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					                               Apache Load Balancing




     Today’s web performance and availability requirements make load balancing indispensable.

        In this article, we show you how to set up an effective load balancing system using

           features built into the Apache web server. BY ERIK ABELE




                                          multitude of technologies support load balancing for web servers.
                                          Load balancers come in all shapes and sizes, from simple DNS-
                                          based techniques through vast and versatile proprietary systems. In
                           some cases, however, the load balancing features you need might be available already
                        through the Apache web server. In this article, I describe some strategies for load balancing
                     with Apache.



            The schematic in Figure 1 shows the underlying structure of a software-based balancing system. In this scenario,
         several front-end load balancers accept incoming user requests and distribute them to a pool of back-end servers
      on the basis of a predefined scheme. Multiple individual systems can run in parallel to provide a fail-safe (shown in the
     background in Figure 1). Apache includes a number of modules for supporting load balancing (Table 1), and you’ll need to
     make sure any modules you intend to use are loaded:




34      ISSUE 94                           SEPTEMBER 2008
                                                                  Apache Load Balancing




 LoadModule xyz_module                      a reverse proxy, or
 modules/mod_xyz.so                         gateway, to be more
                                            precise. Disabling Via
As you can see in Table 1, Apache’s         headers (ProxyVia)
basic load balancing capabilities include   makes the gateway
features such as caching, compression,      invisible.
URL rewriting, and header processing.          The ProxyPreserve-
Some of the modules in Table 1 are          Host and ProxyError-
loaded by default.                          Override commands
   Consult your own Apache configura-       ensure that the host
tion for more on which modules might        headers included in
already be present on your system.          the request are
   If JServ-capable application servers,    passed on to the back
such as Apache Tomcat or Jetty, are         ends and that any
used, the gateway can also use the          error messages gener-
Apache JServ Protocol (ajp). All you        ated by the back ends
need to do is load the mod_proxy_ajp        are replaced by the
module instead of mod_proxy_http and        load balancer and thus standardized.         ancer parameters cannot be modified by
change the URLs from http:// to ajp://.     The output of a suitable timeout, with       rules:
   The use of this binary-format protocol   ProxyTimeout, rounds off the basic
offers a couple of advantages with re-      configuration.                                ProxySet balancer://pool1
gard to back-end connection perfor-            The core definition, that of a back-end      lbmethod=bytraffic
mance and lower resource overheads,         pool and its members, is handled by a         ...
but this functionality is bought at the     Proxy container and the specification         RewriteEngine On
price of more permanent connections         of a special balancer:// schema followed      RewriteRule ^/+(.*)$
to the back ends.                           by the pool name. The BalancerMember            balancer://pool1/$1 [P,L]
   Incidentally, you can run ajp and http   instructions and parameters in the con-
back ends at the same time as members       tainer specify the individual members        Listing 1 thus defines two back-end serv-
of the same pool. For the sake of com-      along with their properties.                 ers for pool1. Requests are distributed on
pleteness, keep in mind also that Apache       At the end of the configuration, the      the basis of the number of requests (see
supports ftp proxy with the mod_proxy_      back-end pool defined previously is          the lbmethod parameter). The load
ftp module.                                 assigned a separate URL space; more          factor setting assigns twice as many
   For additional details, check out the    parameters define the load balancer’s        requests to server1 compared with
Apache http server documentation [2].       generic approach. To enable regular ex-      server2. Connections are reused but also
                                            pressions, you could use the advanced        restricted to a maximum value. The URL
                                            ProxyPassMatch command instead of            space is defined as the complete URL
The sample configuration shown in List-     ProxyPass.                                   space below /shop.
ing 1 includes the basic front-end server      As an alternative, the rewrite module        Table 2 provides a summary of the
settings for load balancing in Apache.      (mod_rewrite) and custom rules would         most common ProxyPass and Balancer-
  This configuration starts with Proxy-     unleash the full power of regular expres-    Member commands. For more informa-
Requests to disable the normal proxy        sions. However, in this case, you will       tion, see the Apache http server docu-
mode and setting up what is known as        need to use ProxySet because load bal-       mentation [2].

                    Listing 1: Sample Configuration
 01 ProxyRequests Off                       12                                           The Apache http server’s proxy module
                                                                                         (mod_proxy) provides an unbelievable
 02 ProxyVia Off                            13     BalancerMember http://
                                                                                         range of special settings. Tools are avail-
 03                                              server2:8080 \
                                                                                         able for many different scenarios. For
 04 ProxyPreserveHost On                    14        min=5 max=25 loadfactor=1

 05 ProxyErrorOverride On                   15 </Proxy>                                      Listing 2: mod_cache
 06                                         16                                               Sample Configuration
 07 ProxyTimeout 30                         17 ProxyPass /shop balancer://                01 CacheEnable disk /
                                               pool1 \                                    02 CacheDisable /users
 08
                                            18       lbmethod=byrequests \
 09 <Proxy balancer://pool>                                                               03 CacheRoot /var/cache/httpd
                                            19       nofailover=Off maxattempts=3
 10     BalancerMember http://                                                            04 ...
                                                 \
      server1:8080 \                                                                      05 AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE
                                            20       stickysession=PHPSESSIONID
 11      min=10 max=50 loadfactor=2                                                          text/html




                                                                    SEPTEMBER 2008                              ISSUE 94        35
                                 Apache Load Balancing




