What Is a High Availability Dedicated Server?
A typical dedicated server is a powerful computer which is connected to a high-speed Internet connection, and housed in a state-of-the-art remote data center or optimized data facility.
A High Availability dedicated server is an advanced system equipped with redundant power supplies, a fully redundant network, RAID disk towers and backups, ensuring the highest uptime and the full reliability with no single point of failure.
Configuration For High Availability Dedicated Servers
As its name implies, high availability dedicated solutions are scalable and customized hosting solutions, designed to meet the unique needs of any business.
These configurations are carefully designed to provide fail-proof architecture to run the critical applications in your business – those that demand the highest availability.
Possible high availability server configurations might include multiple hosts managed by redundant load balancers and replication hosts. As well as redundant firewalls for added security and reliability.
Why High Availability Server Is Important for Business
Nowadays businesses rely on the Internet. Let’s face it – even the smallest downtime can cause huge losses to business. And not just financial losses. Loss of reputation can be equally devastating.
According to StrategicCompanies more than half of Fortune 500 companies experience a minimum of 1.6 hours of downtime each and every week. That amounts to huge losses of time, profit, and consumer confidence. If your customer can’t reach you online, you might as well be on the moon, as far as they are concerned.
Consider: In the year 2013, 30 minutes of an outage to Amazon.com reportedly cost the company nearly $2 million. That’s $66,240 per minute. Take a moment to drink that in. Even if you’re not Amazon, any unplanned downtime is harmful to your business.
Your regular hosting provider may provide 99% service availability. That might sound good, in theory. But think about that missing 1%… That’s 87 hours (3.62 days) of downtime per year! If the downtime hits during peak periods, the loss to your business can be disastrous.
The best way to prevent downtime and eliminate these losses is to opt for high availability hosting solutions.
Built on a complex architecture of hardware and software, all parts of this system work completely independently of each other. In other words – failure of any single component won’t collapse the entire system.
It can handle very large volume of requests or a sudden surge in traffic. It grows and shrinks with the size and needs of your organization. Your business is flexible, shouldn’t your computer systems be, as well?
Following are some of the best high availability solutions you can use to host your business applications.
1. Ultra High Performance Dedicated Servers
High performance servers are high-end dedicated solutions with larger computing capacity, especially designed to achieve the maximum performance. They are an ideal solution to cater enterprise workloads.
A typical high performance dedicated server will consist of the following:
- Single/Dual latest Intel Xeon E3 or E5 series processors.
- 64 GB to 256 GB RAM
- 8 to 24 TB SATA II HDD with RAID 10
- Energy efficient and redundant power supply & cooling units
- Offsite Backups
Note that the list above is just a sample configuration which can be customized/upgraded as per your unique requirements. If you need more power, we can build a setup with 96 drives, 3 TB RAM, and 40+ physical CPU cores.
Real World Applications (Case Study)
One of our existing customers was looking for a high-end game server to host flash games with encoded PHP and MySQL server as a backend.
To achieve the highest availability, they demanded 2 load balancers with failover. Each of them contains 2 web servers and a database server.
- 8000-10000 simultaneous players
- 100% uptime requirement
- 10 GB+ database size
Solution Proposed by AccuWebHosting
Our capacity planning team designed a fully redundant infrastructure with dual load balancers sitting in front of web and database servers.
This setup consists of 2 VMs with load balancers connected to a group of web servers through a firewall. The database server was built on ultra-fast SSD drives for the fastest disk I/O operations.
For a failover, we set up an exact replica of this architecture with real-time mirroring. Should the primary system fail, the secondary setup will seamlessly take over the workload. That’s right. Zero downtime.
2. Load Balanced Dedicated Servers
The process of distributing incoming web traffic across a group of servers efficiently and without intervention is called Load Balancing.
A hardware or software appliance which provides this load balancing functionality is known as a Load Balancer.
The dedicated servers equipped with a hardware/software load balancer are called Load Balanced Dedicated Servers.
How Load Balancing Works?
A load balancer sits in front of your servers and routes the visitor requests across the servers. It ensures even distribution, i.e., all requests must be fulfilled in a way that it maximizes speed and capacity utilization of all servers and none of them is over or under-utilized.
When your customers visit your website, they are first connected to load balancer and the load balancer routes them to one of the web servers in your infrastructure. If any server goes down, the load balancer instantly redirects the traffic to the remaining online servers.
As web traffic increases, you can add new servers quickly and easily to the existing pool of load-balanced servers. When a new server is added, the load balancer will start sending requests to new server automatically. That’s right – there’s no user-intervention required.
Types Of Load Balancing
Load balancing can be performed with one of the following methods.
- Load Balancing Through DNS
- Load Balancing Through Hardware
- Load Balancing Through Software
Load Balancing With DNS
The DNS service balances the web traffic across the multiple servers. Note that when you perform the traffic load balancing through this method you cannot choose which load balancing algorithm. It always uses the Round Robin algorithm to balance the load.
Load Balancing Through Hardware
This is the most expensive way of load balancing. It uses a dedicated hardware device that handles traffic load balancing.
