Upgrade adds WAN load balancing to Foundry switches

A software upgrade for Foundry Networks's ServerIronXL can let users simplify WAN and Internet connection links, configure failover connections and allocate bandwidth for specific applications running over an IP WAN.

Foundry says its TrafficWorks Link Load Balancer software for the ServerIronXL switch can streamline how a business connects to multiple ISPs or carriers by simplifying the management of bandwidth on multiple WAN links.

Foundry says the TrafficWorks Link Load Balancer software on the ServerIronXL can be used instead of running Border Gateway Protocol version 4 (BGP-4) on enterprise WAN routers. This protocol is used in large business IP networks and carrier networks to handle multiple connections to different service providers. Foundry says that users can manage multiple WAN links more easily by installing a ServerIronXL with TrafficWorks next to a router, instead of configuring the router to run BGP-4, which requires IT staff with knowledge of advanced Internet protocols.

Additionally, Foundry says the ServerIronXL adds features not supported in BGP-4, including bandwidth optimization and network health checking, which allows the device to send traffic around congested or downed links.

Foundry's ServerIronXL switches have traditionally been deployed in a data centers for server load balancing. A ServerIronXL with Link Load Balancer capabilities would be deployed behind a WAN router, connecting through a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port. When processing WAN traffic, the device can handle up to 300M bit/sec of throughput -- the equivalent of six T-3 links.

In addition to the Link Load Balancer capabilities, ServerIronXL switches can also provide denial of service attack blocking, by recognizing spikes in TCP traffic messages and shutting down suspicious flows.

Foundry in the past has focused mostly on LAN edge and core products, with its ServerIron, FastIron and BigIron Gigabit Ethernet switches. For Foundry, the addition of WAN traffic management to the ServerIronXL is another step towards the enterprise edge; last year, Foundry introduced its first WAN routers to challenge Cisco's 2600 and 3600 series products -- which are the industry standard for business WAN connectivity. With its traffic managing box, Foundry is now competing with such firms as Allot, DeepNines, Expand Networks, Packeteer, and Peribit Networks. In the Layer 4-7 market, Foundry's ServerIronXL competes with Cisco, F5, NetScaler, Nortel, Redline and Radware.

Layer 4-7 switching was at its zenith during the dot-com bubble, as Internet companies spent money on gear to make Web sites more accessible. But since the bubble's burst, Layer 4-7 vendors have looked for other ways to apply their deep-packet forwarding technology, such as security, VoIP prioritization, and now WAN optimization.

"That whole [Layer 4-7] market never really took off as much as it had been hyped," says Max Flisi, an analyst with IDC. "But it never really went away either."

Flisi says that the application Layer 4-7 technology to new areas in a network is part of a trend towards adding more intelligence to routers and switches.

"It's another example of the network layer becoming more intelligent," he says.

The TrafficWorks Link Load Balancer software is available as a free upgrade for ServerIronXL users with support contracts. The ServerIronXL switches starts at US$9,000.

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