Rapid responder

Redline Networks' E|X 3250 combines ease of setup with significant performance boost

Performance is an ongoing issue for any Web site that draws a high volume of traffic. Redline Networks has an appliance that may allow administrators to put off upgrading servers and Internet connections by reducing bandwidth requirements and the load on Web servers.

Rather than caching, the E|X 3250 Web I/O Accelerator appliance compresses and consolidates HTTP traffic, working with any HTTP 1.1 client to deliver all content in the standard HTTP 1.1 compressed format, and squeezing the ten or 20 requests and responses typically needed to deliver a page into a single request.

The E|X 3250 is the enterprise version of the T|X series of accelerators that have been available from Redline Networks for some time. The E|X series adds an Auto-SSL feature that can SSL-enable a complete Web site simply by rewriting all HTTP requests as HTTPS requests.

When we plugged the E|X 3250 into our test site, the results were impressive. Responses to requests for Web pages proved as much as 20 times faster. These significant performance gains, along with the appliance's straightforward setup and configuration, prompted us to award the E|X 3250 our highest rating of Deploy.

How it works

The E|X 3250 has three methods of improving Web site performance. First, for clients that support HTTP 1.1 compression, the E|X 3250 compresses HTTP data in real time. It also filters out non-renderable data, such as comments within the HTML code. 

Second, the E|X 3250 performs multiplexing, consolidating all the sessions from each client into a single session. This greatly reduces TCP/IP overhead, because a typical client/server relationship might involve tens or hundreds of sessions.

And third, by handling SSL encryption and decryption, the E|X 3250 can greatly enhance server performance. Many Web servers can handle ten or fewer new SSL connections per second, while the E|X 3250 can handle 800. The E|X 3250 supports 64 virtual IP addresses and up to 32 servers per virtual IP address, as well as 800 SSL transactions per second, 100 Mbps throughput, and 50,000 simultaneous connections. It supports direct server return connections and persistent connections for e-commerce and similar applications, and does most of this automatically, with little configuration necessary.

Initial setup of the appliance, which requires entering the standard IP information, is accomplished through a serial terminal. After that, the device can be managed via Telnet and the command-line interface or via browser. The E|X 3250 is installed on the same network as the Web server or Web farm – it doesn’t install as a router, just a reverse proxy, so the existing network architecture doesn’t need to be changed. A virtual IP address is created on the E|X 3250 for the Web site, and the DNS entry for the URL is changed to the new address.

Setting up persistent connections and SSL connections is well documented and straightforward. The E|X 3250 can also log actual client IP addresses if necessary, and supports sending log data to a remote syslog server if desired. It supports compression of Web services, including SOAP, and the use of NTLM (NT LanMan) protocol, which is used by Microsoft proxy servers for authentication. The E|X 3250 supports varying levels of permissions, so delegating administration is simple. It comes with a one-year limited warranty that includes toll-free technical support and advance replacement for the first 90 days, return and repair thereafter.

Performance plus

In our testing, Web site performance improved by at least two times, and up to 20 times, depending on the application. Serving a simple page with precompressed JPEG pictures to a few clients resulted in the least improvement, while performing SSL transactions involving complex pages for several hundred clients resulted in a little better than 20 times improvement in response times, compared to using the same Web server without the E|X 3250 enabled. The E|X 3250 also reduced the bandwidth required to deliver content, and with SSL acceleration enabled, server loads dropped substantially. In fact, even a high-powered server will not generally support the 800 SSL sessions per second that the E|X 3250 can handle, at least not without specialized SSL hardware.

Most large Web sites should see substantial improvements in response times and a reduction in bandwidth utilization for a given number of clients, and sites not currently using some form of SSL acceleration will find a great deal of performance enhancement there as well. The Auto-SSL feature is new for Redline Networks, and it offers a simple way to add security to an entire Web site without re-writing code, especially useful on inherently insecure networks such as corporate portals or wireless networks.