Most of the hardware based load balancer systems run embedded Linux distribution with a load balancing management tool that allows ease of access and a configuration overview.
Load Balancing Through Software
Software-based load balancing is one of the most reliable methods for distributing the load across servers. In this method, the software balances the incoming requests through a variety of algorithms.
Load Balancing Algorithms
There are a number of algorithms that can be used to achieve load balance on the inbound requests. The choice of load balancing method depends on the service type, load balancing type, network status and your own business requirements.
Typically, for low load systems, simple load balancing methods (i.e., Round Robin) will suffice, whereas, for high load systems, more complex methods should be used. Check out this link for more information on some industry standard Load Balancing Algorithms used by the load balancers.
Setup Load Balancing On Linux
HAProxy (High Availability Proxy) is the best available tool to set up a load balancer on Linux machines (web server, database server, etc).
It is an open-source TCP and HTTP load balancer used by some of the largest websites including Github, StackOverflow, Reddit, Tumblr and Twitter.
It is also used as a fast and lightweight proxy server software with a small memory footprint and low CPU usage.
Following are some excellent tutorials to setup a load balancing on Apache, NGINX and MySQL server.
Setup Load Balancing On Windows
Check out below the official Microsoft document to setup load balancing with IIS web server.
Setup Load Balancing on IIS
3. Scalable Private Cloud
A scalable private cloud is a cloud-based system that gives you self-service, scalability, and elasticity through a proprietary architecture.
Private clouds are highly scalable that means whenever you need more resources, you can upgrade them, be it memory, storage space, CPU or bandwidth.
It gives the best level of security and control making it an ideal solution for a larger business. It enables you to customise computer, storage and networking components to best suit custom requirements.
Private Cloud Advantages
Enhanced Security & Privacy
All your data is stored and managed on dedicated servers with dedicated access. If your Cloud is on-site, the server will be monitored by your internal IT team and if it is at a datacenter, their technicians will monitor it. Thus, physical security is not your concern.
Fully Redundant Platform
A private cloud platform provides a level of redundancy to compensate from multiple failures of the hard drive, processing power etc. When you have a private cloud, you do not have to purchase any physical infrastructure to handle fluctuation in traffic.
Efficiency & Control
Private cloud gives you more control on your data and infrastructure. It has dedicated resources and no one else has access of the server except the owner of the server.
Each company has a set of technical and business requirements which usually differ from other companies based on company size, industry and business objectives etc.
A private cloud allows you to customize the server resources as per your unique requirements. It also allows you to upgrade the resources of the server when necessary.
Private Cloud Disadvantages
As compared to the public cloud and simple dedicated server setup, a private cloud is more expensive. Investments in hardware and resources are also required.
You can also rent a private cloud, however the costs will likely be the same or even higher, so this might not be an advantage.
Purchasing or renting a private cloud is only one part of the cost. Obviously, for a purchase, you’ll have a large outlay of cash at the onset. If you are renting you’ll have continuous monthly fees.
But even beyond these costs, you will need to consider maintenance and accessories. Your private cloud will need enough power, cooling facilities, a technician to manage the server and so on.
Even if you are not utilizing the server resources, you still need to pay the full cost of your private cloud. Whether owning or renting, the cost of capacity under-utilization can be daunting, so scale appropriately at the beginning of the process.
If you are not tech savvy, you may face difficulties maintaining a private cloud. You will need to hire a cloud expert to manage your infrastructure, yet another cost.
Linux & Windows Private Cloud Providers
Cloud providers give you an option to select your choice of OS: either Windows or any Linux distribution. Following are some of the private cloud solution providers.
- Amazon Web Services
- Microsoft Azure
Setting Up Your Own Private Cloud
There are many paid and open source tools available to setup your own private cloud.
- VMware vSphere
- OpenNode Cloud Platform
OpenStack is an open source platform that provides IAAS (Infrastructure As A Service) for both public and private cloud.
Click here to see the complete installation guide on how you can deploy your own private cloud infrastructure with OpenStack on a single node in CentOS or RHEL 7.
Failover means instantly switching to a standby server or a network upon the failure of the primary server/network.
When the primary host goes down or needs maintenance, the workload will be automatically switched to a secondary host. This should be seamless, with your users completely unaware that it happened.
Failover prevents a single point of failure (SPoF) and hence it is the most suitable option for mission critical applications where the system has to be online without even one second of downtime.
How Failover Works?
Surprisingly, automated failover system is quite easy to set up. A failover infrastructure consists of 2 identical servers, A primary server and a secondary. Both servers will serve the same data.
A third server will be used for monitoring. It continuously monitors the primary server and if it detects a problem, it will automatically update the DNS records for your website so that traffic will be diverted to the secondary server.
Once the primary server starts functioning again, traffic will be routed back to primary server. Most of the time your users won’t even notice a downtime or lag in server response.
A Cold Failover is a redundancy method that involves having one system as a backup for another identical primary system. The Cold Failover system is called upon only on failure of the primary system.
So, Cold Failover means that the second server is only started up after the first one has been shut down. Clearly this means you must be able to tolerate a small amount of downtime during the switch-over.
Hot Failover is a redundant method in which one system runs simultaneously with an identical primary system.
