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Reasons for Using Network Load Balancing

Updated: September 1, 2003

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2

Microsoft uses Network Load Balancing to help achieve its technical and business objectives for the Microsoft.com Web site. This section discusses specific features that Network Load Balancing offers that help Microsoft.com achieve these objectives.

This white paper discusses the set of Network Load Balancing clusters at Microsoft.com that are running IIS 6.0. This set of clusters consists of six Network Load Balancing clusters. Each of these clusters has 10 servers running IIS.

Network Load Balancing provides improved performance, the ability to add additional servers as necessary, and the ability to perform maintenance on any of the servers without any customer impact or hardware configuration changes. By using the combination of Network Load Balancing and multiple, redundant clusters, Microsoft.com can add and remove clusters with minimal customer impact.

The following is a detailed list of Network Load Balancing features:

  • Scalability

    • Network Load Balancing can load balance requests for individual TCP/IP requests across the cluster.

    • Network Load Balancing can load balance multiple server requests, from the same client or from several clients across multiple hosts in the cluster.

  • High availability

    • Network Load Balancing can automatically detect and recover from a failed or offline computer.

    • Network Load Balancing can automatically rebalance the network load when hosts are added or removed.

  • Manageability

    • Network Load Balancing can specify the load-balancing behavior for a single IP port or group of ports using port management rules.

  • Ease of use

    • Network Load Balancing is installed as a standard Windows networking driver component.

    • Network Load Balancing requires no hardware changes to enable and run.

    • Network Load Balancing allows clients to access the cluster with a single logical Internet name and virtual IP address (also known as the cluster IP address) while retaining individual names for each computer. This feature can be used for administration purposes.

    • Network Load Balancing allows server applications to run in a Network Load Balancing cluster without requiring modification.

    • Network Load Balancing can be configured to automatically add a failed host to the cluster after it is brought back online. The added host will then be able to start handling new server requests from clients.

    • Network Load Balancing allows system administrators to take computers offline for preventive maintenance without disturbing cluster operations on the other hosts.

Reason for Using Multiple Clusters

In addition to Network Load Balancing, Microsoft.com uses multiple clusters to make the Web site easier to maintain. For example, if an entire virtual IP (VIP) begins to experience problems, administrators can stop routing traffic to that entire cluster altogether (a process external to Network Load Balancing). Administrators can then perform maintenance or corrective procedures on the software and equipment associated with the failed VIP while the other VIPs continue to respond to Internet client requests.

For more information about the design and architecture of the Network Load Balancing clusters and individual hosts, see Microsoft.com Cluster Overview Diagram, Set of Network Load Balancing Clusters Running IIS 6.0, and Network Load Balancing Host Diagram later in this document. For details on the hardware and software used in this cluster, as well as the configuration of the hardware and software used to take advantage of these features, see Configuration of the Network Load Balancing Clusters at Microsoft.com later in this document.

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