Alteon Speeds Up Web Boxes

SAN JOSE, CALIF. (03/20/2000) - Companies running high-volume Web sites will soon be able to upgrade their Alteon Websystems switches so their sites can serve at least four times as many people at once.

The new switch software, which sources say will be announced next week, is also designed to save customers money by enabling them to use fewer expensive router ports to direct traffic through the Web switches and into Web servers.

"This is going to make it a lot easier for us to scale our boxes without having to deal with all the physical interface issues," says Vince Muir, network architect for Loudcloud Inc., a Sunnyvale, Calif., Web services provider that uses Alteon's ACEdirector switches.

Web switches, which typically sit between routers or firewalls and Web servers, are becoming increasingly popular for boosting Web site performance, particularly for companies with e-commerce sites. Alteon is among the leading companies in the market, along with others such as ArrowPoint.

Alteon's new Virtual Matrix Architecture (VMA) works by harnessing all 18 of the 180 series or ACEdirector switches' processors to handle incoming and outgoing traffic. Traffic switching can be done according to predefined rules set by a network administrator and based on such things as URLs and cookies.

Previously, each port on the switch only had access to two processors for handling its traffic.

Independent tests done by The Tolly Group show that an Alteon 180 switch with VMA software can handle up to 6,300 customer requests per second, whereas the switch configured with older code handled 1,356 requests.

By comparison, The Tolly Group's tests showed that an ArrowPoint CS-100 switch was able to handle 1,193 sessions per second. The test used WebBench 3.0 and involved 50 clients flooding requests to 11 servers.

"Quicker response time for people is the bottom line here," says Greg Kilmartin, an analyst and engineer with The Tolly Group.

ArrowPoint Communications spokesman Erv Johnson said ArrowPoint did not agree to be part of The Tolly Group's test and questioned the results, based on the fact that ArrowPoint did not have access to the test methodology. He also questioned the relation of the test results to real-world traffic situations.

To install VMA, users need Alteon's Web OS 5.2.99 or later software. Customers who qualify for free updates for Web OS will receive the VMA upgrade in the next release. VMA will also be included in the upcoming release of Web OS, 8.0.

VMA can run on all of Alteon's 180 switches as well as on its ACEdirector line of switches. The 180 series is a Gigabit and Fast Ethernet switch; ACEdirector is designed to handle Fast Ethernet only.

Alteon is not planning to support VMA on its 700 series switches because that line already uses a greater per-port memory architecture, according to sources briefed on the company's plans.


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