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F5 ships lightweight cloud load balancer

F5 Networks launches LineRate Point Load Balancer, providing a commercial alternative to open source tools that improve the performance of application services in cloud environments.

F5 Networks introduced a lightweight gateway for delivering Layer 7 load balancing across application services running in public and private cloud environments.

LineRate Point Load Balancer, which is sold through a volume licensing subscription, can be deployed across thousands of application components that have been converted to shared services running on virtual machines.

A service can be a data object like a customer or product, or it can be a functional group of actions that users take when interacting with an application, F5 said. Those actions could include logging in, logging out or search.

Like applications, services can be cloned and pooled in order to handle large numbers of requests. The LineRate cloud load balancer, launched this week, distributes requests across clones to maintain an acceptable level of performance.

"The best way to understand F5's LineRate offering is to think of it as something that is applicable to software-defined cloud data centers that would otherwise consider open source alternatives," IDC analyst Brad Casemore said. "Open source load balancers are used in many cloud service-provider data centers, where commercial load balancers and ADCs [application delivery controllers], such as F5's BIG-IP, often are perceived as too expensive."

Load balancing without features of Big-IP

To fit the software-defined infrastructure of cloud service providers, LineRate Point provides load balancing without many of the features found in Big-IP.

"These sorts of customers, very different from most enterprise customers, are likely to be interested in the cost-effective feature set that LineRate offers," Casemore said.

F5's evolution into the cloud market started in late 2013 when the vendor changed its product architecture starting with Big-IP, which sits in front of servers, firewalls and gateways and manages traffic to all IP-based applications.

The new architecture, dubbed Synthesis, encouraged companies to buy and operate the F5 ADC as a fabric, rather than deploying the technology only in front of the most critical applications.

The fabric approach is better suited for cloud environments and has made the vendor's Big-IQ management platform a much broader orchestration system for Layer 4-7 services. F5 plans to add support for LineRate Point in Big-IQ.

Next Steps

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Would you consider F5's LineRate Point Load Balancer over similar open source tools?
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Unless you're a service provider, I don't know why you'd go with this product. It's great if you're a hosting company, because it's a virtual device, you can deploy one to each of your smaller hosting customers, and you still can work with a large support organization with support and maintenance contracts. But for a single enterprise, they're too small, not terribly scalable, and F5 clearly wants to upgrade you to their higher-end, expensive boxes.
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Agreed. There isn't much in the announcement for enterprises.
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