Upon failure of the primary system, the Hot Failover system immediately takes over, replacing the primary system. However, data is still mirrored in real time ensuring both systems have identical data.
Checkout the below tutorials to setup and deploy a failover cluster.
There are four major providers of failover clusters listed as below.
- Microsoft Failover Cluster
- RHEL Failover Cluster
- VMWare Failover Cluster
- Citrix Failover Cluster
- Failover Server clustering is completely a scalable solution. Resources can be added or removed from the cluster.
- If a dedicated server from the cluster requires maintenance, it can be stopped while other servers handle its load. Thus, it makes maintenance easier.
- Failover Server clustering usually requires more servers and hardware to manage and monitor, thus, increases the infrastructure.
- Failover Server clustering is not flexible, as not all the server types can be clustered.
- There are many applications which are not supported by the clustered design.
- It is not a cost-effective solution, as it needs a good server design which can be expensive.
5. High Availability Clusters
A high availability cluster is a group of servers that support server applications which can be utilized with a minimal amount of downtime when any server node fails or experiences overload.
You may require a high availability clusters for any of the reasons like load balancing, failover servers, and backup system. The most common types of Cluster configuration are active-active and active-passive.
Active-Active High Availability Cluster
It consists of at least two nodes, both actively running same the service. An active-active cluster is most suitable for achieving true load balancing. The workload is distributed across the nodes. Generally, significant improvement in response time and read/write speed is experienced.
Active-Passive High Availability Cluster
Active-passive also consists of at least two nodes. However, not all nodes remain active simultaneously. The secondary node remains in passive or standby mode. Generally, this cluster is more suitable for a failover cluster environment.
Setup A High Availability Cluster
Here are some excellent tutorials to setup a high availability cluster.
There are very well-known vendors out there, who are experts in high availability services. A few of them are listed below.
High Availability Cluster Advantages
Protection Against Downtime
With HA solutions, if any server of a cluster goes offline, all the services are migrated to an active host. The quicker you get your server back online, the quicker you can get back to business. This prevents your business from remaining non-productive.
High availability solutions offer greater flexibility if your business demands 24×7 availability and security.
Saves Downtime Cost
The quicker you get your server back up online, the quicker you can get back to business.This prevents your business from remaining non-productive.
With HA solutions, it is a matter of seconds to switch over to the failover server and continue production. You can customize your HA cluster as per your requirement. You can either set data to be up-to-date in minutes or within seconds. Moreover, the data replication scheme, versions can be specified as per your needs.
High Availability Cluster Disadvantages
Continuous Grow in infrastructure
It demands many servers and loads of hardware to deliver a failover and load balancing. This increases your infrastructure.
Application Not Supported!
HA clustering offers much flexibility at the hardware level but not all software applications support clustered environment.
HA clustering is not a cost-effective solution, the more sophistication you need, the more money you need to invest.
6. Complex Configuration Built By AccuWebHosting
An eCommerce website that can handle the peak load of 1000 HTTP requests per second, more than 15,000 visitors per day and 3 times the load in less than 10 seconds. During the peak hours and new product launches, visits count to the website will be multiplied by 2.
- 40K products and product related articles
- 40 GB of static contents (images and videos and website elements)
- 6 GB of database
Solution We Delivered
We suggested a high availability Cloud Infrastructure, to handle the load and ensure the maximum availability as well. To distribute the load, we mounted 2 load balancer servers in front of the setup with load balanced IP address on top of them.
We deployed a total of 8 web servers, 3 physical dedicated servers, and 5 Cloud instances to absorb the expected traffic. The setup was configured to get synchronized between the various components through the rsync cluster.
The Cloud instances were used in a way that they can be added or removed as per load of the peak traffic without incurring the costs associated with additional physical servers.
Each Cloud instance contained the entire website (40GB of static content) to give the user a smooth website experience.
The 6 GB database was hosted on a master dedicated server, which was replicated on a secondary slave server to take over when the master server fails. Both of these DB servers have SSD disks for better read/write performance.
A team of 15 developers and content writers update the content through backoffice servers hosted on a dedicated server. Any changes made by the team are propagated by rsync on the production environment and the database.
The entire infrastructure was monitored by Zabbix, which is installed on a high availability Cloud VPS. Zabbix will monitor the data provided by the infrastructure servers and then generate a series of graphs to depict the RAM usage, load average, disk consumption and network stats. Zabbix will also send an alert when any of the usage reaches its threshold or if any of the services goes down.
What we have seen so far is the various technologies like load balancing, failover and high availability setups to build small to complex business IT solutions.
We’ve also seen some real world applications and case studies. These case studies will really help you to finalize the most suitable high availability infrastructure.
If you are planning to buy a new infrastructure for your business or want to upgrade your existing infrastructure, this will be the perfect guide.
If you have any custom requirement, you can mention in the comment section or you can Live chat with our technical sales team. We are open round the clock to discuss your desired high availability solution!
Rahul is CEO at AccuWebHosting.com
. He shares his web hosting insights at AccuWebHosting blog. He mostly writes on the latest web hosting trends, WordPress, storage technologies, Windows and Linux hosting platforms.
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