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Data Centers: Optimizing and Load Balancing Network Workflows

By Dick Weisinger

“In the near future, the number of data centers are expected to grow significantly in size and with size comes load balancing challenges,” said Ashish Modi, President of Honeywell Building Technologies Asia.

As the popularity of a web site increases, so do the number of servers required to support it. Load balancing is the distribution of incoming internet requests across many servers running in the data center. Load balancing divides the processing across servers to evenly distribute tasks and make the site more responsive.

Work over the last five to six years at the University of Copenhagen has resulted in the introduction of new algorithms for substantially improving the efficiency of load balancing algorithms. Optimized load balancing can lead to better utilization of servers and can reduce the number of servers needed to support an application. This saves energy, and to some extent, helps reduce emissions which are driving climate change.

Mikkel Thorup, professor at the University of Copenhagen, said that “we have found an algorithm that removes one of the major causes of overloaded servers once and for all. Our initial algorithm was a huge improvement over the way industry had been doing things, but this version is many times better and reduces resource usage to the greatest extent possible. Furthermore, it is free to use for all. As internet traffic soars explosively, the problem will continue to grow. Therefore, we need a scalable solution that doesn’t depend on the number of servers involved. Our algorithm provides exactly such a solution.”

The algorithm was first implemented on a large commercial application at Vimeo. Andrew Rodland, principal engineer at Vimeo, said that “it worked! Mathematical proofs and simulations are nice, but it’s hard to truly believe until you see real traffic hit real servers.”

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