Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White, Sanjeev Sharma, Greg Ness

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.

@CloudExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in software-defined storage (SDS) purpose-built for Windows Servers and Hyper-V, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Gridstore™ is the leader in software-defined storage purpose built for virtualization that is designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Using its patented Server-Side Virtual C...
When an enterprise builds a hybrid IaaS cloud connecting its data center to one or more public clouds, security is often a major topic along with the other challenges involved. Security is closely intertwined with the networking choices made for the hybrid cloud. Traditional networking approaches for building a hybrid cloud try to kludge together the enterprise infrastructure with the public cloud. Consequently this approach requires risky, deep "surgery" including changes to firewalls, subnets...
SYS-CON Events announces a new pavilion on the Cloud Expo floor where WebRTC converges with the Internet of Things. Pavilion will showcase WebRTC and the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices--computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors – connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will con...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudian, Inc., the leading provider of hybrid cloud storage solutions, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Cloudian is a Foster City, Calif.-based software company specializing in cloud storage. Cloudian HyperStore® is an S3-compatible cloud object storage platform that enables service providers and enterprises to bui...
SAP is delivering break-through innovation combined with fantastic user experience powered by the market-leading in-memory technology, SAP HANA. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP, will discuss how SAP and partners provide cloud and hybrid cloud solutions as well as real-time Big Data offerings that help companies of all sizes and industries run better. SAP launched an application challenge to award the most innovative SAP HANA and SAP ...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., will show what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform...
SYS-CON Events announced today that AIC, a leading provider of OEM/ODM server and storage solutions, 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. AIC is a leading provider of both standard OTS, off-the-shelf, and OEM/ODM server and storage solutions. With expert in-house design capabilities, validation, manufacturing and production, AIC's broad selection of products are highly flexible and are conf...
We are all here because we are sold on the transformative promise of The Cloud. But what good is all of this ephemeral, on-demand infrastructure if your usage doesn't actually improve the agility and speed of your business? How must Operations adapt in order to avoid stifling your Cloud initiative? In his session at DevOps Summit, Damon Edwards, co-founder and managing partner of the DTO Solutions, will highlight the successful organizational, process, and tooling patterns of high-performing c...
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurri...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratogent will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Stratogent is a custom managed services organization based in San Mateo, California. We design, implement, and support mission critical infrastructure 24x7 on premises, in datacenters and in the Cloud. Since 2005, we have acted as an extension of internal IT teams, achieving a customer reten...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Aria Systems, the recurring revenue expert, has been named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Aria Systems helps leading businesses connect their customers with the products and services they love. Industry leaders like Pitney Bowes, Experian, AAA NCNU, VMware, HootSuite and many others choose Aria to power their recurring revenue bu...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace. ...
Seagate has a strong track record of collaborating with others to develop better cloud solutions. The Seagate Cloud Builder Alliance program, for example, leverages the company’s knowledge of storage and cloud-optimized solutions to give cloud service providers the customized, flexible and scalable server and storage solutions to meet the high levels of service their customers demand. Seagate also is a member of the OpenStack Foundation and Open Compute Project to help define and promote open-so...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is going to require a new way of thinking and of developing software for speed, security and innovation. This requires IT leaders to balance business as usual while anticipating for the next market and technology trends. Cloud provides the right IT asset portfolio to help today’s IT leaders manage the old and prepare for the new. Today the cloud conversation is evolving from private and public to hybrid. This session will provide use cases and insights to reinforce t...
What process has your provider undertaken to ensure that the cloud tenant will receive predictable performance and service? What was involved in the planning? Who owns and operates the data center? What technology is being used? How is it being supported? In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Dave Weisbrot, Cloud Business Manager for QTS, will provide the attendees a look into what it takes to stand up and stand behind a highly available certified cloud IaaS.
I'll be hosting an SAP HANA Cloud webinar at 11am eastern time, Wednesday, October 29. You can sign up now. Featured speakers will be Allan Adler, Managing Partner, Channel Cloud Consulting, and Thorsten Leiduck, VP ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP. Attendees will learn about • Cloud economics, hybrid cloud strategy, market size and opportunity • Introduction to SAP HANA Cloud Platform and how to: - Build new next-generation applications - Extend on-premise solutions non-disruptively throu...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gigaom Research has been named "Media Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, will also lead a Power Panel on the topic "Choosing the Right Cloud Option." Gigaom Research provides timely, in-depth analysis of emerging technologies for individual and corporate subscribers. Gigaom Research'...
How does one bridge the gap between traditional enterprise storage infrastructures and the private, hybrid, and public cloud? In his session at 15th Cloud Expo, Dan Pollack, Chief Architect of Storage Operations at AOL Inc., will exam the workload differences and required changes to reuse existing knowledge and components when building and using a cloud infrastructure. He will look into the operational considerations, tool requirements, and behavioral changes required for private cloud storage...
Sanjeev Sharma is the latest author to join DevOps Journal. Sanjeev is a solution architect and DevOps Worldwide lead with Rational Software, an IBM brand and the author of 'DevOps for Dummies.' DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. SYS-CON Media CEO Carmen Gonzalez is founder and publisher of DevOps Journal, and Roger Strukhoff, long-time SYS-CON editor and the conference chair of Cloud Expo is the editor of the world's leading DevOps...
Join both SAP and Channel Cloud Consulting for our webcast and uncover how you can extend your reach to capture a piece of the US$17 billion cloud application services market with SAP. Learn about SAPs market-leading SAP HANA Cloud Platform and an exciting opportunity to join SAPs growing ecosystem of Application Development partners. When: October 29, 11:00am EST Speakers: Allan Adler, Managing Partner, Channel Cloud Consulting Thorsten Leiduck, Vice President ISVs & Digital Commerce, SAP