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Switch software reduces WAN costs

Foundry's new software provides creative measures for reducing WAN costs. One analyst says it's an ideal alternative to inefficient traditional techniques.

Foundry Networks Inc. has unveiled new software enhancements in its ServerIronXL family of application switches, giving enterprises an opportunity to cut down on costly wide area network (WAN) utilization.

San Jose, Calif.-based Foundry gave its ServerIronXL TrafficWorks Link Load Balancer software a face-lift with new WAN traffic management features, which are part of the Layer 4-7 services supported on the ServerIronXL stackable switches.

Gopala Tumuluri, product manager for Foundry's Layer 4-7 products, said the new features on version 7.4.01 reduce enterprise WAN costs, improve service availability and trim application response time.

Tumuluri said the cost-efficiency is accomplished by intelligent traffic distribution over multiple IP links. In essence, the link load balancer's intelligence prioritizes IP applications and groups of applications with different bandwidth commitments, which give network admins control of expensive Internet access link utilization.

"This is what happens with those that aggregate their link capacity across all the traffic without really segregating it: their non-critical traffic grows and they are forced to buy more capacity," Tumuluri added. "Our link load balancer eliminates the tendency to overshoot your bandwidth and overpay your ISP."

Foundry's link load balancer sets multiple parameters for prioritization, including overall network health, roundtrip response time, link cost and bandwidth utilization to control and optimize traffic distribution across multiple WAN connections.

Backup links and link groups can also be configured for seamless and automatic takeover in the event of a link or link group outage.

According to Eric Siegel, senior analyst with Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group, the link load balancer has improved bandwidth usage compared to the classical technique of using Border Gateway Protocol-4 (BGP-4).

BGP-4 is intended to distribute traffic across links to multiple Internet service providers, but according to Foundry, BGP-4 was not designed to optimize traffic across multiple links, or perform active network health checks to determine the availability of the destination network or destination server.

"BGP-4 does not provide the level of control, failover performance and link optimization achievable with the ServerIronXL Link Load Balancer," Foundry said in a statement.

Foundry claims the link load balancer provides bandwidth control for up to 300 Mbps of application throughput, which is the equivalent of six T3 or two OC-3 WAN links used with traditional techniques.

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Siegel said link load balancers, such as Foundry's, are an excellent way for an enterprise to improve its WAN connections.

"The performance and availability of the public Internet has greatly improved over the past years, and many enterprises are beginning to use the public Internet as part of their internal backbones," Siegel said. "These link load balancers help ensure excellent, cost-effective performance."

Siegel indicated that WAN traffic management and control is important to enterprises. Many are putting more pressure on their WAN with consolidation of data centers, new applications such as VoIP and the continuing need to cut costs.

Foundry competes with Cisco Systems Inc., Extreme Networks Inc. and several other networking equipment vendors, and now has about 7,000 customers worldwide.

The new software is currently available free of charge for existing customers with support contracts. This software is also available as a free download to new ServerIronXL customers. ServerIronXL application switches start at $8,995.

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