F5 goes BIG with IP content switching

Seattle, Wash.-based F5 Networks Inc.’s new BIG-IP Content Switch-the company’s next-generation iTCM (Internet traffic and content management) product-offers a solution for intelligently managing large amounts of Internet content and traffic at line speed.

“F5’s next generation offering is right on target in solving customer concerns,” said Cindy Borovick, program manager, data center networks at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. “The highest priority for enterprise, dot-coms and service providers is the ability to increase server response times, while simultaneously and efficiently executing advanced application layer functionality.”

According to Chris Archey, F5’s product manager, BIG-IP is the first product of its kind to be delivered using Intel Corp.’s advanced IXP1200 network processor technology integrated through a standard PCI interface.

“The Content Switch is really a new and pretty exciting implementation of brand new technology from Intel in their IXP1200 chip-we’re the first vendor to bring that to market in a real, live production application,” said Archey. “What it will give the customers is really the ‘brains’ and the ‘brawn’. The ‘brains’ is being able to make intelligent decisions based upon what’s being requested-we place those decisions out on the port (16 active, 16 fail-over) — and the ‘brawn’ is we’re totally eclipsing A6 in terms of an architecture.”

BIG-IP combines the attributes of high-performance network processing with the flexibility, intelligence and scalability of a central processor and provides up to 4Gbps total bandwidth which, according to the company, eliminates dataflow bottlenecks. It is designed to enable eBusinesses to deliver advanced Web applications without sacrificing performance, while maintaining high QoS for the end user, said Archey.

According to F5, in addition to its heavy lifting capabilities for high volume sites, F5’s Content Switch incorporates BIG-IP’s software functionality, offering more than twice the number of persistence modes and load balancing features of any other product on the market. It also offers robust security, and the greatest number of fail-over modes to ensure high availability of a site.

“Security has always been one of the high-level features of BIG-IP, we actually have customers using BIG-IP as a firewall,” said Archey. “It is not, in itself, a firewall but it has such strength in security. It ships as a default/deny device so it doesn’t allow any traffic through-you have to start listing the IP addresses or ports you want allowed.”

He added that BIG-IP is an exceptional device for fail-over modes. “The additional fail-over mechanism is we have a network fail-over so the BIG-IP to two active/active pair recognize each other through the network and if one fails the other takes over.”