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Saturday
Nov172007

Can How Bees Solve their Load Balancing Problems Help Build More Scalable Websites?

Bees have a similar problem to website servers: how to do a lot of work with limited resources in an ever changing environment. Usually lessons from biology are hard to apply to computer problems. Nature throws hardware at problems. Billions and billions of cells cooperate at different levels of organizations to find food, fight lions, and make sure your DNA is passed on.

Nature's software is "simple," but her hardware rocks. We do the opposite. For us hardware is in short supply so we use limited hardware and leverage "smart" software to work around our inability to throw hardware at problems. But we might be able to borrow some load balancing techniques from bees. What do bees do that we can learn from?

Bees do a dance to indicate the quality and location of a nectar source. When a bee finds a better source they do a better dance and resources shift to the new location. This approach may seem inefficient, but it turns out to be "optimal for the unpredictable nectar world." Craig Tovey and Sunil Nakrani are trying to apply these lessons to more efficiently allocate work to servers:

Tovey and Nakrani set to work translating the bee strategy for these idle Internet servers. They developed a virtual “dance floor” for a network of servers. When one server receives a user request for a certain Web site, an internal advertisement (standing in a little less colorfully for the dance) is placed on the dance floor to attract any available servers. The ad’s duration depends on the demand on the site and how much revenue its users may generate. The longer an ad remains on the dance floor, the more power available servers devote to serving the Web site requests advertised.


Sounds like an open source project that could get a lot of good buzz. You can imagine lots of cool logos and sweet project names. Maybe it could be sponsored by the Honey council?

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