                                                                  ward requests to a         RequestHeader
                                                                  substitute system.         set Front-End-Https "On"

                                                                                           A number of standard variables and
                                                                                           headers, such as proxy-nokeepalive,
                                                                  Another typical          proxy-sendcl, X-Forwarded-For, or X-
                                                                  configuration is         Forwarded-Server, saves typing and
                                                                  used to support          makes life easier for administrators.
                                                                  sticky sessions:            Other modules support caching or fil-
                                                                                           tering of content generated by the back
                                                                  BalancerMember           ends. In addition to improving perfor-
                                                                  http://server6:          mance, caching also reduces the overall
                                                                  1080...                  traffic volume and generally offloads
                                                                  stickysession=           some of the work from the back-end
                                                                  JSESSIONID               servers. Listing 2 enables a simple, file-
                                                                                           based cache, including compression, for
                                                                   The stickysession       the whole URL space /. (Just to demon-
                                                                   parameter, com-         strate how the exclusion feature works,
                                                                   bined with the          the whole URL space below /users has
                                                                   name of a cookie        been excluded.)
                                                                   supported by the
                                                                   back ends, means
                                                                   that requests origi-    If you loaded the status module (mod_
                                                                   nating with individ-    status) when you launched the server,
                                                                   ual users are always    the proxy module also provides a simple
                                                                   sent to the same        but practical web interface (Figure 2).
                                                                   back-end server.        The simple configuration involves as-
                                                                     This kind of          signing a handler:
                                                                   limited distribution
                                                                   ensures the persis-       <Location "/.balancer-manager">
                                                                   tence of the re-            SetHandler balancer-manager
                                                                   quests, but it does       </Location>
                                                                   interfere with the        ...
example, you can use the status parame-      actual task of load balancing.                  ProxyPass /.balancer-manager !
ter to operate a hot standby server:            To forward information to the back-
                                             end servers in a targeted way, or to influ-   However, it is important to take access
 BalancerMember                              ence communications with the the back         control into consideration and to exclude
 http://server4:1080... status=+H            end, the proxy module also supports
                                             custom environmental variables and                                       INFO
This command specifies that server4 is       http headers, which you can use to re-
                                                                                            [1] Hypertext transfer protocol 1.1:
only enabled if all the remaining pool       strict the connections to the back end
                                                                                                http://www.w3.org/Protocols/
members fail.                                or to advertise the use of SSL:                    rfc2616/rfc2616.html
  This server is the last line of defense
                                                                                            [2] Apache documentation, httpd 2.2:
and can be used to serve up a restricted      SetEnv proxy-nokeepalive 1
                                                                                                http://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.2/en/
version of a web application or to for-       ...
                                                                                            [3] Apache Software Foundation:
                                                                                                http://www.apache.org/
                        Table 1: Required Modules
 Module                     Function
                                                                                                         Erik Abele has worked for many
 mod_proxy                  Generic proxy module                                                         years as a freelance IT consultant.
 mod_proxy_balancer         Balancer functions for the proxy module                                      His international projects cover a full
                                                                                            THE AUTHOR




                                                                                                         range of architectures and large
 mod_proxy_http             Http support for the proxy module                                            web farm operations. Erik is a long-
 mod_cache                  Generic caching module                                                       standing member of the Apache
                                                                                                         Software Foundation, where he
 mod_disk_cache             File-based cache for the caching module
                                                                                                         takes an active part in the http
 mod_deflate                Content compression module                                                   Server and HttpComponents proj-
 mod_rewrite                Module for parsing and processing URLs                                       ects. You can contact Erik via his
                                                                                                         websites: http://www.eatc.de/ or
 mod_headers                Module for parsing and processing http headers                               http://www.codefaktor.de/.




36        ISSUE 94                           SEPTEMBER 2008
                                                                        with the Apress
                                                                      SUMMER ’08 HOTLIST



processing individual URLs within the load balancer, which is
achieved by means of a negative ProxyPass command. If you
use the Apache rewrite module (mod_rewrite), you can define
a separate rule to handle this case.



Management is restricted to viewing the status of all config-
ured balancers, disabling individual pool members, or modi-
fying some basic settings, but it is extremely useful if you en-
counter a problem, or if you wish to monitor multiple load
balancers.



Version 2.2 of the Apache http server offers a trouble-free,
efficient, elegant, and scalable approach to load balancing in
an http environment. Availability, a short learning curve, and
nearly infinite flexibility all speak in favor of Apache. All told,
the Apache load balancing system is a very sensible alterna-
tive to popular commercial or open source alternatives.
                                                                                  Check
   Table 2: Common Balancer Parameters                                www.apress.com/promo/hotlist
 Name
 status
                       Explanation
                       Balancer member status
                                                                        regularly for special sales
 loadfactor            Normalized balancer member weighting
                                                                            and promotions!
 lbset                 The cluster set assigned to the balancer
                       member
 lbmethod              The request distribution method used by
                       the balancer on the basis of either the           For more information about Apress titles,
                       number of requests (byrequests) or the                 please visit www.apress.com
                       traffic volume (bytraffic)
 min                   Minimum number of permanent                       Don’t want to wait for the printed book?
                       back-end connections
                                                                                Order the eBook now at
 max                   Maximum number of permanent                          http://eBookshop.apress.com!
                       back-end connections
 maxattempts           Maximum number of retries before
                       denying a request
 stickysession         Name of a persistent cookie used by the
                       back-end server

				
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