Stateless applications may be the long term answer to scalability of applications in the cloud, but until then, we need a solution like sticky sessions (persistence)

Amazon recently introduced “stickiness” to its ELB (Elastic Load Balancing) offering. I’ve written a bit about “stickiness”, a.k.a. what we’ve called persistence for oh, nearly ten years now, before so I won’t reiterate again but to say, “it’s about time.” A description of why sticky sessions is necessary was offered in the AWS blog announcing the new feature:

blockquote Up until now each Load balancer had the freedom to forward each incoming HTTP or TCP request to any of the EC2 instances under its purview. This resulted in a reasonably even load on each instance, but it also meant that each instance would have to retrieve, manipulate, and store session data for each request without any possible benefit from locality of reference.

-- New Elastic Load Balancing Feature: Sticky Sessions

What the author is really trying to say is that without “sticky sessions” ELB breaks applications because it does not honor state. Remember that most web applications today rely upon state (session) to store quite a bit of application and user specific data that’s necessary for the application to behave properly. When a load balancer distributes requests across instances without consideration for where that state (session) is stored, the application behavior can become erratic and unpredictable. Hence the need for “stickiness”.