Coyote Point rethinks the world of application-delivery controllers, or ADCs, with a virtual iteration of a physical appliance. Coyote Points Equalizer OnDemand, released March 12, is designed to run on VMware ESX/ESXi V4.X platforms and brings with it application-control capabilities, such as load balancing, optimized application delivery and failover support.
The virtual appliance brings with it efficiencies, ease of use and management capabilities that were once only found in physical devices that could break the budget for smaller IT departments. Equalizer OnDemand starts at $5,749, including one year of support. Hardware-based appliances from competitors usually start at more than $10,000.
Coyote Point isnt the only player in the ADC games. Competition is abundant in the form of large vendors, including F5 networks, Barracuda and Riverbed, along with smaller players, such as Kemp and A10. However, those competitors are focusing on the physical realm, with proprietary hardware appliances that include capabilities, such as hardware-based Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) offloading and HTTP compression. Coyote Point also offers a family of hardware appliances with these features.
I tested the Equalizer OnDemand virtual appliance in a VMware ESXi test environment running on a SuperMicro SuperServer 6027R-3RF4+ (a 2U, Multi-Xeon E5-2600 series server). I also used a test environment hosted by Coyote Point to evaluate failover and Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6) routing capabilities.
Installation was straightforward and followed the normal conventions of installing a virtual machine under ESXi, which can be a complex process, depending upon what you are trying to achieve. Nevertheless, Coyote Points documentation does an adequate job of providing you with the basics to get the appliance working under VMware ESX/ESXi environments.
While I used ESXi for the testing, a production environment may want to consider purchasing VMware ESX, so that they have access to VMwares advanced management features, reporting and other elements that come with a full version of ESX. Currently, Equalizer OnDemand works only with VMware based ESX/ESXi environments.
Deploying Equalizer OnDemand is straightforward for those with some networking knowledge and a good understanding of WAN and LAN routing principles. It all starts with deploying the virtual appliance and placing it between the servers and the WAN/LAN connections. Once the virtual appliance was functioning and accessible via a Web browser, I was pleasantly surprised at how well Equalizer OnDemand mimics a physical appliance from Coyote Point, which provided a small head start, since I labs reviewed Coyote Points devices in the past.
That said, there were still some significant differences from Equalizer OnDemand and older iterations of Coyote Points physical devices. I found that was due to a new operating system and software package released in January by Coyote Point, called EQ/OS10, which is offered on the companys physical appliances as well as Equalizer OnDemand.
The changes and enhancements are so significant with EQ/OS10, that it pretty much reinvents what an ADC is all about and is much more than just another release of the company’s core software. Perhaps Equalizer OnDemand deserves to be placed in a new category, say an application gateway, as opposed to an application-delivery controller.
The performance of Equalizer OnDemand is a little harder to quantifyafter all, it is a virtual appliance and that means it is heavily reliant on host hardware. That is kind of a double-edged swordsince performance can be increased by throwing more CPU cycles and hardware at the virtual appliance.
Equalizer OnDemand Emphasizes Ease of Use
With performance in mind, there are a few shortcomings with a virtual ADC; for example, there are no SSL-acceleration capabilities and no support for HTTP compression. Those features are normally found in hardware-based appliances.
Ease of use is a major theme with the Equalizer OnDemand virtual appliance. All the major features can be configured directly from the management GUI, which is often simpler, but less efficient than using the Command Line Interface (CLI) for making configuration changes. Most competing products, such as those from Riverbed and F5 Networks, rely heavily on CLI input for configuration.
I was able to quickly create Layer 7 application traffic management rules to control application flow. I was also able to build rules to identify and appropriately route things like HTTP and SSL versions, type of browser, URL path names, file names, extensions and cookie data. In short, L7 routing lets administrators create flexible cluster configurations by specifying rules that direct traffic to servers, and hence applications.
Another intriguing feature was the support for IPv6. Here, Coyote Point’s latest OS (EQ/OS10) adds some key capabilities, such as the support for migrating traffic between IPv6 and IPv4 networking equipment.
Simply put, EQ/OS10 enabled me to mix IPv4 network elements with IPv6 networks and then provide the necessary translation addresses as needed to handle all the cross-protocol routing. This was easy to set up, thanks to a wizard-driven model that let us almost instantly define the required elements for access to IPv6 content.
IPv6 simplicity is further enhanced with the use of virtual LANs, which are also easy to create and manage. With VLANs, you can define server access and cluster memberships of the IPV4 (and IPv6) devices on the network. That serves to create a simple paradigm, where I was able to create IPv6 subnets and then assign those subnets to server clusters and failover clusters.
Coyote Point relies on a partnership with Hurricane Electric to route IPv6 traffic over IPv4 networks, which supports IPv6 using 6-in-4 tunnel technology. That proves handy if a company’s ISP or carrier does not offer native IPv6 support.
Equalizer OnDemand also includes full support for 802.1Q-tagged VLANs, as well as for untagged VLANs. The GUI makes it easy to discover or define VLAN elements, and I was particularly impressed with how VLAN elements could be defined using drag-and-drop. The visual representation of virtual LANs makes it much easier to quickly identify, define and control VLANs.
I was able to quickly create a VLAN that supported multinetting, a critical, must-have capability that allows administrators to create multiple subnets under a single Layer 2 infrastructure. Although that feature is relatively common among WAN optimization type appliances, it is still notable because it allows administrators to define multiple Layer 3 networks on a single infrastructure setup.
Equalizer OnDemand organizes and handles networking components by treating those elements as objects. It allowed me to create objects to represent the various networking components available and the build groups to house those objects. The group/object approach proved to be a much easier way to work, especially since a physical element needs to be defined only once and then can be placed in multiple server pools with drag-and-drop simplicity.