Can Applications Be Load Balanced on Azure?

Microsoft Azure — which was previously known as Windows Azure — is a cloud computing platform with a wide variety of different cloud-based solutions, ranging from analytics, to computing, networks, cloud storage, and beyond. 

In fact, Microsoft describes Azure as a “huge collection of servers and networking hardware, which runs a complex set of distributed applications. These applications orchestrate the configuration and operation of virtualized hardware and software on those servers. The orchestration of these servers is what makes Azure so powerful.”

Since many of the cloud-based solutions and applications on this versatile platform involve the use of a server, which opens the opportunity for performance enhancement via a technology known as load balancing. Of course, this begs the question: How can applications be load balanced on Azure? And what’s involved with installing a load balancer for these applications? 

How Load Balancing Works on Azure

There are actually a few different options for Azure load balancing; four to be exact. This is good news for IT professionals who are seeking to augment their Azure applications in a manner that will improve speed, performance, and scalability, amongst other benefits. These in-built load balancing tools can be deployed using the Azure Portal.

Azure Load Balancer is an in-built zone-redundant Microsoft load balancing tool that can be deployed for use with TCP and UDP protocols. It is described by Microsoft as “a high-performance, ultra-low-latency Layer load balancing service,” that can be used with a variety of applications and interfaces within the Azure ecosystem.

IT admins may also opt to implement and deploy the in-built DNS-based load balancer called Traffic Manager. This Azure load balancer is designed to use DNS as the basis of its evaluation for incoming server traffic, delivering a high degree of responsiveness and high availability. This load balancer operates at the domain level. 

The fourth option for load balancing on Azure is Front Door. Front Door works by using a combination of acceleration services and global load balancing to improve the performance of web-based applications. This load balancer system is designed to “improve performance and high-availability of your applications.” 

Azure Load Balancing Options for Configuration – Regional vs Global Servers

In addition to the different load balancer options for Azure, IT professionals have the option to choose between a number of different configuration choices. 

One of the Azure load balancing options involves the location of the server pool, also known as a server cluster. You can choose between a regional server configuration or a global server configuration.  

Regional load balancing involves the use of virtual networks which are spread across virtual machines or zone-redundant or “zonal” service endpoints in a particular geographical region. It’s a virtual network that performs load balancing with those virtual machines in a manner that offers optimal performance, especially in terms of speed. 

In the case of a global load balancing configuration, incoming server traffic is directed to the closest available server to maximize speed. But instead of having just a regional data center, the global load balancer configuration offers the option of sending those incoming client requests to servers that are situated in far away locations across the globe. 

While it does take a slight bit longer for data to travel long distances — a factor that impacts user experience, speed, and performance to some degree — the use of a global server infrastructure offers a few key benefits as well. Global load balancing is ideal for situations where regional servers are experiencing downtime due to some local event like a natural disaster, widespread power outage, social upheaval or any other event that causes nearby regional servers to go down. 

Global load balancing offers a degree of reliability that you simply cannot match with a regional configuration. Therefore, if your deployment requires the absolute minimum by way of downtime and excellent reliability, Azure global load balancers may be the best option. 

Azure Load Balancing Options for Configuration – HTTP(S) vs Non-HTTP(S)

When load balancing on Azure, your tech team can choose between two options for the type of traffic that the configuration will handle: HTTP(S) or Non-HTTP(S). 

If you opt for HTTP(S) load balancers, the system will operate at Open Systems Interconnection OSI layer 7. An Azure load balancer that only accepts HTTP(S) traffic is ideal for web applications and websites. And while most will leverage HTTP(S) load balancing for web-based applications, it is also possible to use this configuration for other interfaces that utilize HTTP(s) endpoints such as web app firewalls, path-based routing, and SSL offload. 

The other option is to use a non-HTTP(s) load balancer for Azure applications that involve incoming server traffic that extends beyond what the HTTP(S) load balancer can handle — namely, non-web-based technology. 

Notably, for those who opt to use the Azure HTTP(S) load balancer, there is an option to use it in conjunction with Front Door — the aforementioned in-built Microsoft application delivery network and load balancer solution.

The in-built Azure load balancers offer a relatively easy, straightforward solution for increasing availability, speed, and performance for your Azure applications. But it is also possible to achieve even better or different results using a third-party load balancer. There is no one-size-fits-all option for load balancing and the best option really depends upon the technology at play and your requirements in terms of performance, among other traits. 

Finding the best Azure load balancer can be challenging, especially if you are not well-acquainted with the available choices. For this reason, it is best to work with a service provider who is willing to offer consultation, helping you to find the best solution for your needs. That is precisely what you will get when you come to Resonate. 

At Resonate, our specialty is providing reliable, cost-effective, scalable, and high-performance load balancers. Simply reach out to the Resonate team to get started finding the best load balancer for Azure application and other platforms. We look forward to discussing your load balancing needs.