Internet Load Balancing - What to look for in Internet load balancers

Internet load balancing is defined as the method of splitting Internet traffic over 2 or more Internet connections to provide primarily two desired outcomes:

  1. Better Internet and therefore end-user performance, and
  2. Increased reliability of the Internet connectivity.

In most cases a pleasant side-effect of Internet load balancing is the reduced operating expense of the Internet service. In majority of scenarios, the resulting Internet connectivity achieved by Internet load balancing is much more cost effective than a single ISP link with similar bandwidth capabilities – in most cases such an ISP link is not available from a single provider and therefore Internet load balancing is the only viable option to achieve the desired speed and reliability.

Older Internet load balancing techniques were limited to load balancing at a TCP/UDP session granularity, i.e. each individual session would be assigned to a single WAN link. This coarse level aggregation works to a certain extend, however, because of its many shortcomings, has been replaced by modern Internet load balancing algorithms. The modern Internet load balancing algorithms are able to achieve aggregation granularity at a packet level (much finer than session granularity), i.e. even being able to split up a single session over 2 or more ISP links. This effects the end user experience tremendously since a single Internet session (say a file transfer) now can leverage all of the ISP links simultaneously and therefore at the speed of the sum of the individual links. It is therefore important to check if your Internet load balancing device has the so-called “broadband bonding” technology built in which enables the packet level aggregation.

The modern Internet load balancing routers provide a complete set of firewall features, Quality of Service (QoS), traffic monitoring and traffic shaping features. If you are not planning to install separate devices for all those features, it is important to check whether or not an advanced capable firewall with Quality of Service, traffic shaping and traffic monitoring features are built-in into the Internet load balancer.

Last but not least, make sure that the Internet load balancer has a high efficiency and low latency implementation. At the end of the day, it all boils down to enhancing the end user experience and improving the network reliability. If the aggregation algorithms are not optimized for the demanding needs of today’s applications, you may not get the best possible performance out of your WAN resources. As an example, it is important to benchmark and test the performance of the Internet load balancer to make sure the you can get close to 24 Mbps download speed out of your four 6 Mbps ADSL lines.

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Cahit Akin, CEO, Mushroom Networks, Inc.

Mushroom Networks is the provider of SD-WAN (Software Defined WAN) and NFV solutions capable of Broadband Bonding that enables self-healing WAN networks that route around network problems such as latency, jitter and packet loss.

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