Setting up load balancing on a SharePoint farm running on Windows Server 2008

1. Install Network Load Balancing Feature on each Web Front End

On each front end in the farm, within Server Manager, add the NLB feature:

Click Install and wait a bit

2.Add a New Cluster

Through the start menu, Administrator Tools, click Network Load Balancing Manager:

Right click Network Load Balancing Clusters, and choose New Cluster

Type the IP address of one of the web fronts in the farm to serve as the first host in the cluster

Click Connect.

Click next.

Leave the defaults and click next again:

3.Set Cluster IP Address

This IP Address is the dedicated IP address for the cluster and is what DNS will point to, to get load balanced between the front ends. On the Cluster IP Addresses box, click Add and type an available dedicated IP address and subnet mask:

Optionally, you can setup many clusters IPs for fault tolerance purposes, but for most cases you’ll just have one:

Click next.

4.Specify Cluster Parameters

Select the Multicast operation mode, and click next:

5.Specify Port Rules

Click edit on the default port rule:

Deselect the “All” checkbox, and choose the Network filtering mode:

Click Ok.

Click Finish.

After finish, the NLB manager will show it has begun the configurations changes. If you’re in a remote desktop to the server, you’ll lose your connection temporarily while it re-configures:

6.Add Any Additional Hosts to the Cluster

Now that the cluster is ready to go, you can add additional hosts/web front ends. Right click on the cluster IP address and click Add Host To Cluster and type the IP of another web front end in the farm. Repeat until they’re all added.

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load balance manager create cluster

Load balanceing WFE servers sharepoint

Windows 2008 includes a Network Load Balancing feature and I’ll be utilizing this in my SharePoint environment.  I currently have two web front end servers but there is no reason why I can’t add more, and include them in the NLB cluster, at a later date.

Unfortunately, NLB isn’t application aware so it won’t know if SharePoint fails.  As long as the server is up NLB will continue to forward requests to the failed server and any users hitting that server will just get an error of some kind if SharePoint is not running.

So, the first thing to do is install the NLB feature in Windows.  This can be done using the Server Manager.  See the screenshot below:

Load balanceing WFE servers sharepoint

Load balanceing WFE servers sharepoint

Once installed I need to create an NLB cluster on the first server.  This is quite easy to do – just follow these steps:

  1. Start the Network Load Balancing Manager
  2. From the Cluster menu choose New
  3. Enter the server name or IP address and select the desired interface from the list.  Click Next
  4. Select the dedicated IP address and click Next
  5. Add a cluster IP address, choose Multicast and click Next
  6. If required, narrow down the ports required for the cluster (for example just port 80 and 443).  Click Finish.  The cluster is now in place with just the one host, as you can see below:
load balance manager create cluster

create cluster load balance manager

To add the second host just right-click the cluster and choose Add host to cluster.  Follow the wizard to add the second server to the cluster.

Note: when clustering 3 or more web front end servers it is a good idea to use a separate network for server to server communication.