You might have heard that a load balancer is important in computer software, but like many things in the world of computers, it’s sometimes hard to tell if it’s really necessary. Fortunately, by looking into what a load balancer does and why businesses use it, you can determine if it’s a good investment for you.
A load balancer is quite simply a system that spreads work between multiple servers so that no one server is overwhelmed. For example, imagine ten people go onto a search engine and perform a search. In this case, all the searches would be processed by the same computer unless a load balancer intervened. There would likely not be a noticeable difference in the speed of this simple process, but you might imagine that a single computer would slow down noticeably if several thousand people were sending requests or if the requests were complex. A load balancer simply divides these requests between the available servers so each is processed efficiently.
In the example of an internet search, a software load balancer would be used. There are also hardware load balancers, however. These perform the same sort of function but instead of balancing software applications such as searches or databases, a hardware load balancer is designed to regulate specialized hardware such as switches or routers.
Load balancers function based on an algorithm. There are three main algorithms used with load balancers, each with its own pros and cons. Depending on what you want your servers to do, how much traffic comes to your servers, and how capable each of your servers is, one algorithm might work better for you than the others.
Based on the kind of traffic that comes through your servers, one or another of the scheduling algorithms might work better for you.
Certainly, there are plenty of applications which do not require a load balancer, but if your servers fit any of the following criteria, a load balancer becomes an essential investment:
These are just a sampling of examples why you might want a load balancer when you control a server. Load balancers overall are inexpensive when compared to the loss you could incur by failing to include one in your systems.