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Different businesses rely on different kinds of server architecture depending on organisational environment.
Performance, availability, reliability, ease of management, cost and all-important scalability are just some of the variables bosses need to consider before committing to that key server setup that will invigorate business.
Below, we consider four of these setups and the pros and cons each holds.
In this instance, a single server hosts the entire environment. For a standard web-application, this would bring in the application server, the web server and the database server.
A LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP), stack is a typical twist on this style of server. This is great in terms of getting an application set up speedily and in a straightforward manner.
On the other hand, this simple option is limited in terms of scalability and component isolation. With the database battling the application for server resources, twinned with the potential for poor performance, actually tracking and locating the reasons for reduced performance can be tricky.
Furthermore, although possible, the setup does not come ready for horizontal scalability.
It is possible to separate the DBMS (database management system) from the remainder of the environment in order to take the application-database resource conflict out of the equation. A further security layer can be created when the database is taken from the public internet.
This set up is good for establishing an application quickly, and in a way that keeps both the application and database tiers happy as they will not be contending for CPU, memory I/O and other server resources. IT admins should note that each tier may need to receive further resources – depending on which server needs more capacity – in order to vertically scale each tier separately.
Depending on the organisation-specific setup, taking the data base from the DMZ can also enhance security. Administrators should also be aware that this server setup is more complicated than that of a single server.
If the network connection linking the two servers is high-latency (the servers being of significant geographical distance from one another), or if the bandwidth is inadequate for the amount of data being transferred, then performance issues may crop up.
Performance levels and reliability can improve when load balancers are integrated into the server environment, as the workload then becomes distributed across a number of servers.
If one of the load-balanced servers malfunctions, the other servers can deal with excess traffic in-flows until normal operating performance is restored to the problematic server.
Using a layer 7 (application reverse proxy), this setup can also be employed to serve several applications through the same domain and port.
This method would be a good choice for organisations searching for scalability through adding more servers (horizontal scaling). A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack is an attempt to render an online service unavailable by flooding it with traffic from a range of sources; these attacks can be defended by the load balancer setup as it limits client connections to a sensible amount and frequency.
On the flipside, bottlenecks can occur if the load balancer if poorly configured, or if it does not receive adequate resources. Two further hurdles that can arise concern where to SSL termination can be performed, and how best to handle applications that need sticky sessions
Crucially of note, if the load balancer goes down and it is also a single point of failure, then the entire service can fall. However, high availability (HA) setups – infrastructures without a single failure point – can mitigate this risk.
A HTTP accelerator or caching HTTP reverse proxy can be employed to bring downtime taken to serve content to a user through a number of methods.
Concerning HTTP accelerators, the chief method sees web or application server responses cached in memory, enabling all further requests for the same material to be served more rapidly and in a way that avoids unnecessary communication with application servers or the web.
This setup would be of particular use for IT environments that deal with content-heavy dynamic web applications, or many commonly requested and accessed files.
Site performance can also benefit from this infrastructure, as the CPU load on web server is brought down through caching and compression. Furthermore, this setup can be used as a reverse proxy load balancer, while some caching software can defend against DDoS attacks.
However, some tuning is needed to optimise HTTP Accelerator, and if the cache-hit rate is poor then performance can deteriorate.
With the right database server solution, organisations can efficiently manage high levels of data in a way that allows many users to simultaneously access and update information.
The concepts covered above can be employed in a range of combinations which are all environment-specific. While no single correct configuration exists, businesses that work to create the right infrastructure stand to significantly increase flexibility, performance power in a secure way.