If you're in the US, and even if you aren't, it's nearly impossible to ignore the fact that we're in the midst of a presidential election that will be resolved today. And we're quite passionate about the process. That's because the concepts of democracy are ingrained in us from the time we are small children and permeate almost every aspect of our lives, even though we may not realize it.

Even our technology is colored by our belief in the democratic process. Remember token ring networks? If the "leader" (the active monitor) of the token ring failed for some reason, a new "leader" was "elected" from those who were still connected. The process was far from democratic and was, in fact, more feudal in nature but it still used the same political jargon to describe the process.

vote_1 Similarly, in data centers across the world application delivery controllers (a.k.a. load balancers) balance the responsibility for responding to user requests across farms or pools of servers. In a strange way, the application delivery controller elects one server to be in charge for that request based on a wide variety of parameters: performance history, current performance, and current load (utilization) among the possibilities.

Application delivery controllers use their application awareness to make that decision by querying each server directly and by listening to servers when they share information about their status. Based on all the variables and policies set by the administrator, the application delivery controller elects for each request the server it believes will best serve that user at the time the request is made. It is context-aware, and makes its decisions based on the environment as it exists when the request is made.

As a country we don't elect a new president for each situation we encounter, or each bill that's introduced into Congress, but we do elect a new person to respond to our requests every four years based on a wide variety of variables and policies that we, as individuals, set the parameters for. We are also context-aware, taking into consideration the state of our Union right now as we make the momentous decision of who should be our President for the next four years.

It is our Constitution that determines how often we elect new leaders, and it is the configuration of an application delivery controller that determines how it choose its "leaders of the moment". In order for applications to be delivered as fast and securely as possible it might be necessary to change "leaders" (servers) on every request. Or it might not. The process of choosing a server can be as simple as selecting the next server in a list, or as complicated as a calculus formula. It all depends on the needs of each application.

Your application delivery controller is in your data center, voting every day - every second, every request - to determine which server will best suit the needs of the application it's delivering.

We only vote once a year, and only vote for a new president once every four years. Like your application delivery controller, the process of intelligently determining who should be the new leader requires participation. The default configuration of an application delivery controller is fairly mundane in its decision making process; only by actively configuring it can you get the most benefit out of it for your applications.

Please, take some time out today to vote.

 

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