Unfortunately, traditional approaches to handling, storing and analyzing data aren’t adequate at this scale: they’re too costly, slow and physically cumbersome to keep up. Fortunately, in response a new breed of technology has emerged that is cheaper, faster and more scalable. Yet, in meeting these new needs they...
When it comes to cloud computing, the ability to turn massive amounts of compute cores on and off on demand sounds attractive to IT staff, who need to manage peaks and valleys in user activity. With cloud bursting, the majority of the data can stay on premises while tapping into compute from public cloud providers, reducing risk and minimizing need to move large files. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Scott Jeschonek, Director of Product Management at Avere Systems, discussed the IT and busin...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, director/senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
More and more companies are looking to microservices as an architectural pattern for breaking apart applications into more manageable pieces so that agile teams can deliver new features quicker and more effectively. What this pattern has done more than anything to date is spark organizational transformations, setting the foundation for future application development. In practice, however, there are a number of considerations to make that go beyond simply “build, ship, and run,” which changes how...
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2017 New York. The 20th Cloud Expo and 7th @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Internet to enable us all to im...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
"We are the public cloud providers. We are currently providing 50% of the resources they need for doing e-commerce business in China and we are hosting about 60% of mobile gaming in China," explained Yi Zheng, CPO and VP of Engineering at CDS Global Cloud, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
In IT, we sometimes coin terms for things before we know exactly what they are and how they’ll be used. The resulting terms may capture a common set of aspirations and goals – as “cloud” did broadly for on-demand, self-service, and flexible computing. But such a term can also lump together diverse and even competing practices, technologies, and priorities to the point where important distinctions are glossed over and lost.
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
All clouds are not equal. To succeed in a DevOps context, organizations should plan to develop/deploy apps across a choice of on-premise and public clouds simultaneously depending on the business needs. This is where the concept of the Lean Cloud comes in - resting on the idea that you often need to relocate your app modules over their life cycles for both innovation and operational efficiency in the cloud. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at19th Cloud Expo, Valentin (Val) Bercovici, CTO of Soli...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
Without a clear strategy for cost control and an architecture designed with cloud services in mind, costs and operational performance can quickly get out of control. To avoid multiple architectural redesigns requires extensive thought and planning. Boundary (now part of BMC) launched a new public-facing multi-tenant high resolution monitoring service on Amazon AWS two years ago, facing challenges and learning best practices in the early days of the new service. In his session at 19th Cloud Exp...
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...