Load balancing technology, which took off in 1990s with the rise of the Internet, continues to find behind-the-scenes work in the enterprise - including a supporting role in the current mobile boom.
Take the case of Richard Fleischman & Associates, an IT consulting firm that uses load balancing products from Kemp Technologies in its disaster recovery (DR) line of business. RFA's financial services industry clients include hedge funds and broker-dealers, and financial industry regulations require a disaster recovery plan. (New York City customers can cut over to RFA's Purchase, N.Y. disaster recovery center or the company's Boston center.)
Stevens Demorcy, senior systems engineer at RFA, says Kemp Technologies provided a solution to a tricky DR issue: Making customers' iPhones, Android and Windows smartphones quickly available in the event of a disaster. In the last few years, many customers had migrated from BlackBerry and BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) to smartphones that use Microsoft's ActiveSync mobile data synchronization technology. (ActiveSync is a Microsoft Exchange Server feature that lets users access email, calendar and contacts on mobile devices.) During Superstorm Sandy, many clients had to go to DR and wait hours for DNS updates to propagate and reach their devices.
In the BlackBerry world, BES handles the back-end communications task of redirecting blackberry devices to the DR site. But that tool no longer exists in the smartphone/ActiveSync environment. As a consequence, it can take up to a day for some smartphones to get an updated DNS record, which redirects the device to a new IP address, Demorcy notes.
RFA built its smartphone solution using a combination of Kemp's LoadMaster local load balancers and GEO global load balancers. The GEO appliances are key in this application, since they redirect smartphones when customers go into DR mode. Demorcy says the GEO acts as a DNS server, repointing traffic wherever the server administrator needs it to go. RFA typically places one load balancer and one GEO at the customer's site and the same number at a disaster recovery center, though Demorcy says the particular arrangement may change depending on a client's needs.
Load balancing is an "old concept" that "hasn't changed much," Demorcy says, but using the global feature to quickly give people access to their email during an emergency has reinvigorated the technology. "That's the part that makes it worthwhile. The global part is where you benefit the most if you want to do DR."
Market Shift Pushes Load Balancing Into Application Delivery Controllers
The first flowering of load balancing coincided with the rapid rise of Internet properties, which found a need to distribute workloads from one Web server to another as traffic dramatically expanded. Software and appliance-based load balancers became mainstay tools for business seeking scale and high availability.
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