Zeus Balances More Unix Loads

Zeus Technology Inc.'s latest Zeus Load Balancer, Version 1.6, offers businesses of any size a robust, flexible server load balancing system.

Zeus Technology Inc.s latest Zeus Load Balancer, Version 1.6, offers businesses of any size a robust, flexible server load balancing system.

Zeus Load Balancer 1.6, which began shipping in October, gains advanced traffic management features and an easy-to-use administration interface. The software works on any computer running a Unix-based operating system, including Linux, Solaris or FreeBSD. Server hardware can be anything from a desktop with an Intel Corp. 300MHz Pentium II processor and 128MB of RAM to a high-end multiprocessor server with several gigabytes of RAM running AIX or HP-UX.

The Zeus solution is more easily upgradable than are load balancing appliances or switches; sites can upgrade the hardware as needed to increase the Zeus Load Balancers load simply by adding more memory or CPUs to the system.

Zeus Load Balancer is deployed close to the back-end server and can complement the simple SLB switches that are usually placed at the network edge to perform high-speed packet switching.

Zeus Load Balancer 1.6 supports the major traffic protocols and works with most Web and e-mail services. It is best suited for use at ISPs and companies running clustered Web or mail server farms, although traffic management appliances also handle these duties well.

Like previous versions, Zeus Load Balancer 1.6 provides intelligent traffic management through its proprietary content- aware load balancing engines and unique algorithms. The program can also provide application-specific rules, assigning roles to the servers being load balanced.

Among the new options in Version 1.6 is its ability to throttle the bandwidth allocated to application rules. For example, IT managers can set up several servers in a cluster running different Web or e-mail applications and create rules for Zeus Load Balancer to direct traffic based on Web content or e-mail protocol. Zeus Load Balancer will optimize the servers responsiveness by monitoring response time and the number of connections for each service on each server.

Zeus content-aware load balancing enables IT managers to achieve finer-grain control when optimizing server farm performance. This is a much more effective load balancing scheme than that offered by simple SLB switches, which forward packets to the server with the quickest response time or send packets based on a round-robin formula.

New traffic management features in Zeus Load Balancer 1.6 include automatic session persistence, FTP load balancing, port mapping, and connection draining and limiting. Version 1.6 also provides a better interface for easier administration and better deployment capabilities.

Pricing for Zeus Load Balancer 1.6 ranges from $4,200 for a single license balancing two servers to $12,000 for licensing a pair of devices capable of balancing an unlimited number of machines. Although the software is less expensive than most SLB switches or traffic management appliances, IT managers should factor in operating system licensing costs of the Zeus system. Most sites will be able to leverage server hardware they have on hand.

Some traffic management appliances, such as Array Networks Inc.s Array TM, also perform content-aware switching. (See eWeek Labs Nov. 4 review of Array TM at www.eweek.com/links.) The Array TM is more expensive, with a starting price of $11,000, but can be deployed with fewer upfront setup chores and no extra hardware cost. The Array TM also provides functions that Zeus doesnt offer, including SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) acceleration and caching.

However, in addition to being less expensive than most traffic management appliances, Zeus Load Balancer can scale more cost-effectively via system hardware upgrades.

In eWeek Labs tests, we installed Zeus Load Balancer 1.6 on a computer running Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux 7.2. The installation process was straightforward, using simple Linux commands to uncompress the install file and run the install program. We used Microsoft Corp.s Internet Explorer 6.0 Web browser and logged in to the interface to configure load balancing.

We found the new Web interface very intuitive during the installation and configuration process. We could easily add servers and configure different TCP/IP services we wanted to load balance using the Web browser.

However, although Zeus officials claim that Zeus Load Balancer provides full system diagnostics within the interface, we were disappointed to find that the system diagnostic feature is just a Web link pointing to a text file showing the system log file and doesnt have any real-time monitoring capabilities.