Network Load Balancing is a feature of recent Microsoft server operating systems, including Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Windows Server 2003, and Windows Server 2008. Network Load Balancing is implemented in a special driver installed on each Windows host in a cluster. The cluster presents a single IP address to clients. When client requests arrive, they go to all hosts in the cluster, and an NLB algorithm implemented in the driver maps each request to a particular host. The other hosts in the cluster drop the request. You can set load partitioning to distribute specified percentages of client connections to particular hosts. You also have the option of routing all requests from a particular client to the host that handled that client’s first request. If a host fails, client requests are rebalanced across the remaining hosts, with each remaining host handling a percentage of requests proportional to the percentage you specified in the initial configuration.
II. What is NLB Algorithm?
Network Load Balancing employs a fully distributed filtering algorithm to map incoming clients to the cluster hosts. The distributed algorithm enables cluster hosts to make load-balancing decisions independently and quickly for each incoming packet. The distributed algorithm is optimized to statistically load balance traffic for large client populations and is less effective when the client population is small or the client connections produce widely varying loads on the server. Network Load Balancing balances incoming client requests by directing a selected percentage of new requests to each cluster host. The algorithm does not respond to changes in the load on each cluster host (such as the CPU load or memory usage). However, the mapping is modified when the cluster membership changes, and load percentages are renormalized accordingly. When inspecting an arriving packet, all cluster hosts simultaneously perform a statistical mapping to quickly determine which host should handle the packet. The mapping uses a randomization function that calculates a host priority based on the client's IP address, port, and other state information. The corresponding host forwards the packet up the network stack to TCP/IP, and the other cluster hosts discard it. The mapping does not vary unless the membership of cluster hosts changes, ensuring that a given client's IP address and port will always map to the same cluster host. The particular cluster host to which the client's IP address and port map cannot be predetermined since the randomization function takes into account the current and past cluster's membership to minimize re-mappings.
III. Where to use NLB?
NLB technology enables you to improve the scalability and availability of Internet server programs, such as Web servers, proxy servers, DNS servers, FTP servers, virtual private network servers, streaming media servers, and terminal services servers.
IV. What is Covergence Test?
Network Load Balancing hosts periodically exchange multicast or broadcast heartbeat messages within the cluster. This allows the hosts to monitor the status of the cluster. When the state of the cluster changes (such as when hosts fail, leave, or join the cluster), Network Load Balancing invokes a process known as convergence, in which the hosts exchange heartbeat messages to determine a new, consistent state of the cluster and to elect the host with the highest host priority as the new default host. During convergence, the hosts continue to handle incoming network traffic as usual, except that traffic for a failed host does not receive service. Client requests to surviving hosts are unaffected. Convergence terminates when all cluster hosts report a consistent view of the cluster membership for several heartbeat periods. If a host attempts to join the cluster with inconsistent port rules or an overlapping host priority, completion of convergence is inhibited. This prevents an improperly configured host from handling cluster traffic. At the completion of convergence, client traffic for a failed host is redistributed to the remaining hosts. If a host is added to the cluster, convergence allows this host to receive its share of load-balanced traffic. Expansion of the cluster does not affect ongoing cluster operations and is achieved in a manner transparent to both Internet clients and to server programs. However, it may affect client existing sessions because clients may be remapped to different cluster hosts between connections. In unicast, multicast and IGMP-multicast modes, each cluster host generates heartbeat messages. Each heartbeat message occupies one Ethernet frame and is tagged with the cluster's primary IP address so that multiple clusters can reside on the same subnet. Network Load Balancing's heartbeat messages are assigned an ether type-value of hexadecimal 886F and by default are forwarded every second. During convergence, the exchange period is reduced by half in order to expedite the convergence process. Network Load Balancing assumes that a host is functioning properly within the cluster as long as it participates in the normal heartbeat exchange among the cluster hosts. If other hosts do not receive a heartbeat message from any member for several periods of message exchange, they initiate convergence. The number of missed heartbeat messages is set to five by default.
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