Those working in IT infrastructure will no doubt understand the difficult balancing act of maintaining and improving the performance of your business applications, particularly as they grow in popularity and thus in user numbers.
Load balancing helps to distribute data resources for applications and software via a number of servers, often in different locations, with the idea of minimizing the load of multiple user requests on one particular server.
Many of the world’s biggest websites and social platforms utilize HAProxy, an open-source load balancing and proxy solution, to serve millions of users every single day. The likes of Twitter, Instagram and Stack Exchange are popular exponents of HAProxy as it is capable of handling unprecedented traffic volumes via HTTPS and HTTP. Let’s delve a little deeper into the specific benefits of HAProxy and why it is a more effective load balancer than its counterparts such as Nginx.
Unlike Nginx, which only provides seven different stat metrics to represent all sites on any one server, HAProxy offers a comprehensive choice of 61 metrics to view. With Nginx, there are no individual metrics available per-site either.
One of the most important features of an HAProxy load balancer is its ability to allow for zero downtime maintenance. Rebooting servers can be a big risk to businesses, particularly to those with older servers. With an HAProxy load balancer, it is possible to maintain servers one by one, ensuring the remaining servers handle the flow of traffic to applications or software. As a result, all back-end maintenance is guaranteed to never affect the front-end user experience.
Using HAProxy can improve user security too by redirecting HTTP traffic to HTTPS. It can also decrypt traffic from SSL on the load balance level, rather than transferring it to the application server. This form of SSL Termination saves unnecessary CPU cycles that would otherwise be needed to decrypt SSL traffic.
While its counterpart Nginx has very limited integration capabilities with third-party monitoring services, HAProxy can integrate seamlessly into third-party programs. Datadog is one of the leading monitoring and analytics tools to provide complete top-down observability of any stack or application in any location. Nevertheless, HAProxy also has its own server monitoring dashboard which can quickly pinpoint any issues regarding back-end or front-end servers or nodes.
This reliable open-source load balancing solution also features a host of network layer algorithms which can ascertain how traffic is distributed between load balancing servers. There are three different algorithms which can be used – round robin, which assigns user requests in sequence; least connection, which assigns users to the server with the lowest number of existing connection requests; and source, which assigns users to a server that they have already used in previous visits to the application.
Ultimately, HAProxy is entirely flexible to the needs of your software, all at zero cost. Though it does require some in-house expertise to set it up and keep it going, we’re pretty confident that if you’re already reading this article you’ll have a pretty good idea of operating multiple servers within your network.