Network Design - Load Balancing vs Load Sharing

Load balancing and load sharing two terms used generally in networking. They are often used interchangeably, but they do have slightly different meanings.

Load Balancing: This is a technique that distributes network traffic across multiple servers or paths to ensure no single server or path is overwhelmed. This can be done using various algorithms such as Round Robin, Least Connections, and IP Hash. The goal of load balancing is to optimize resource use, maximize throughput, minimize response time, and avoid overload of any single resource. Load balancing is usually done by a dedicated device, like a load balancer.

Load Sharing: This is similar to load balancing, but it doesn’t necessarily distribute traffic evenly. Instead, it allows you to manually or automatically allocate traffic based on current network conditions, capacity, or other factors. In load sharing, traffic is distributed among multiple paths based on the bandwidth of the links. If one link has more bandwidth, it can carry more traffic compared to a link with less bandwidth.

Both of these concepts can be applied to technologies such as EtherChannel, routing protocols such as OSPF, EIGRP, and BGP, or to FHRP technologies such as VRRP, HSRP, and GLBP.

These terms are often used loosely, so ultimately, the meaning and definition of these terms should be determined based on the context of their use.