Boffins say they've improved on algorithm for dynamic load balancing of server workloads

Not too soon, either. Levels of internet traffic seen in 2017 will have tripled by 2022


Professor Mikkel Thorup of the University of Copenhagen claims his research team has vastly improved a dynamic load balancing algorithm for server workloads that is already used by tech giants like Google and Vimeo.

The algorithm ensures that incoming requests from clients, like those connecting to streaming video services, don't all pile on to one server, overloading it while leaving other servers idle.

Thorup originally co-published an algorithm in 2016 to address this issue. At the time, Vimeo reported it had dramatically reduced its outgoing bandwidth during peak hours.

He said the new algorithm, developed with Anders Aamand and Jakob Bæk Tejs Knudsen, improves on its predecessor by making sure no server is more than 10 per cent more burdened than others in 10 jumps instead of 100, essentially by limiting a user's movement once placed on the system and retrieving content locally.

While balancing the load across servers might not seem like such a huge task, it can be quite iterative given that a system can contain up to a billion servers. It is further complicated by the constant joining and leaving of users on the servers.

"We have found an algorithm that removes one of the major causes of overloaded servers once and for all. Our initial algorithm was a huge improvement over the way industry had been doing things, but this version is many times better and reduces resource usage to the greatest extent possible. Furthermore, it is free to use for all," said Thorup in a canned statement.

The algorithm will grow in relevance as internet traffic is predicted to triple between 2017 and 2022 with 82 per cent of traffic expected to be made up of online videos next year.

As more of our lives goes online, computer servers increase not only in wear and tear, but also in their energy usage and climate impact. Thorup predicted this problem would grow, but said he believes improved efficiency in data centres will help mitigate the increased usage.

Thorup and team said they expect major IT companies will deploy the algorithm immediately. They presented their paper [PDF] at The 53rd ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing (STOC 2021) online, which took place 21-25 June. ®

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