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Advanced Load Balancers: The Tools Behind Site Success

Ben Vaughan • February 17, 2017

The world of online commerce is fast paced and never sleeps. Sales opportunities exist at all hours of the day, every day of the week.

However, you still need to be able to perform work on the site, utilizing system capacity for internal measures instead of taking orders and driving profits. How then does one perform these necessary functions while maintaining a satisfying customer experience?

Advanced load balancer tools and their key modules are critical to success in today’s digital marketplace.

Spike Dampening

Unexpected site publicity is great, except when it overwhelms your system. Time and time again, sites have gone viral only to be overloaded to the point of complete unresponsiveness.

Sudden massive traffic surges are difficult to deal with – and even trickier to recover from – if you don’t have a spike dampener in place to prevent back-end application servers from overloading and failing.

A spike dampening service on your load balancer acts akin to a circuit breaker, shunting traffic to an overflow site when the rate of incoming requests exceeds a pre-set limit. The overflow site should contain a well-styled and friendly message telling the customer that the site is very busy and that they should try again in a minute or two.

With a spike dampener in place, sudden traffic spikes won’t knock out the store keeping you open for business once the spike subsides.

Load Balancer

Similar to the spike dampeners, capacity management tools in a load balancer help maintain an excellent user experience by restricting traffic to application servers to preserve performance. Laggy and unresponsive sites frustrate users, leading to abandoned shopping carts and poor conversion.

Auto Scaling

Advanced load balancers generate a plethora of data that can inform decisions and dictate actions. For example, data that informs back-end systems to scale to meet capacity requirements.

The load balancer can be configured to send a signal – in conjunction with your performance monitoring system – to a back-end automation system. This automation system then spins up a new application server if the rate of incoming requests, or any other available metric on the load balancer, is sustained above a set threshold.

Once the call is made to add capacity, the new back-end server can start taking traffic within minutes. When the rate of traffic falls below the pre-set threshold, the load balancer and performance monitoring system can then remove the unneeded capacity, intelligently saving costs.

Load Distribution

Load BalancerNot all application servers are created equal.

Some servers excel at serving static content such as pictures and text. Some servers are optimized for dynamic content like checkout pages or API calls.

To keep your costs in check, you need to maintain the proper balance of server strengths for your traffic. An advanced load balancer is capable of dividing the incoming requests so that the most appropriate servers will service them.

There is a great benefit in having the flexibility to optimize server mix to meet your customer demands. Techniques such as reserving capacity for checkouts or API systems or shifting capacity after-hours enables API-call and integration activities to run more efficiently.

Advanced load balancers enable users to make the most efficient use of their capacity.

Site Maintenance

There are times when you have to take your storefront down to do intrusive maintenance. By “intrusive maintenance,” I am referring to big things such as upgrading the underlying back-end servers or deploying new code to the site that will enhance the customer experience.

All websites must do this from time to time to ensure security and to stay current with the latest shopping trends. We want to avoid users seeing ugly maintenance screens and unfriendly error codes.

An advanced load balancer can help here as well. By shunting user traffic to a simpler content-only site, they are greeted instead with a friendly message explaining what is happening and when they should try shopping with again. Also, by ensuring that no unexpected API traffic attempts to hit the site, potential in-progress maintenance issues are mitigated as well.

An advanced load balancer is essential to peak performance in today’s digital market. Trends and traffic are unpredictable, and having the flexibility and capability needed to meet these challenges is critical.

Providing the tools, functionality, and metrics to help inform decisions and deliver satisfying customer experiences, the advanced load balancer is a must-have in your digital tool belt.

Ben Vaughan

About the author

Ben Vaughan

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