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I'm completely new to the concept of load balancing so i hope this question isn't a "stupid question" because i've been searching around and im having a hard time understanding this. So to my understanding, in order to load balance, i need a separate machine with an ip address i can direct all traffic to. I initially thought i needed to rent 3 dedicated servers, one for load balancing and the other two as backend servers. Would a dedicated server be too much for a load balancer or do hosting companies have special types of computers for that process?

Then i read somewhere else that i can install a load balance software in both of the two servers and configure it in a way that doesn't require me to rent another machine/dedicated server for load balancing.

So im a bit confuse on how to actually implement a load balancer and whether or not i need a dedicated server for the sole purpose of acting as a load balancing machine. Also, i was recommended to use HAproxy so i'll be heading that direction for load balancing.

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What makes you think you have too much load for a single machine? Not that load balancers aren't nice or useful for other reasons; just seems like you may have decided on a solution without actually having had a problem that requires it. Happens to me all the time. – Slartibartfast Jun 26 '11 at 4:48
up vote 0 down vote accepted

As long as the actual loads can be serviced to your requirements, the systems servicing the loads do not need to be actual physical systems. Citrix and others have benchmarks which show that there are situations in which multiple virtual systems can outperform a single physical system with the same physical hardware.

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Load balancing is a broad term and can be done in very different ways based on things like

  • What do you want to balance? SMTP? HTTP? A database? DNS? Something else entirely?
  • Your network topology
  • Your applications architecture
  • Your budget
  • The platform used
  • etc.

As an example, if you serve mostly static files via HTTP, a simple Round Robin DNS load balancing scheme can be very effective and you just need a specific DNS configuration. This approach might totally fail in other situations, requiring you to configure a dedicated machine to handle that specific problem or buy an LB appliance (like F5 or Barracuda or ...).

In short: It depends, and you don't tell us enough to help more.

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