F5 Redesigns Traffic Manager

F5's BigIP 9 provides advanced optimization and an IPv6 gateway.

F5 Networks Inc. will help validate the consolidation trend in the application front-end space when it launches a redesigned version of its BigIP application traffic management offering.

BigIP Version 9 permits the integration of multiple performance optimization techniques within BigIP appliances through a new TM/OS (Traffic Management Operating System). New techniques added include connection pooling, data compression, Layer 7 rate shaping, TCP optimization and content buffering. That is in addition to traditional optimizations such as server load balancing, application switching, SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) acceleration and so on.

TM/OS includes a full TCP stack on the client and server sides to make a BigIP appliance a full application proxy that can manage both sides of the connection, according to Erik Giesa, vice president of product management at F5, in Seattle.

In addition to new optimization techniques, F5 added other new services such as an IPv6 gateway and universal connection pooling, as well as new security services such as resource cloaking, advanced client authentication, selective content encryption and protocol sanitization.

F5 also sought with its TM/OS to simplify services through an expanded version of its iRules programmable network language. iRules includes graphical-based application profiles that allow commands to be invoked based on events seen within traffic flows. Operators can define, for example, what the client-side compression profiles should be for Oracle Corp. applications.

To exploit the new TM/OS, F5 created three hardware platforms to allow the appliances to be a full proxy with as little latency as possible. Toward that end, the platforms include new Layer 4 ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits) and dedicated Layer 7 ASICs capable of processing up to 220,000 Layer 4 requests per second. The new platforms include the BigIP 1500, 3400 and 6400. TM/OS will also run on existing F5 appliances.

Although other players have moved faster to consolidate multiple optimization techniques, F5 is still leading larger competitors such as Cisco Systems Inc., Nortel Networks Ltd. and Foundry Networks Inc., said Lynn Nye, president of APM Advisors, in Portland, Ore.

"F5 really took the time to make this move strategically versus tactically. Now the architecture adds the ability to add software features as the market demands. The only thing F5 left out of this was caching, but its on the road map," said Nye.

Fast-growing Redline Networks Inc., for its part, this week will extend its caching technology with Version 4.0 of its RIOS software. The Campbell, Calif., company created what officials call a third-generation caching capability that addresses problems earlier caching technology doesnt address.

The technique adds intelligence about what types of objects can be cached and how they are delivered to end users browsers.

It is intended to further offload Web and back-end database servers for Web applications. And it is integrated with Redlines compression policy engine, server load balancing and its OverDrive Adaptive Content Processing engine.

The 3G Cache is a $5,000 software upgrade for Redlines existing EX Series. The new F5 appliances range from $16,995 to $34,995.


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