Web server load balancing solution planning checklist

Although Web server load balancing can improve performance, a few pre-assessments are advisable. Know these steps before you loosen your purse strings.

During one of my meetings with a CIO friend, an interesting topic came up for discussion. The CIO wanted to know if the Web server load balancing solutions offered by vendors are easy to install; whether they are cost-effective.

The first thought that touched my mind was a “Wow!”, as the CIO was apparently looking at me as a trusted advisor. Within a moment, I sensed the underlying pain that the questions typified. This CIO represented a mid-market company that had rapidly expanded its datacenter infrastructure over the past four years. Now the business needed some quick actions to tame the rising infrastructure challenges without impacting performance or causing financial loss and delays.

Although his questions could be answered in affirmative, it was tricky. The price of any Web server load balancing solution depends on a company’s application availability needs, as well as the specific configuration that the IT office opts for. Secondly, although installation can be easy, delivery of desired results depends on the company’s assessments before it evaluates various options.

My explanation to the CIO friend is presented here in the form of a short tip. The way I approach it is that these four steps should be taken before implementing a Web server load balancing solution.

  • Transaction audit: This is the first assessment that you need to conduct before investing in a Web server load balancing solution. Gauge the number of transactions that your company’s application carries out on a daily basis at present. Compare this with how the numbers have grown over the past three years. This will help define the seasonality of your transaction spikes.

To cite an example, a large public-sector banking company found that the human resource management module of its ERP solution got flooded with expense claim requests of its 1,50,000 employees on 28th and 29th of every month. Knowing such seasonality of the spike helps predetermine how and when Web server load balancing is required.

Similarly, map out the projected growth in the number of transactions that your server needs to support over the next two to three years. This projection can best be done in consultation with the business strategy head, as the transaction growth will depend on your company’s business roadmap.

  • Auditing of SSL transactions: With increasing information security risks, many organizations use SSL technology to secure important sensitive transactions through encryption and authentication. Before buying a Web server load balancing solution, you should separately assess how many SSL transactions your company runs at present, and how many of them are concurrent.

SSL transactions demand higher Web server resources, and take more time to process. Appropriate selection of the Web server load balancing solution will depend on accurately knowing the total number of concurrently running SSL transactions. Higher the number, the more critical the load balancing solution’s caching capacity.

  • Application audit: It’s important to measure the resource needs of all enterprise applications in the organization. You will have to ascertain the business criticality of applications, before investing in any technology to assure application availability.

For organizations spread across multiple regions and business domains, creating a ‘prioritization index’ may be useful. This can help define aspects such as the applications that need to be available to specific sets of users at certain points in time, frequency and priority levels. No Web server load balancing solution can deliver expected results if this assessment is not carried out thoroughly.

  • Virtualization audit: This test will help you understand if your company has sufficient levels of virtualization in the first place. Adequate use of virtualization software can ensure that significant amounts of idle capacity is put to use, thus eliminating the need to buy new server hardware.

Once all these steps are completed, RFPs can be invited from various Web server load balancing product vendors to evaluate the available options. Without these assessments, the technology implemented may either prove inadequate or be overkill.

About the author: Shibu Paul is the national sales manager for India at Array Networks. He has more than 18 years of experience in IT, information security, and telecom. His prior assignments include working as senior specialist with BT Americas. He has completed BE from BMS Bengaluru and MBA from TAPMI. Shibu is member of the US Chapter of ICS (Institute for Customer Support).

(As told to Nagesh M Joshi)


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