Web switching vendors making friends in high places

Joining the fray in the hot content-based Web switching market, Alteon WebSystems and Lucent are expected today to announce an OEM deal in which Alteon's switches will be included in Lucent's IPWorX Web content-speeding product set.

Lucent's IPWorX combines caching technology, replication, and Web switching in an effort to accelerate content delivery over the Web. Under the agreement, Alteon's Layer 4 through 7 switches will fill IPWorX's WebDirector product line, designed to capture and redirect traffic based on URLs and HTTP cookies. Alteon's 180e and ACEdirector 3 Web switches will be branded in IPWorX as WebDirector 80 and WebDirector 180, respectively.

Lucent's WebCache appliance, which was developed in Bell Labs, provides the replication and caching element of IPWorX, according to the companies.

Although the agreement follows quickly after Cisco's $5.7 billion purchase of Web switch maker ArrowPoint Communications earlier this month, Alteon officials said its pact with Lucent was not in reaction to the acquisition.

In fact, Alteon said it has been working with Lucent since October 1998 to customise its switch to Lucent's specifications, which involved altering Alteon's firmware to handle directions from the controller in Lucent's IPWorkX.

"We've been working with Lucent for over a year and a half," said Bart Burstein, vice president of business development at Alteon. "Deals like [Cisco's purchase of ArrowPoint] and ours with Lucent is a sign that Web switching technology is now becoming pervasive and will be come even more pervasive as companies like Lucent and Cisco shine a big light on it and [as] their customers demand higher level functionality in terms of switching -- i.e. more content intelligent switching and redirection. Everyone wants boxes that can use things deeper in the packet, to capture and parse and redirect traffic."

One analyst agreed, noting that the market for Web switches that can process traffic in high levels of detail is picking up steam.

"I think these devices are beginning to go mainstream," said Greg Collins, director at Dell'Oro Group, a market research firm in Portola Valley, Calif. "If you look at what's happening with the Internet and content delivery, having these devices to balance traffic between servers, reduce latency and response times, and ensure high levels of security is important to ensure a quality Internet experience. I'm not surprised that the larger vendors are acquiring and partnering in this space because it is becoming an important infrastructure component."

Dell'Oro Group estimates that the worldwide market for Layer 4 through 7 server load balancing switches will explode this year, growing from 60 million in 1999 to 300 million in 2000.

Alteon officials said it has other technology initiatives currently in development with Lucent.

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