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F5 Networks to introduce next-gen traffic manager

F5 Networks will announce its new switch next week, part of efforts to broaden its reach in the market.

F5 Networks will reveal its long-touted next-generation Internet traffic management switch on Tuesday, a device it says will help corporate customers get better performance from their networks.

The latest version of Big-IP has a new operating system that will be used in all upcoming F5 products. The new software packs traffic compression, protection against denial-of-service attacks, TCP/IP rate shaping, Secure Socket Layer acceleration, IPv6 translation, cookie encryption, authentication support and several other features into a single device.

Apart from the promise of better network performance, the device is also intended to reduce complexity and equipment costs by consolidating functions into one box, according to the company.

Many of the new features found in the new Big-IP product are available in products from competing vendors. NetScaler has supported traffic compression for more than two years. The company has also focused on accelerating all IP traffic, as opposed to focusing solely on Web-based HTTP traffic.

Radware, another competitor, also offers a consolidated architecture. As does F5, it also supports content acceleration, connection optimization, traffic compression, rate shaping, DOS attack protection, SSL encryption and an application firewall.

"There are other consolidated traffic management products on the market," said Jason Needham, the firm's senior product manager. "But we have built an entirely new architecture that will bring these functions together not just for Web traffic but for all IP traffic."

F5 Networks was a pioneer in the traffic management market when it introduced its load balancing switch in the late 1990s. Back then, load balancers were used solely to balance traffic between Web servers. More recently, this class of product has evolved to manage other types of traffic, including non-Web-based applications.

F5 and its competitors have also put more emphasis on security. In June, F5 bought MagniFire, an application firewall start-up, for $29 million in cash. Last year, it bought uRoam, which makes a product to connect remote computers to corporate networks using Secure Sockets Layer encryption.

"There has been a change over the last couple of years as companies have redefined product areas and strengths," said Erik Suppiger, an analyst with Pacific Growth Equities. "They've moved beyond just Web load balancing to be more application-centric."

The new product comes in three versions, priced from $16,995 to $34,995.