Cloud may complicate SOA load balancing act

SOA's greatest risk? Too much success, catching planners unprepared
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

One of the major selling points of SOA and cloud computing is that service consumers don't have to worry about the platform and hardware that the service is hosted on, be it somewhere else within the enterprise or maintained by an outside third party.

SOA's greatest risk? Too much success, catching planners unprepared

Providers of services (and users), however, need to assure the availability of the service, and how much stress the underlying infrastructure can take as the service is repeatedly accessed. Lori MacVittie just posted a detailed analysis of the load balancing challenge associated with SOA-based deployments.

Lori cites a post by Stephan Koser, who provides a vivid scenario of what can go wrong with unbalanced SOA.

To function effectively, Lori observes, any load-balancing algorithm put into to place to assure availability and scalability of the service-delivery network be able to take into consideration the current load being handled by the particular server handling the request:

"This requires that the load balancer, the application delivery controller, be aware of the application, its environment, as collaboration well as the network and the user. It must be able to make a decision, in real-time, about where to direct any given request based on all the variables available. That includes CPU resources, what the request is, and even who the user/application is."

However, when the cloud paradigm is introduced, this ability to see and monitor the systems providing services is, well, clouded over. If anything, Lori warns, cloud computing leads to poor visibility and renders load-balancing strategies useless. "The belief that the infrastructure should be 'hidden' from the user (that’s you) means that configuration options – like the load balancing algorithm – aren’t available to you as a user/deployer of cloud-based applications. Even though load balancing is going to be used to scale your application, you have no clue or control over how that’s going to occur."

Lori very aptly points out that despite all the emphasis on virtualization, "applications are not islands," and the ability to deliver and manage applications " requires collaboration between a growing number of components in the data center." Load balancing is a good start.

There's plenty of talk about SOA failure, but, ironically, the greatest risk may come from too much SOA success. Organizations deploy shareable services, only to have them pounded into the ground by a growing number of requesting applications. Here's a case where SOA costs may be driven up by the need to quickly put in or provision additional hardware. Cloud adds a new dimension to the challenge.

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