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Optimized switch evens Web load

HolonTech, partially funded by NEC, is shipping a switch with components intended to balance Internet traffic across several systems.

A market for enhancing the performance and easing the migration to larger Web server farms is forming, with companies using network switch technology to satisfy dueling demands for speed and flexibility.

HolonTech--a new venture partially funded by giant NEC--is an early entrant, shipping a device that combines many of the features found in a typical switch with optimized hardware components and software intended to balance Web site loads across several systems.

The introduction follows a similar launch recently from gigabit-speed Ethernet start-up Alteon Networks, though HolonTech executives feel they have an advantage due to the company's exclusive focus on balancing server loads, rather than supporting other network functions as well.

HolonTech's chief operating officer, Graham Burnette, said the company will carve a niche based on devices that are server system-aware, rather than drilling down to particular connections.

The company currently has about a dozen devices in the field with the target being Web site hosting firms or corporations with a significant online presence, according to Burnette.

Companies are turning to a variety of methods to speed up access times to Web site data, with a plethora of caching systems and server management systems rolling out. Analysts have said the market for these types of products will continue to grow along with the explosion of Web usage.

HolonTech is terming its technology a "load balancer," intended to sit in front of several systems and dole out requests to the appropriate machine.

The company's devices include specialized processors--known as ASICs (application specific integrated circuits)--along with software that distributes requests and supports all IP (Internet protocol)-based transmission methods. The product line, called HyperFlow, is operating system-independent, according to the company.

The initial release of the eight-port HyperFlow SP800 is available now for a list price of $17,995. A 16-port version is due next month, with a list price of $24,995.