starting at $16,995
You may know F5 as a vendor of high-end networking equipment designed to
help network administrators manage the application traffic on their
networks. They've recently introduced a new version of their flagship
Big-IP devices, and I had a few minutes to talk to them about the
What Big-IP does is centralize a lot of different network operations
into a single box that talks to both your servers and the outside world:
SSL acceleration, traffic shaping, load balancing, content acceleration,
firewalling, and more. It does this by implementing full TCP/IP stacks
on both ends, and putting a "Traffic Management Operating System" in
between. This TM/OS is what gives Big-IP the flexibility to respond to
nearly anything about network traffic; it has completely visibility into
the packets as they fly by and can do most anything with them.
To give you the flavor of what Big-IP can do, here are a few of the
reference applications that we chatted about:
- Selectively compressing content based on the speed of the client
connection and the application that they're using on the server end.
- Centralizing authentication and encrypting cookies transparently.
- Caching database result sets so that the database server isn't hung up
waiting for clients at wire speeds.
- Handling SSL connections with no server load at all.
All of this is managed by a slick Web-based GUI that allows the network
administrator to create application profiles and assign particular
virtual servers to use particular profiles. If a new application goes
live, you can create a new profile, or just pick an existing one with
the right characteristics, and have it take advantage of Big-IP's
features very quickly. There's also a programmable network language,
iRules, that allows customization outside of the GUI.
The nice thing about Big-IP from the application developers' point of
view is that we don't have to worry so much about network infrastructure
when designing applications. With all of these features for shaping,
managing, and compressing data, administrators can take even high-
bandwidth applications to the Web safely. Of course, that's not carte
blanche to do things inefficiently, but it does provide some breathing