More to Know About Load Balancers for Applications

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The concept of induced demand is a very real one for motor vehicle traffic, but it doesn’t apply to internet traffic quite the same way. You may not be able to build your way out of traffic congestion on the roads, but along the information superhighway it is much more of a doable proposition. And a darn good thing it is, because load speeds for web applications are a make-or-break factor with whether or not people will continue to use it. Patience may be a virtue, but users have little to any of it and that’s not going to change.

The interest of maintaining or improving these speeds is the reason that that load balancer exist, and it’s also why they are more in demand than ever before. Researchers at Google have said that a load speed should never be longer than 3 seconds, and having it nearer to 2 is what all should be aiming for. If we’re going to be right honest it is the scalability of any web application that is going to do the most for this interest in the long term, but balancing load does have a whole lot of here-and-now value despite that.

All of this is going to be a topic that we’ll take interest in here at 4GoodHosting in the same way it would for any good Canadian web hosting provider. Anything related to web speeds is going to qualify around here, and we know that there will be more than a few here who do have production interests in web applications. Although chances are they’d have heard of load balancers already, but if not we’re going o cover them in greater detail here this week.

Smart Distributor

A load balancer is a crucial component of any web app’s cloud infrastructure with the way it distributes incoming traffic across multiple servers or resources. The sum of all its functions are to redistribute incoming traffic across multiple servers or resources, ensuring efficient utilization, improved performance, and ensuring web applications are as available as possible at all times. The lack of one may mean that traffic distribution becomes uneven, and this is a standard precursor to server overload and major drops in performance.

In something of the way we alluded to at the start here, the load balancer works as a traffic manager and directs traffic with a measure of authoritative control that would never be even remotely possible with the type of traffic that infuriates most everyday people. The load balancer evenly distributes the workload, and this stops any single server from becoming overwhelmed.

The versatility of them is very much on display too, as they can operate at different layers of the network stack, including Layer 7 (application layer) and Layer 4 (transport layer). The algorithms they use like round robin, source IP and URL hash, and others have the breadth of knowhow to distribute traffic effectively based on any number of incidental factors that may be in play at the time. This is exactly what you want for consistently fast load times, and that is going to be true no matter if you have VPS hosting or another type of dedicated server setup

Those who put a load balancer in place often quickly come to see how effectively they ensure optimal performance, efficient resource utilization, and a seamless user experience for web applications.

3 Types

There are 3 types of web application load balancers

  • Application Load Balancer (ALB)

This is the Toyota Corolla of load balancers in modern web applications, microservices architectures, and containerized environments. Application load balancers operate at the application layer of the network stack. Incoming traffic is distributed by the ALB depending on advanced criteria like URL paths, HTTP headers, or cookies.

  • Network Load Balancer (NLB)

This type of load balancer works at the transport layer and is designed for distributing traffic-based network factors, including IP addresses and destination ports. Network load balancers will not take content type, cookie data, headers, locations, and application behavior into consideration when regulating load. TCP/UDP-based (Transmission Control Protocol/User Datagram Protocol) applications are where you’ll find these most commonly.

  • Global Server Load Balancer (GSLB)

This one promotes more optimal performance by distributing traffic across multiple data centers or geographically dispersed locations. It is usually the best fit for globally distributed applications, content delivery networks (CDNs), and multi-data center setups. Location, server health, and network conditions are the key factors taken into account when a GSLB is making the decision on load balancing

Why They Are Needed

Load balancers are the most capable when it comes to the optimum performance of web applications. The first common consideration where they tend to fit perfectly if the one we talked about earlier – scalability. When demand for your application goes up, load balancers allocate the workload or traffic appropriately across different servers so no single one becomes overwhelmed or fails.

Next will be with the need for high availability. With load balancers preventing a single server from being overwhelmed it means that the reliability and availability of your application is improved. They can also route your traffic to available servers in case one server becomes unavailable due to hardware failure or maintenance. Performance optimization is made possible by evenly distributing incoming requests, Directing traffic to servers that have lower utilization or are geographically closer to the user reduces latency, and this a good example of the type of ‘smart’ rerouting that we’re talking about here.

Hyperscale Cloud Data Centers Becoming Pillars in Enterprise Infrastructure Investment

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It takes a certain type of person to be aware of how the rhetoric with cloud storage has shifted. Whether or not you’d be aware of how the narrative shifted from where the technology would quickly replace the entire need for physical storage to one that now promoted smarter and more capable physical data storage would depend on what you do for work or where your interests lie. We have talked about data center colocation in a number of previous blog entries here, so we don’t need to go on too much more about the role of that in the revamping of cloud data infrastructure.

