Evidian SafeKit brings load balancing and failover to IIS (Internet Information Services for Windows). This article explains how to implement quickly a IIS cluster without network load balancers or dedicated proxy servers. SafeKit is installed directly on the IIS servers. The high availabity module iis_farm.safe and a free trial are offered in the Installation tab below.
Note that you can implement with the same product real-time replication and failover of the back-end application like Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL or other applications: see examples of mirror modules here.
This clustering solution is recognized as the simplest to implement by our customers and partners. It is also a complete solution that solves hardware failures (20% of problems) including the complete failure of a computer room, software failures (40% of problems) including smooth upgrade server by server and human errors (40% of problems) thanks to its simplicity of administration.
On the previous figure, IIS services are running of the 3 servers. Users are connected to a virtual IP address which is configured locally on each server. The input traffic for the virtual IP address is received by all the servers and split among them by a filter inside each server's kernel.
The network load balancing algorithm inside the filter is based on the identity of the client packets (client IP address, client TCP port). Depending on the identity of the client packet input, only one filter in a server accepts the packet; the other filters in other servers reject it.
Once a packet is accepted by the filter on a server, only the CPU and memory of this server are used by IIS services that responds to the request of the client. The output messages are sent directly from the IIS server to the client.
If a server fails, the SafeKit membership protocol reconfigures the filters in the network load balancing cluster to re-balance the traffic on the remaining available servers.
Evidian SafeKit farm cluster with load balancing and failover
|No load balancer or dedicated proxy servers or special multicast Ethernet address|
The solution does not require load balancers or dedicated proxy servers above the farm for imlementing load balancing. SafeKit is installed directly on the IIS servers in the farm. The load balancing is based on a standard virtual IP address/Ethernet MAC address and is working with physical servers or virtual machines on Windows and Linux without special network configuration
This is not the case with network load balancers
This is not the case with dedicated proxies on Linux
This is not the case with a specific multicast Ethernet address on Windows
|All clustering features|
The solution includes all clustering features: virtual IP address, load balancing on client IP address or on sessions, monitoring of server/network/software failures, automatic IIS restart with a quick revovery time and a replication option with a mirror module
This is not the case with other load balancing solutions. They are able to make load balancing but they do not include a full clustering solution with restart scripts and automatic IIS restart in case of failure. They do not offer a replication option
The cluster configuration is very simple and made with the iis_farm.safe module. There is no domain controller or active directory to configure on Windows. The solution works on Windows and Linux
Other services and multiple virtual IP addresses can be added to the iis_farm.safe module to complement the SafeKit / IIS high availability solution
If servers are connected to the same IP network through an extended LAN between remote sites, the virtual IP address of SafeKit is working with load balancing at level 2
If servers are connected to different IP networks between remote sites, the virtual IP address can be configured at the level of a load balancer. SafeKit offers a health check: the load balancer is configured with a URL managed by SafeKit which returns OK on the UP servers and NOT FOUND else. This solution is implemented for SafeKit in the Cloud but it can be also implemented with a load balancer on premise. Thus you can implement load balancing but also all the clustering features of SafeKit including an easy administration of the cluster through the SafeKit web console
|Uniform high availability solution|
SafeKit imlements a farm cluster with load balancing and failover. But it implements also a mirror cluster with replication and failover. Thus a N-tiers architecture can be made highly available and load balanced with the same solution on Windows and Linux (same installation, configuration, administration with the SafeKit console or with the command line interface). This is unique on the market
This is not the case with an architecture mixing different technologies for load balancing, replication and failover
High availability architectures comparison
| Software clustering vs hardware clustering |
A simple software cluster with the SafeKit package just installed on two servers
Complex hardware clustering with external storage or network load balancers
| Shared nothing vs a shared disk cluster |
SafeKit is a shared-nothing cluster: easy to deploy even in remote sites
A shared disk cluster is complex to deploy
| Application High Availability vs Full Virtual Machine High Availability |
Application HA supports hardware failure and software failure with a quick recovery time (RTO around 1 mn or less).
Smooth upgrade of application and OS possible server by server (version N and N+1 can coexist)
Full virtual machines HA supports only hardware failure with a VM reboot and a recovery time depending on the OS reboot.
Smooth upgrade not possible
|High availability vs fault tolerance|| |
No dedicated server. Each server can be the failover server of the other one.
Software failure with restart in another OS environment.
Smooth upgrade of application and OS possible server by server (version N and N+1 can coexist)
Secondary server dedicated to the execution of the same application synchronized at the instruction level.
Software exception on both servers at the same time.
Smooth upgrade not possible
| Synchronous replication vs asynchronous replication |
SafeKit implements real-time synchronous replication with no data loss in case of failure
With asynchronous replication, there is data loss on failure
| Byte-level file replication vs block-level disk replication |
SafeKit implements real-time byte-level file replication and is simply configured with application directories to replicate even in the system disk
Block-level disk replication is complex to configure and requires to put application data in a special disk
| Heartbeat, failover and quorum to avoid 2 master nodes |
To avoid 2 masters, SafeKit proposes a simple split brain checker configured on a router
To avoid 2 masters, other clusters require a complex configuration with a third machine, a special quorum disk, a special interconnect
| Network load balancing |
No dedicated proxy servers and no special network configuration are required in a SafeKit cluster for network load balancing
Special network configuration is required in other clusters for network load balancing
|1 - OEM Software||2 - Distributed Enterprise||3 -Remote Sites|
|A software publisher uses SafeKit as an OEM software for high availability of its application||A distributed enterprise deploys SafeKit in many branches without specific IT skills||SafeKit is deployed in two remote sites without the need for replicated bays of disks through a SAN|
The ideal product for a software publisher
“SafeKit is the ideal application clustering solution for a software publisher. We currently have deployed more than 80 SafeKit clusters worldwide with our critical TV broadcasting application.”
