Network Load Balancing Services

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Network Load Balancing Services (NLBS) is a Microsoft implementation of clustering and load balancing that is intended to provide high availability and high reliability, as well as high scalability. NLBS is intended for applications with relatively small data sets that rarely change (one example would be web pages), and do not have long-running-in-memory states. These types of applications are called stateless applications, and typically include Web, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), and virtual private networking (VPN) servers. Every client request to a stateless application is a separate transaction, so it is possible to distribute the requests among multiple servers to balance the load. One attractive feature of NLBS is that all servers in a cluster monitor each other with a heartbeat signal, so there is no single point of failure.

In its current incarnation in Windows Server 2003, NLBS does not support automatic removal of a failed server from a cluster unless the server is completely offline, or if its NLBS service is stopped. For example, if a web server is returning an error page instead of correct content, it is still perceived as "alive" by NLBS. As such, a monitoring script is typically required on every participating node, which checks the correctness of local web page delivery, and calls the nlb.exe utility to add or remove itself from the cluster as needed.

Configuration Tips:

  • The network load balancing service requires for all the machines to have the correct local time. Ensure the Windows Time Service is properly configured on all hosts to keep clocks synchronized. Unsynchronized times will cause a network login screen to pop up which doesn't accept valid login credentials.
  • The server console can't have any network card dialogue boxes open when you are configuring the "Network Load Balancing Manager" from your client machine.
  • You have to manually add each load balancing server individually to the load balancing cluster after you've created a cluster host.
  • To allow communication between servers in the same NLB cluster, each server requires the following registry entry: a DWORD key named "UnicastInterHostCommSupport" and set to 1, for each network interface card's GUID (HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\WLBS\Parameters\Interface\{GUID})
  • NLBS may conflict with some Cisco routers, which are not able to resolve the IP address of the server and must be configured with a static ARP entry.

History[edit]

Windows NT Load Balancing Service (WLBS) is a feature of Windows NT that provides load balancing and clustering for applications. WLBS dynamically distributes IP traffic across multiple cluster nodes, and provides automatic failover in the event of node failure. WLBS was replaced by Network Load Balancing Services in Windows 2000.

Auto fail over is also a part in this frame.