Elfiq upgrades entry-level link load balancers

Small and medium-sized businesses looking for a way to manage the bandwidth from several service providers have a new choice from a Montreal company.

Elfiq Networks has updated its entry level link load balancers with faster throughput and the inclusion of its LAN Failsafe technology from its enterprise models.

“These two units will give SMB organizations the ability to provide bandwidth and keep Internet access going in an easy, secure and affordable fashion,” said Jean Pascal Hebert, the company’s vice-president of business development.

The new units are the Link LB-550E, with four 10/100 Ethernet ports for linking to two cable, DSL or satellite providers and offering 30Mbps half duplex throughput, and the Link LB 1100E, with four 10/100 links and 60Mbps throughput.

They replace the LB-500 and LB-1000 models with 20 and 45Mbps throughput respectively.

Unlike the previous units, the new models also come with Elfiq’s LAN Failsafe feature, which allows a unit to keep operating through its primary link even if it isn’t powered. Hebert said the feature should appeal to organizations that can’t afford full failover protection.

Both of the new units are also more efficient that their replacements, each consuming 25 watts compared to 45 watts for the previous models.

In addition, the LB-1100E picks up Elfiq’s SitePathMTPX technology, which dynamically redirects point to point transfers through the best available path without renegotiating VPN tunnels or VoIP sessions.

Among the company’s competitors are Cisco Systems, which include link load balancing in some of its routers, Radware, Fatpipe Networks and F5.

“If you look at most ISP connections, companies have one link that’s heavily utilized,” Zeus Kerravala, senior vice-president of enterprise research at the Yankee Group, said in an interview. Many IT departments balance the loads manually, he said, but that can cause other problems, which makes automatic balancers attractive.

One of the advantages Elfiq says it has over some competitors is its load balancers connect at Layer 2 between external routers and the firewall, so the network doesn’t have to be reconfigured when they are installed.

Kerravala said he hasn’t talked to customers about Elfiq products, but agreed that some competitors’ products have to be plugged into Layer 3, where route tables have to be changed.

Hebert said Elfiq balancers don’t use complex protocols such as Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), nor do they have Internet addresses, so they can’t be hacked.

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The Elfiq operating system, which monitors the links and is used to create balancing rules, is embedded in flash memory.

The LB-550E and LB-1100E are aimed at SMBs as well as branch offices, Hebert said. In particular hotels found the earlier models attractive. “If you go to a hotel and there’s no Internet in your room odds are you’ll never stay there again,” he explained.

Although intended as desktop units, Elfiq includes rack mounting brackets with the LB-550E and LB-1100E. Hebert also said that the next firmware release LB series, coming “within a few weeks,” will include a quality of service engine allowing licence holders to tweak how much bandwidth can be allocated per port.

The LB-550E lists for $2,495, plus $695 a year for maintenance and support, while the LB-110E lists for $3,995 plus $995 a year.

Elfiq is a privately-held company which was founded in 2002 and began shipping products in 2004. Its flagship model is the LB-4000E, with 10 1GbE links for up to 320 links and offering 1.2Gbps half duplex throughput. Hebert said in four years it has sold 500 units in 28 countries.

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