Can Windows and Linux Be Load Balanced?

Can Windows and Linux Be Load Balanced?

Windows and Linux account for a very large percentage of today’s operating systems and for good reason: Linux and Windows are among the most well-supported platforms when it comes to the support and compatibility of third-party technologies. 

Both Windows and Linux operating systems can support load balancing technology, which is used to improve server speed, reliability, performance, and user experience, amongst other things. In fact, it is even possible to use both platforms in conjunction with each other to achieve an efficient load balancing configuration. 

A Look at Linux Load Balancing 

The Linux operating system is a free, open source platform released in 1991 by Linus Torvalds. A Unix-like OS, this operating system uses the Linux kernel and it currently drives some of the world’s most popular technologies, including Android, Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Oracle. 

Linux load balancing can be achieved with technologies such as the in-built Linux Virtual Server (LVS),  Nginx, Keepalived and HAProxy. For example, it is possible to achieve a HAProxy or Nginx configuration for a high performance OSI layer 7 (the application layer) HTTP-based application load balancer on Linux platforms. 

Alternatively, an admin may opt to configure a Linux Virtual Server to work as a load balancer that operates at OSI layer 4 (the transport layer) with the Linux network kernel layer. This would allow you to create a network load balancer that operates in a manner that is similar to the Windows Network Load Balancer or NLB.

In Linux, load balancing works by designating a hub server that serves as the load balancer. This central server intercepts incoming client requests and evaluates them using a pre-selected load balancing algorithm. The load balancing algorithm determines how the incoming client requests are distributed.

The load balancer then selects a server from a pool of servers, also called a server cluster. It performs a health check on the server to confirm it is in good, working order with high availability. If the server passes the health check, the client request is dispatched. If the server health check results in a “fail,” the “unhealthy” server is taken out of the pool for maintenance and the incoming client request is dispatched to a different server in the cluster. This minimizes server errors while simultaneously maximizing performance, improving reliability, and boosting user experience.

Like Windows, you can use a number of different types of load balancers with Linux, including network load balancers (NLBs) and application load balancers (ALBs). 

A Look at Windows Load Balancing 

Released by Microsoft in 1985, the Windows operating system accounts for a large portion of the global OS market share — approximately 43% of the worldwide operating system market share as of mid-2022, to be precise. 

Windows offers in-built load balancing solutions and it can be used with third-party load balancer technologies too. It supports LB technologies such as Azure, HAProxy, and KeepAlived, amongst others. Windows’ Network Load Balancer or NLB operates using a TCP/IP networking protocol. 

There is also the Windows software load balancer or SLB, which delivers high availability and improved performance for Windows apps. This OSI layer 4 load balancer is also in-built, meaning that it can be activated and configured using the Windows’ operating system management portals. For example, IT admins can configure load balancing using the Windows network management panel for the configuration and deployment of a Network Load Balancer. 

In fact, implementing any of the in-built Windows load balancing technologies is fairly straightforward and can be achieved using user-friendly tools such as the “Load Balancing Wizard.”

Windows load balancing works in the same basic manner as it works on Linux. You have a central hub server — which can be a hardware server or a cloud-based virtual machine — that distributes incoming server client requests across a server pool. 

Can You Use Linux and Windows Servers Together for Load Balancing? 

Generally speaking, Windows and Linux do not play well together. They are two separate operating systems that operate in different ways and as such, you can expect to encounter lots of challenges when trying to achieve a configuration that blends Linux and Windows. 

That said, it is possible to use Windows and Linux servers as part of a load balancing configuration. For example, let’s say you have an AWS load balancer in place; one that uses ports and protocols as part of its load balancing process. This type of load balancer doesn’t really “care” what operating system platform the servers are utilizing. As such, it is possible to use Linux and Windows servers as part of your load balancer configuration. 

Finding the right load balancing configuration can be challenging because there are a wide range of options available. There are different types of load balancers for different server-reliant technologies. What’s more, each type of load balancer — network load balancers, application load balancers, etc. — is best suited to a specific type of traffic. You also have various load balancing algorithms to consider, whether you are using a Linux operating system or a Windows operating system. There is also a choice in the type of server that you use for a load balancing configuration, from servers in a brick-and-mortar data center situated in different locations worldwide, to virtual servers in the cloud, hybrid configurations, and beyond. 

With so many options and variables to choose from, you may be left wondering about the ideal configuration for your Windows or Linux load balancer. That is where the Resonate team can help because we specialize in reliable, cost-effective, scalable, and high-performance load balancers for clients using both Linux and Windows OS. The team here at Resonate is always happy to provide consultation as we advise clients and help them determine which of our load balancing solutions will work best for their technology. We invite you to contact Resonate today and we’ll get you started down a path toward finding the best load balancer for Windows OS, Linux OS, or any other OS platform that you happen to be using.