As is the case with everything, budgetary constraints have factored into this as so many businesses and organizations came to terms with just how much it was going to cost to move ALL of their data into the cloud, no matter how reliable or safe the procedure was going to be. This and many other factors were the ones that came together to push advancement and investments into data center colocation, and in truth most people would say that – currently at least – the mix between fully-cloud storage and new and improved physical data centers is just about right.

This leads to our look at the newest of these cloud storage technologies that is starting to cement itself in the industry, and we’re talking about hyperscale cloud data centers. It’s naturally a topic of interest for us here at 4GoodHosting in the same way it would be for any good Canadian web hosting provider, and we likely said the same with the entry from last year when we discussed colocation data centers.

Shifting Landscape

As of now hyperscale cloud data centers now make up a little less than 40% of all data centers around the world. An estimated 900+ of these facilities globally reinforces the major impact cloud computing continues to have on enterprise infrastructure investment. Of this number of hyperscale cloud data centres, about half are owned and operated by data center operators, and colocation sites are where the remainder of them will be located.

And as non-hyperscale colocation capacity makes up another 23% of capacity, that leaves on-premise data centres with just 40% of the total. Now if you skip back half-a-decade ago or so, the share for on-premise data centers was quite a bit larger, working out to nearly 60% of total capacity. But now the big surge in enterprise spending on data centers suggests a majorly shifting landscape.

The fact that companies were investing over $80 billion annually in their data centers, whereas spending on cloud infrastructure services was around $10 billion supports that. And when you consider that cloud services expenditure surged to $227 billion by the end of 2022 while data center spending has grown modestly at an average rate of 2% per year, it’s even in more in line with the attestation that hyperscale cloud data centers are increasingly where the industry is gravitating towards.

Onwards and Upwards

Over the next five years it is predicted that hyperscale operators will make up more than 50% of all capacity, with on-premise data centers declining to under 30% over that same time frame . But let’s be clear – on-premise data centers are not going to completely disappear. Rather, they will maintain a fairly steady capacity and still be extensively utilized despite the overall decline. A similar expectation is that colocations share of total capacity will remain stable for the most part too during this period.

And so it is now that amidst all of the excitement over the growth of hyperscale operators and the big push towards enterprises outsourcing datacenter facilities, on-premise datacenters will still be utilized and there will still be sufficient demand for them to the extent that investment will still be made. The total capacity of on-premise datacenters will remain reasonably steady over the next five years, declining but barely – going down by an average of just a fraction of 1% each year.

More notably for all of us in the hosting business will be continuing to see the rise of hyperscale data centers being driven by the increasing popularity of consumer-oriented digital services. Front and center among those are social networking, e-commerce, and online gaming, and they are just some of the many leading to a transformative shift in enterprise IT investments.

Introducing Li-Fi: Light Wi-Fi is Near Ready to Go

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It is getting on to darn near 30 years since humans were ‘untethered’ when it came to being able to access the Internet. Now being able to be entirely unconnected to anything is the norm when it comes to web-browsing devices of any type, and there are even plenty of desktop computer that would laugh at the idea of an Ethernet cable. Wi Fi has been the way, and when Wi-Fi 6 came around a few years back it was definitely a big deal.

But what we’re on the verge of here may be the biggest deal with Internet connectivity to come along since the information superhighway was first paved. We’re talking about light-based communication, and the advantages of Wi Fi are about to be undone in a big way by Li-Fi, an emerging wireless technology that relies of infrared light instead of radio waves. To go down every avenue with all the potential advantages for this and how it’s stealing the thunder of Wi-Fi 7 would require a whole lot of typing, but let’s start with the one that everyone will like to hear – speed.

They may be fewer and more far between, but some people still do have latency concerns based on what it is they are doing online and whatever hardware they’re doing it with. You want wildly faster internet speeds? Li-Fi is going to be a godsend for you then as the estimates right now are that Li-Fi could offer speeds 100XS faster than what the current Wi-Fi networks are able to provide.

No need for any explanation as to why this is going to be noteworthy stuff for any good Canadian web hosting provider, and that’s going to be the case for us here at 4GoodHosting too. So we’re taking this week’s entry to give you a brief overview into Li-Fi, because it may be that Wi-Fi is about to become archaic technology fast.

Utilize Light

Wi-Fi has made connecting to the internet wirelessly possible by using radio waves, but now it appears there’s a better way. Li-Fi was recently given its own standard – IEEE 802.11bb — and when you see it you’ll know your connection is being created with the power of light to give you connectivity. Although technically Li-Fi belonging to the same family of standards Wi-Fi lives in, it is very different.

Li-Fi uses light as its source of electromagnetic radiation instead. What is of note here with this is the way LED lights work by turning on and off many times a second by them to save energy, and Li-Fi spectrum does the same but turning off and in a way that is able to communicate with a receiver to interpret and transfer data with. It works with visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light and so there’s not going to necessarily be a need to have light physically in the room either.

