Definition

cloud load balancing

What is cloud load balancing?

Cloud load balancing is the process of distributing workloads across computing resources in a cloud computing environment and carefully balancing the network traffic accessing those resources. Load balancing enables organizations to meet workload demands by routing incoming traffic to multiple servers, networks or other resources, while improving performance and protecting against disruptions in services. Load balancing also makes it possible to distribute workloads across two or more geographic regions.

Cloud load balancing helps enterprises achieve high performance levels for potentially lower costs than traditional on-premises load balancing technology. Cloud load balancing takes advantage of the cloud's scalability and agility to meet the demands of distributed workloads with high numbers of client connections. It also improves overall availability, increases throughput and reduces latency.

In addition to workload and traffic distribution, cloud load balancing services typically offer other features, such as application health checks, automatic scaling and failover and integrated certificate management.

how load balancing works
Cloud load balancing can offer a high degree of flexibility than onsite appliance or virtual load balancing.

Cloud load balancing takes a software-based approach to distributing network traffic across resources, as opposed to hardware-based load balancing, which is more common in enterprise data centers. A load balancer receives incoming traffic and routes those requests to active targets based on a configured policy. A load balancing service also monitors the health of the individual targets to ensure that those resources  are fully operational.

Examples of cloud load balancing services

Many cloud providers offer load balancing services, including the three major platforms:

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) Elastic Load Balancing distributes incoming client traffic and routes it to registered targets such as EC2 instances. Elastic Load balancing supports four types of load balancers: Application, Network, Gateway and Classic. The load balancers differ in the features offered, the network layers at which they operate and supported communication protocols.
  • The Cloud Load Balancing service available on Google Cloud Platform is built on the same front-end server infrastructure that powers Google. The service offers a range of load balancers that vary depending on whether the customer needs external or internal load balancing, global or regional load balancing, Premium or Standard network service tiers, proxy or pass-through services, among other factors.
  • Microsoft Azure offers four load balancing services. Azure Traffic Manager is a (OSI model) layer 7 DNS-based traffic load balancer for delivering services across global Azure regions. Azure Load Balancer is a layer 4 network load balancer for routing traffic between VMs. Azure Application Gateway is a layer 7 delivery controller for regional applications. Azure Front Door is a highly secure, layer 7 global load balancer for microservice

In addition to the major cloud platforms, other cloud service providers offer load balancing capabilities. For example, the Cloud Load Balancers service from Rackspace enables customers to distribute workloads across multiple back-end systems or services through a RESTful web service interface.

Cloud load balancing users often include enterprises with large-scale applications that require high availability and performance. However, any company can benefit from the technology, depending on the workloads they want to support.

See also: What's the role of an application load balancer vs. API gateway?, Some tricks to help manage load balancing in microservices and Hardware vs. software load balancer: Which is better for an enterprise?, How can active-active clustering use load balancers?

This was last updated in March 2022

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