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Limitations of Load Balancing Mechanisms for N-Tier Systems in the Presence of Millibottlenecks
Tao Zhu, Jack Li, Josh Kimball, Junhee Park, Chien-An Lai, Calton Pu and Qingyang Wang
Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Indiana University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Louisiana State University

The scalability of n-tier systems relies on effective load balancing to distribute load among the servers of the same tier. We found that load balancing mechanisms (and some policies) in servers used in typical n-tier systems (e.g., Apache and Tomcat) have issues of instability when very long response time(VLRT) re-quests appear due to millibottlenecks, very short bottlenecks that last only tens to hundreds of milliseconds. Experiments with standard n-tier benchmarks show that during millibottlenecks, some load balancing policy/mechanism combinations make the mistake of sending new requests to the node(s) suffering from millibottlenecks, instead of the idle nodes as load balancers are supposed to do. Several of these mistakes are due to the implicit assumptions made by load balancing policies and mechanisms on the stability of system state. Our study shows that appropriate remedies at policy and mechanism levels can avoid these mistakes during millibottlenecks and remove the VLRT requests, thus improving the average response time by a factor of 12.