AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) vs Application Load Balancer (ALB) vs Network Load Balancer (NLB): Detailed Comparison and Use Cases.

AWS Elastic Load Balancer (ELB) vs Application Load Balancer (ALB) vs Network Load Balancer (NLB): Detailed Comparison and Use Cases.


3 min read


Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides multiple options for load balancing solutions, including Elastic Load Balancer (ELB), Application Load Balancer (ALB), and Network Load Balancer (NLB). Each load balancer type serves specific use cases and offers distinct functionalities, catering to diverse application architectures and traffic distribution requirements.

Comparison in Tabular Format:

CriteriaElastic Load Balancer (ELB)Application Load Balancer (ALB)Network Load Balancer (NLB)
Layer of OperationTransport and ApplicationApplicationTransport
Protocols SupportedHTTP, HTTPS, TCP, SSLHTTP, HTTPS, WebSocketsTCP, UDP, TLS
Content-Based RoutingNoYesNo
Path-Based RoutingNoYesNo
Target Type SupportedEC2 instances, IP addresses, ECSEC2 instances, IP addresses, ECSEC2 instances, IP addresses, ECS
SSL/TLS OffloadingYesYesYes
Health ChecksLayer 4 and Layer 7Layer 7Layer 4 and Layer 7
Use CasesGeneral load balancing, SSL/TLS offloading, traffic distribution among various target typesWeb applications, microservices, content-based routing, container-based applicationsHigh-throughput, low-latency, TCP/UDP-based applications, IoT, gaming, streaming
ScalabilityAuto-scaling and dynamic scaling based on trafficAuto-scaling and dynamic scaling based on trafficAuto-scaling and dynamic scaling based on traffic
Monitoring and LoggingCloudWatch metrics, Access logsCloudWatch metrics, Access logsCloudWatch metrics, Access logs
IP PreservationNoYesYes
Connection DrainingNoYesYes
Cost EfficiencyTypically cost-effective for basic load balancing requirementsSuitable for complex routing needs, might incur additional costs for advanced featuresIdeal for high-throughput, low-latency applications, may have higher costs for smaller-scale deployments
Use Case RecommendationsWhen simplicity is desired, basic HTTP/HTTPS/TCP load balancingWeb applications, container-based environments, microservices requiring advanced routing and traffic handlingHigh-throughput, low-latency applications, TCP/UDP-based services, IoT, gaming, streaming platforms

Elastic Load Balancer (ELB):

  • Overview: ELB is the traditional load balancer from AWS, providing basic load-balancing functionalities across multiple target types.

  • Use Cases: Suitable for general load balancing needs, SSL/TLS offloading, and distributing traffic among various target types.

Application Load Balancer (ALB):

  • Overview: ALB operates at the application layer, supporting advanced routing features like path-based and content-based routing.

  • Use Cases: Ideal for web applications, microservices architectures, content-based routing, and container-based environments.

Network Load Balancer (NLB):

  • Overview: NLB operates at the transport layer, providing high-throughput, low-latency load balancing for TCP/UDP-based applications.

  • Use Cases: Best suited for applications requiring high-throughput, low-latency, TCP/UDP-based services, such as IoT, gaming, and streaming platforms.


Selecting the appropriate load balancer in AWS depends on the specific requirements of your application architecture and traffic distribution needs. ELB serves basic load balancing needs, ALB caters to more advanced routing and application-specific requirements, while NLB excels in handling high-throughput, low-latency applications.

Consider factors like the layer of operation, protocol support, routing capabilities, target types, SSL/TLS offloading, and scalability when choosing between ELB, ALB, and NLB. Evaluating the use case scenarios and understanding the features of each load balancer type is crucial for optimizing application performance and ensuring efficient traffic distribution within AWS environments.

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