And less light bouncing off walls and more being confined to individual rooms means there is less interference and higher bandwidth, and traffic is harder to intercept from outside. Another big advantage is that Li-Fi antennas are small enough to be integrated into smartphone frames, and have them functioning in a way that is similar to IR blasters

Addition To, Not Wi-Fi Replacement

The concept behind Li-Fi is pretty simple and has been around for some time, but with several developments to it adoption and challenges along the way, with the lack of an official standard being among them but now with the IEEE 802.11bb standard in place. It’s good to understand as well that Li-Fi isn’t intended as a Wi-Fi replacement, but rather an option that can be utilized when a Wi-Fi network connection is a weaker alternative or is more simply not an option at all.

There should be no shortage of those instances too, and they consider as well as places where Wi-Fi’s radio waves can interfere with everything from hospitals to airplanes to operations in and around military bases. Li-Fi will also be able to co-exist with your home Wi-Fi networks, and having devices be seamlessly able to switch between networks automatically based on needs and resources available is going to be a real plus.

One example might be having your phone stay connected to Wi-Fi while it’s in your pocket but then jump over and onto faster and more interference-free Li-Fi when it moves into your hand and is exposed to light. One thing is for sure, the idea of light-based internet is definitely exciting and especially if means super-fast network speeds and in many cases leaving Wi-Fi for more IoT purposes and the like.

Clustering Servers for Maximum Performance Delivery

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Strength in number is often enhanced in a big way when those numbers of whatever it is are in close proximity to one another, and there are all sorts of examples of that. There are all sorts of examples of that, and in some of them it’s more about providing shared resources even if the collective aim isn’t the same right across the board. The nature of what people do with Internet connectivity is as varied as the 6-digit number combinations, and it’s only going to keep on growing out from here.

Again, much of that is made possible by shared resources, even if those in possession of the resources may not even be aware their sharing them. It may be in more of an indirect way but the herring in the innermost area of the ball are providing a benefit to the fish on the edge of it even though those fish are most clearly at risk of being eaten and thus protecting them. They create a possibility, and that’s what keeps the herring ball in a constant state of flux as the competition continues without stopping.

This type of strength in numbers can relate to servers too. With the demand for server speed and reliability increasing, there is the need to implement a reliable server cluster for maximum performance. An integrated cluster of multiple servers working in tandem often provides more resilient, consistent, and uninterrupted performance. Here at 4GoodHosting we are a good Canadian web hosting provider that sees the value in relating what goes into decisions in the industry with regard to how you get better performance from your website and in the bigger picture more traction for you online presence.

Better Availability / Lower Costs

Server clusters are conducive to better business service availability while controlling costs at the same time. Learn some of the key benefits that come with utilizing a server cluster. That’s the term for when a group of servers all tied to the same IP address, and providing access to files, printers, messages and emails, or database records. Node is the one given to each server on the cluster, and each node can run independently as it has its own CPU and RAM and either independent or shared data storage.

The foremost argument for server clustering is better uptime through redundancy. In the event a node in the cluster fails, the others have the ability to pick up the slack almost instantly. User access is essentially uninterrupted, and as long as the server cluster was not already substantially under-resourced there the expected user load shouldn’t cause performance shortcomings.

Many different hosting environments will have their own specific benefits attached to server clustering. Server cluster advantages are not exclusive to mission-critical applications, but the one that will extend to all of them is the way they are not subject to a service interruption from a single server node failure.

Traditional or Shared-Nothing

Operating a backup server in the same way has benefits too but there is almost always a significant failure of service while transferring to the backup. In these instances the possibility of data loss is high, and if the server is often not backed up continually the risk of that increases. That is likely the only real detractor point when discussing server clusters, but most organizations will not have large-scale data back up needs of the size that will make this an issue.

The primary key server cluster benefits are always going to be reliability and availability and there are essentially two types of server clustering strategies – the traditional strategy and the shared-nothing strategy.

Traditional server clustering involves multiple redundant server nodes accessing the same shared storage or SAN resource. Server nodes that fail or experiences downtime have the next node picking up the slack immediately, and because it is drawing from the same storage, you shouldn’t expect any data loss to occur.

Shared nothing server clustering involves each node having a completely independent data store, making it into its own hard drive essentially. These drives are generally synchronized at the block level and function identically from moment to moment. Any failure occurring anywhere in the cluster will be immediately remedied by another node taking over in full from its own hard drive.

