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Holy hardware, Batman! It's the 'superbox'

Two recent announcements illustrate "superbox" trend--powerful tech packaging in a single device, says analyst Jon Oltsik.

I've been following a trend in the industry. The combination of dirt-cheap high-speed processors and a global pool of software development talent has led to some unbelievably powerful technology packaging into a single hardware device. The old industry name for this type of system was "god box." But this term doesn't pass the politically correct stamp of approval anymore, so I will eschew it henceforth and use "superbox" instead.

Anyway, there were two product announcements this week that truly demonstrate this superbox trend, pushing the performance envelope to new levels. The first is a new gateway security device from Cisco Systems that goes by the catchy name the ASA 5580 series. Common industry wisdom used to be that Cisco couldn't compete on performance, but this is an absolute myth these days. The ASA 5580 screams at performance rates of up to 150,000 firewall connections per second and runs at 10-gigabit throughput. This is just industry-speak to most of us, but I can tell you that large enterprises, e-businesses, and Internet service providers will welcome the bang for the buck they can get out of a box like this. Look for Cisco to really target the Check Point base with this screamer.

The other super system comes from F5 Networks, with the introduction of its Viprion platform. To me, this system resembles a supercomputer in that it can balance the load of any application acceleration service (caching, traffic shaping, Secure Sockets Layer processing, etc.) across multiple 8-core processors. What does this mean? Lower costs, flatter networks, flexibility, and lightning-fast application performance--great news for organizations that depend upon massive Web-based applications.

These two firms are not unique: others like A10 Networks, Extreme Networks, and Nortel Networks come to mind. I guess Scott McNealy's vision of a "big honkin' Web switch" is closer than we think.