Because the ELB is a DNS name, Amazon can (and is) load balancing the load balancers. Example DNS lookup: www.mydomain.com -> loadbalancer123.amazon.com (this is controlled by you, and can be a long TTL), loadbalancer123.amazon.com -> 220.127.116.11 (this is controlled by amazon, and is a short-lived TTL, currently 60 seconds)
Thus, each ELB is backed by a pool of load balancer IPs (which amazon can scale up or down based on load)
The ELB can be associated with one to many availability zones, but each load balancer IP is only associated with a single zone
Each load balancer IP evenly distributes load among instances in its availability zone
Thus for normal web traffic, load will be distributed fairly evenly. But, if the traffic originates from a small number of clients (like during load testing), you can easily get unbalanced loads on a per availability zone basis. There are two solutions: make sure there are enough instances to handle 100% of the load in each availability zone, or only use one availability zone.
The motivation for this page was I thought I had bad load balancer behavior given this scenario:
I had two availability zones (for redundancy) with auto-scaling for 1 -> N in each zone.
I started a test that generated a small amount of load forever
I checked all backend instances, and all the load was on one box
On the JMeter box, I ran "dig mydomain.com" and watched the TTL count down from 60 to 0
When the ELB IP changed, all load moved to a different backend instance (and if the ELB IP stayed the same, the load stayed in the same place)
But, if I changed the setup to have one availability zone with auto-scaling for 2 -> N, then each instance had ~50% of the load.
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