Security Considerations

Despite the long list of benefits all servers are potentially vulnerable. We’ll conclude our entry here this week by getting right down to what you’d need to know about server cluster security interests and listing out what you should have in place:

  • Good firewall
  • Updated OS
  • Strong authentication procedure
  • Physically secured servers
  • Strong file system encryptions

There are HPC Storage (high-performance clustered storage) with top of the line hardware in each node enabling the fastest interconnects available. These are ideal, but with some you will need to take all of these security recommendations more into consideration.

Advantageousness of Cloud Computing Increasingly in Question

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The appeal of removing the need for physical storage was profound and immediate when cloud computing first made its appearance on the scene, and there are other reasons why the advantages of it made it one of most revolutionary developments in computing ever seen to this point. We are like many others in the way we’ve gone on about it at length, and with a focus on how it’s had an equally profound effect on the nature of web hosting. Even the most laymen of people will have had their digital world altered by it, even if they don’t quite understand the significance of how their Microsoft OneDrive works or something similar.

Cloud computing has indeed had quite a shine to it for many years. But here we are now at point where perhaps the luster is wearing off, and more than just a little. And this isn’t primarily because the cloud has performance shortcomings. Some might say that it does depending on the nature of what they do related to business or any other type of venture moved online, but the primary reason that cloud computing is not regarded as obvious choice any more is because of the price required to be utilizing it.

That is not to say that cloud computing is too expensive, and it really isn’t when you look at it solely from the perspective of storing data in the cloud. But what is increasingly the issue is that traditional data centers are increasingly more affordable and offer cost savings to go along with the greater capacity for data storage themselves.

This is going to be a subject of interest for any good Canadian web hosting provider in the same way it is for us at 4GoodHosting, and before we get into the topic in more detail we’ll mention that the core server banks in our Vancouver and Toronto data centers have their server capacity expanded regularly and we’ve had them designed so that they have this ability to grow. For some it definitely may be the most cost-effective choice to go with traditional data storage means via you web hosting provider.

Upped Affordability

A PPI (producer price index) report has shown that there’s been a month-over-month decline in the cost of host computers and servers of about 4%. At the same time cloud services saw prices increases of around 2.3% starting in the 3rd quarter of 2022. The overall PPI declined 0.3% in May as prices for goods dropped 1.6% and service fees increased 0.2%. This begins to indicate how cloud storage options are increasingly more expensive, while physical data storage ones are increasingly more affordable.

So what we have now is some companies pressing the reset button for some systems already on cloud platforms and relocating them back to traditional data centers because of the more appealing lower costs. The limitations of physical data storage is going to mean that’s not a possibility for some that have more extensive needs, but for any individual or organization who doesn’t have such large-scale needs the ongoing change to price differential for the service between traditional and the cloud may well have them reconsidering too.

It is a marked change, because even just 10 years ago the rationale for moving to a public cloud consumption model was wholly convincing for nearly all. Much of that was based on avoiding the costs of hardware and software, the pain and expense of platform maintenance, and having leveraged computing and storage being a utility. Operational cost savings were a big part of the sell too, and the foremost of them was the way cloud storage allowed for avoiding many capital expenses (capex versus opex). Add the benefits of agility and speed to deployment and it was a solid sell.

Reduced Hardware Costs

One very relevant development with all of this is the way prices for data center hardware have come down considerably, and done so as cloud computing service costs have increased a good bit during the same time. This has led to many CFOs stopping to reconsider any decision to move all IT assets to the cloud. Especially if there is no significant cost advantage to outweigh the migration risks. In relation to this let’s keep in mind that today’s business cases are more complex than they were previously.

Weighing advantages and disadvantages can be a complex equation, and decision makers will definitely need to look at more than just the costs for each deployment model. New lower prices for hardware will likely factor in, but you need to look at the bigger picture with value to a business. There will be larger strategic forces that need to be considered too, especially with applications and data sets featuring repeatable patterns of computing and storage usage.

You’ll also be inclined to ask how likely it is that you will rapidly scale up or down? Traditional servers are more capable of accommodating that now, and it’s included within those increasingly lower prices for traditional data storage that you can find here with our Canadian web hosting service and elsewhere.

Not all applications and data sets fall into this category though . The more dynamic the storage and computing requirements for an application or set of applications, the more likely it is that a public cloud is the better option. Scalability and seamless integration offered by cloud services are critical for these types of data and computing, and being able to quickly expand and build on public cloud services with other native services is going to be important too

Cloud computing should never be a default solution. Consider your business requirements and make it a priority to question the advantages of any technological solution. We are seeing the prices for traditional servers decrease, it is important to review objectives for utilizing these systems and reevaluate whether or not it continues to be the best choice with regards to the value / cost proposition.

Here at 4GoodHosting we’re always available if you’d like to discuss big data storage needs, and we’ll be happy to hear from you if so.