Saturday, December 25, 2010

Load Balancing LTSP clients using Ethernet Bridging

Typical LTSP setup has the following configuration:

| Server |
| eth0 | eth1 |
/ |
/ |
Internet Switch
| | |
Client-1 Client-2 ... Client-n

LTSP Clients

The problem with this is that the network card bottlenecks the performance. Once the number of clients increases (usually >5), even though the server is capable of handling the load, the network card (usually, 100BASE-TX) can't provide the throughput.

There are two solutions to this:
1. Use 1000BASE-T (gigabit) ethernet cards and switches
2. Use load balancing

Using gigabit ethernet cards solves the problem but they are expensive. The switches are expensive too. Plus there are flow control problems if the clients have 100Base-TX cards, which is usually the case.

Load balancing is an easier and cheaper approach. Although this can also go fairly complicated, here i'm going for the simplest one using ethernet bridging.

The trick is to use multiple NICs connected to multiple switches. Then bridge the cards to provide a common interface. Here's what it looks like:

| Server |
+------------------- +
| eth0 | eth1 = eth2 |
/ | |
/ | |
Internet Switch Switch
| |
+----+-------+ +----+-------+
| | | | | |
C-1 C-2 ... C-n C-1 C-2 ... C-n

LTSP Clients LTSP Clients

Lets say, there are three NICs: eth0, eth1 and eth2. eth0 is connected to internet. eth1 (say, is connected to LTSP clients. eth2 is unused and is supposed to be bridged with eth1.

First install bridge-utils
# apt-get install bridge-utils
Create a bridge (br0) and add eth1 and eth2 to it
# brctl addbr br0
# brctl stp br0 off
# brctl addif br0 eth1
# brctl addif br0 eth2
Now release the IP addresses of eth1 and eth2
# ifconfig eth1 down
# ifconfig eth2 down
# ifconfig eth1 up
# ifconfig eth2 up
Assign the LTSP IP address to bridge.
# ifconfig br0 up
Now connect eth1 and eth2 to separate switches, and each switch to (equal number of) LTSP clients.

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