Dell applies software-based load balancing to Internet appliances

ITworld.com –

Dell Computer Corp. plans to make another big move into the Internet appliance server market Tuesday by launching a PowerApp Big-IP server line that uses F5 Networks's Linux-based load-balancing software. The Dell systems are front-end solutions intended to parcel out a Website's user requests and send them to appropriate systems on a Web server farm.

Dell's Karl Chen described PowerApp Big-IP's target market as the Internet traffic and content management space. Chen, director of product marketing for Dell's Internet Server Products Group, said its main competition will be load-balancing alternatives supported by router-switch makers such as Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks (which recently said it would purchase player Alteon WebSystems), and Foundry Networks.

Chen said Dell's F5-based offering differs from the others "because it uses software to provide load-balancing."

"Switching manufacturers support load balancing in hardware, using ASIC 'Application Specific Integrated Circuit'-based means," said Chen. "They need to respin the hardware to update 'their load-balancing algorithms'."

"The software approach is more scalable as you build bigger Web farms," he said. "You can just add appliances, as opposed to adding and reconfiguring switches in a network."

The new Dell server comes preconfigured and contains F5 Networks's Big-IP Controller software for managing Internet content and traffic. The software can provide intelligent load balancing across Web server farms - it routes incoming requests to servers that can best respond, thus eliminating single points of failure when accessing data from Websites.

As faster processors come on line, the Internet content management sector could support more software-based load-balancing alternatives. The overall worldwide appliance server market is expected to reach more than 2 million units by 2003, representing revenue of about $7.9 billion, according to IDC.

Includes reporting by Christie Vincent, ITworld.com

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