Inexpensive load balancing

By Stan Schatt, ITworld.com |  Networking

Are visitors complaining about response time when they visit your website? Perhaps you've been reading reviews of load balancers and staring at pictures of an expensive ArrowPoint or Alteon load balancer the way you used to look at red sports cars. Have you had that sinking feeling that your company is willing to budget more for paper clips than for network equipment?

There actually are a number of low-cost load balancing options available, but it is important to remember that you might find these lower-priced products very limited in scalability and lacking in key features.

Is one of these low-cost products appropriate for your Website or LAN server farm? Maybe, if you meet these criteria:

  • You have a limited number of Web or file servers, with little growth anticipated

  • You don't require persistent connections because you don't need secure transactions

  • You're willing to use one of your two boxes as a spare rather than requiring that both boxes share the workload

  • You don't need to balance traffic across multiple sites

  • Your main concerns are speeding up server response and balancing server load

If you fit this profile, then you have some viable options. One is a free,
scaled-down server load balancing version of Resonate Central Dispatch. This software-only product balances two servers and provides failover. If your site grows beyond two servers, you can purchase a limited Central Dispatch license.

A second option is an entry-level Equalizer 250 load balancing box from Coyote Point Systems. The 250 costs $3,995, balances as many as 64 virtual clusters of eight servers each, handles as many as 64,000 simultaneous connections, and is targeted at sites with T1 bandwidth. The company calls it a plug-and-play system. You can add Coyote Point's Envoy global load balancing software to an Equalizer box for an additional $2,495 per site. Envoy allows you to balance traffic across more than one site, so that, for example, traffic from Latin America is routed to servers at your Mexico City Website. It also makes it possible to route traffic to backup sites should servers at a primary site go down.

Finally, Lightspeed Systems' IPMagic offers NT-based load balancing for $9,995, and adds firewall security, network address translation, routing, and traffic statistic reporting. InfoWorld reviewed IPMagic this week. If your shop is already NT-centric, this software represents an attractive option.

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