F5 announces Web acceleration revisions

F5 Networks has announced new versions of its Web application acceleration products that are designed to work with specific applications such as those from Microsoft and Oracle.

The revisions rely largely on technology obtained during F5's purchase of Swan Labs last October, said Jason Needham, director of product management at F5.

The new release, WebAccelerator 5.2, will be available inside add-on hardware modules to F5's BIG-IP 6400, 6800, 8400 and 8800 hardware products, Seattle-based F5 said. Pricing starts at US$24,995. The revised software is also available on the WebAccelerator 4500 stand-alone unit for US$59,995.

Needham said the application-specific intelligence is unique in the market, which will help customers reduce customization time and cut deployment costs.

Chad Jackson, portal manager at NetJets, said the private-jet time-share company has been using WebAccelerator 5.0 software for about 18 months on two WebAccelerator 4500 devices at the company's two data centers in Columbus, Ohio. He said he plans to upgrade to the 5.2 software this week to take advantage of many standard templates for improving Web performance.

With the existing software, NetJets has been able to speed up access to its portal by some 2,500 pilots. One caching feature in WebAccelerator has eliminated congestion over the company's wide-area network, improving some download times by 1,200%, Jackson said.

One current time-saving feature allows a pilot to ask for a single page from a lengthy PDF pilot manual, eliminating the need for the entire document to download. "It has certainly saved us on WAN costs and has saved us a ton of money in terms of lowering incoming pilot complaint calls" to the help desk, he said. "The need to push more performance out to pilots is always a consideration."

F5 will also announce Enterprise Manager 1.2, a software revision on its EM3000 hardware, starting at US$49,995.

F5 competes in the application acceleration market primarily with Citrix Systems and Cisco Systems, said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group Research. "A lot of companies offer application performance. But F5 offers application-specific solutions that are pre-configured for Oracle and other applications instead of making the enterprise customer figure out how to do it...by providing a generic solution for all applications," he said.

Kerravala said F5 also deserves credit for making a quick migration with Swan Labs technology into its own Traffic Management Operating System software.

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