The product very easy to deploy for a reseller
“WithNCompany has deployed in South Korea many SafeKit high availability solutions with the Hanwha Video Surveillance Platform. SafeKit is appreciated because the product is easy to install and very quickly deployed.”
The product to gain time for a system integrator
“Thanks to a simple and powerful product, we gained time in the integration and validation of our critical projects like the supervision of Paris and Marseille metro lines (the control rooms).”
In video surveillance systems, Evidian SafeKit implements high availability with synchronous replication and failover of
Harmonic is using SafeKit as a software OEM high availability solution and deploys it with its TV broadcasting solutions over satellites, terrestrials, cable, IPTV.
Over 80 SafeKit clusters are deployed on Windows for replication of Harmonic database and automatic failover of the critical application.
Philippe Vidal, Product Manager, Harmonic says:
“SafeKit is the ideal application clustering solution for a software publisher looking for a simple and economical high availability software. We are deploying SafeKit worldwide and we currently have more than 80 SafeKit clusters on Windows with our critical TV broadcasting application through terrestrial, satellite, cable and IP-TV. SafeKit implements the continuous and real-time replication of our database as well as the automatic failover of our application for software and hardware failures. Without modifying our application, it was possible for us to customize the installation of SafeKit. Since then, the time of preparation and implementation has been significantly reduced.”
The European Society of Warranties and Guarantees in Natixis uses SafeKit as a high availability solution for its applications.
Over 30 SafeKit clusters are deployed on Unix and Windows in Natixis.
Fives Syleps, the Sydel software editor implements high availability of its ERP with SafeKit and deploys the solution in the food industry.
Tony Myers, Director of Business Development says:
"By developing applications for air traffic control, Copperchase is in one of the most critical business activities. We absolutely need our applications to be available all the time. We have found with SafeKit a simple and complete clustering solution for our needs. This software combines in a single product load balancing, real time data replication with no data loss and automatic failover. This is why, Copperchase deploys SafeKit for air traffic control in airports in the UK and the 30 countries where we are present."
Software vendor Wellington IT deploys SafeKit high availability with its banking application for Credit Unions in Ireland and UK.
Peter Knight, Sales Manager says:
"Business continuity and disaster recovery are a major concern for our Locus banking application deployed in numerous Credit Unions around Ireland and the UK. We have found with SafeKit a simple and robust solution for high availability and synchronous replication between two servers with no data loss. With this software solution, we are not dependent on a specific and costly hardware clustering solution. It is a perfect tool to provide a software high availability option to an application of a software vendor."
Paris transport company (RATP) chose the SafeKit high availability and load balancing solution for the centralized control room of line 1 of the Paris subway.
Stéphane Guilmin, RATP, Project manager says:
"Automation of line 1 of the Paris subway is a major project for RATP, requiring a centralized command room (CCR) designed to resist IT failures. With SafeKit, we have three distinct advantages to meet this need. Firstly, SafeKit is a purely software solution that does not demand the use of shared disks on a SAN and network boxes for load balancing. It is very simple to separate our servers into separate machine rooms. Moreover, this clustering solution is homogeneous for our Windows and Unix platforms. SafeKit provides the three functions that we needed: load balancing between servers, automatic failover after an incident and real time data replication."
And also, Philippe Marsol, Atos BU Transport, Integration Manager says:
“SafeKit is a simple and powerful product for application high availability. We have integrated SafeKit in our critical projects like the supervision of Paris metro Line 4 (the control room) or Marseille Line 1 and Line 2 (the operations center). Thanks to the simplicity of the product, we gained time for the integration and validation of the solution and we had also quick answers to our questions with a responsive Evidian team.”
The software integrator Systel deploys SafeKit high-availability solution in firefighter and emergency medical call centers.
Marc Pellas, CEO says:
"SafeKit perfectly meets the needs of a software vendor. Its main advantage is that it brings in high availability through a software option that is added to our own multi-platform software suite. This way, we are not dependent on a specific and costly hardware clustering solution that is not only difficult to install and maintain, but also differs according to client environments. With SafeKit, our firefighter call centers are run with an integrated software clustering solution, which is the same for all our customers, is user friendly and for which we master the installation up to after-sales support."
ERP high availability and load balancing of the French army (DGA) are made with SafeKit.
Alexandre Barth, Systems administrator says:
"Our production team implemented the SafeKit solution without any difficulty on 14 Windows and Linux clusters. Our critical activity is thus secure, with high-availability and load balancing functions. The advantages of this product are easy deployment and administration of clusters, on the one hand, and uniformity of the solution in the face of heterogeneous operating systems, on the other hand."
This video shows a mirror module configuration with synchronous real-time replication and failover.
The file replication and the failover are configured for Microsoft SQL Server but it works in the same manner for other databases.
This video shows a farm module configuration with load balancing and failover.
The load balancing and the failover are configured for Apache but it works in the same manner for other web services.