Elastic Load Balancing
Application Load Balancers

What Is an Application Load Balancer?

Elastic Load Balancing supports two types of load balancers: Application Load Balancers and Classic Load Balancers. This guide discusses Application Load Balancers. For more information about Classic Load Balancers, see the Classic Load Balancer Guide.

Application Load Balancer Overview

An Application Load Balancer functions at the application layer, the seventh layer of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model. After the load balancer receives a request, it evaluates the listener rules in priority order to determine which rule to apply, and then selects a target from the target group for the rule action using the round robin routing algorithm. Note that you can configure listener rules to route requests to different target groups based on the content of the application traffic. Routing is performed independently for each target group, even when a target is registered with multiple target groups.

The load balancer distributes incoming application traffic across multiple targets, such as EC2 instances, in multiple Availability Zones. This increases the fault tolerance of your applications. Elastic Load Balancing detects unhealthy targets and routes traffic only to healthy targets.

The load balancer serves as a single point of contact for clients. This increases the availability of your application. You can add and remove targets from your load balancer as your needs change, without disrupting the overall flow of requests to your application. Elastic Load Balancing scales your load balancer as traffic to your application changes over time. Elastic Load Balancing can scale to the vast majority of workloads automatically.

You can configure health checks, which are used to monitor the health of the registered targets so that the load balancer can send requests only to the healthy targets.

For more information, see How Elastic Load Balancing Works in the Elastic Load Balancing User Guide.


The load balancer serves as the single point of contact for clients. You add one or more listeners to your load balancer.

A listener checks for connection requests from clients, using the protocol and port that you configure, and forwards requests to one or more target groups, based on the rules that you define. Each rule specifies a target group, condition, and priority. When the condition is met, the traffic is forwarded to the target group. You must define a default rule for each listener, and you can add rules that specify different target groups based on the content of the request (also known as content-based routing).

Each target group routes requests to one or more registered targets, such as EC2 instances, using the protocol and port number that you specify. You can register a target with multiple target groups. You can configure health checks on a per target group basis. Health checks are performed on all targets registered to a target group that is specified in a listener rule for your load balancer.

The following diagram illustrates the basic components. Notice that each listener contains a default rule, and one listener contains another rule that routes requests to a different target group. One target is registered with two target groups.

                The components of a basic Application Load Balancer

For more information, see the following documentation:


Using an Application Load Balancer instead of a Classic Load Balancer has the following benefits:

  • Support for path-based routing. You can configure rules for your listener that forward requests based on the URL in the request. This enables you to structure your application as smaller services, and route requests to the correct service based on the content of the URL.

  • Support for routing requests to multiple services on a single EC2 instance by registering the instance using multiple ports.

  • Support for containerized applications. Amazon EC2 Container Service (Amazon ECS) can select an unused port when scheduling a task and register the task with a target group using this port. This enables you to make efficient use of your clusters.

  • Support for monitoring the health of each service independently, as health checks are defined at the target group level and many CloudWatch metrics are reported at the target group level. Attaching a target group to an Auto Scaling group enables you to scale each service dynamically based on demand.

  • Access logs contain additional information and are stored in compressed format.

  • Improved load balancer performance.

For more information about the features supported by each load balancer type, see Features of Elastic Load Balancing in the Elastic Load Balancing User Guide.

How to Get Started

To create an Application Load Balancer, try one of the following tutorials:


For more information, see Application Load Balancer Pricing.