Integrated Web Appliances Worth a Look

By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2001-07-16

When asked how to build a high-performance, reliable Web infrastructure, most IT managers will probably say something like this: Place redundant firewalls and multiple server load balancers, caching devices and SSL accelerators in front of your Web site, application and database servers, and connect all the pieces with switches and routers.

This is, of course, a simplified answer, but its a typical blueprint of the infrastructure used in high-traffic Web sites today. Although these sites can handle large amounts of Internet traffic 24-by-7, maintaining and managing the many components in the complex infrastructure is a challenging task even to the most astute IT manager.

ClickArray Networks recently introduced a Web traffic management product that can simplify front-end Web architecture and improve overall Web traffic performance by integrating key components in a single device. (There are already products on the market that provide some level of integration, but most of them still require several components working in conjunction.)

ClickArray Networks product, called the Array appliance, integrates crucial Web traffic acceleration and management components (server load balancing, a firewall, content caching, SSL acceleration and clustering) in a single device. The integrated Web appliance is easier to manage, is more cost-effective, and can eliminate interoperability and latency issues found in other approaches that use hardware from a number of different vendors.

IT managers will find the Array Web appliance can scale easily by adding more appliances to handle Web site growth. Several boxes can also be clustered for fault tolerance and performance enhancement.

Although the integration of the many components needed to build a high-performance Web infrastructure into simpler devices can ease management and lower the overall cost of ownership, this is new, unproven technology, and it is not known whether an appliance can handle more complex Web architectures. Most enterprises will probably be reluctant to replace infrastructure hardware in which they have invested, especially during hard economic times.

Nevertheless, these products might find implementation in smaller sites or branch offices, and innovative products like the one from ClickArray Networks might convince some companies that integration is the way to go to save money down the road.

Although integrated Web appliances might never completely replace current products, the potential benefits make these devices worth a look.

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