You are on page 1of 2

SharePoint 2010 NLB vs Hardware Load Balancer

In the last period, many times I was involved in discussions with customers regarding the adoption of the out-of-the-box Windows Server
NLB(Network Load Balancer) or dedicated hardware solution (Cisco, F5, Coyote, etc.)
Ive tried to summarize my mental pattern about this argument, in the table below (well, I censored Duff & Donuts from my thoughts):
NLB Its cheaper (already available as part
ofWindows Server stack).
Rapid deployment and adoption:
o SharePoint team doesnt need to rely on
the infrastructure team for the
o No real technical expertise needed;
NLB works at socket level (TCP/UDP) and doesnt
provide any specific feature or optimization
A dedicated NIC (network card) is strongly
Governance and Operations of NLB cluster could
be tricky:
o more people must be made aware of NLB
Configuration could be tricky in presence of
multicast traffic.
No caching capability is provided:
o for http/https is expected to rely on
MicrosoftISA or IAG;
No certificate management:
o Certificate must be individually managed in
o Some Governance is needed;
No compression capability:
o for http/https is expected to rely on IIS 7.x
Technology is antique, well not really an issue
but NLB was created to balance COM+ application
with NT4/OptionPack
Hardware Improved Performance, https traffic is managed Expensive, for sure it something to be acquired and
at hardware level;
Low latency during the switching in case of
High-Availability configuration.
SSL and HTTPS configuration is managed
internally, making it transparent to
IIS/SharePoint configuration.
Caching capabilities if needed (dont abuse of
High-Availability generally supports
dependency rules on how to route packets in
case of unavailability of specific
servers/application tiers.
Support of protocol specific rules (http, https,
Support of Security Rules;
Technical Agnosticism, the tools can be used to
balance Windows, Linux, Web Server, sockets,
email servers.
Governance in the sense that there is a
centralized point of management for all the
needs regarding balancing, high-availability,
security etc.
identifying the best solution wont be easy cause
the huge amount of options in the market.
Learning Curve
Rules of Thumb
Use NLB if hardware load balancer is not available and there are no plans on that (polite way to say no budget);
In the Intranet, if reverse proxy isnt available (sometimes the hardware load balancer is available only for Internet traffic);
As Tactical Solution (as example for running stress test on your new project in a stage environment if the hardware solution is not
available or cannot be used);
We can definitely state that a strategic solution must rely on hardware load balancer, a tactical solution could rely on a software NLB.