Load balancers from F5 Networks and Zeus Technology tip the scales
F5 BIG-IP and Zeus ZXTM traffic managers offer choice between polish and price
The application security option deserves special mention. The ASM is the newest offering for the BIG-IP platform. Based on F5’s TrafficShield application firewall, ASM adds sophisticated application security features that go far beyond HTTP filtering. Like a good firewall, the application is automatically updated by F5 as new threats are identified, and the included rule sets cover many Web applications.
The BIG-IP is an extremely capable and sophisticated load balancer and Web application delivery appliance, with high capacity and great ease of use. You may not need the capacity unless you have a large intranet with lots of Web apps, but many companies are heading in that direction.
Zeus ZXTM 7000
The ZXTM 7000 is based on a 2U server chassis with dual Opteron CPUs, running a hardened version of Linux. This means that you can easily add additional Ethernet ports or an SSL acceleration board if desired. Although the four 10/100/1000 ports may look paltry compared with the 20 ports of the BIG-IP, most organizations don’t have even one gigabit of throughput on their Internet connection yet. The ZXTM 7000 is also considerably less expensive than the BIG-IP, with more features included in the base price.
Installation is simple. There are wizards to enable the beginner to get running quickly with a simple virtual server configuration, as well as command-line access for hardened admins who prefer scripting things.
The ZXTM has an extensive feature set. In addition to load balancing, you get SSL off-load, compression, TCP optimization, HTML rewriting, application-aware persistence, HTTP filtering for application security, and support for XML/SOAP traffic in the base package. Options include service-level monitoring, bandwidth management, content caching, and a FIPS Level 3-certified SSL acceleration card.
The ZXTM 7000 offers excellent performance and a strong feature set. Because it can be clustered up easily to 64 appliances, it also offers a way to start relatively small and scale as your application grows.
BIG-IP or Little Zeus
The BIG-IP has some sophisticated features, such as the security module, that offer more capability and easier configuration than the corresponding features in the Zeus product, but this sophistication comes at a higher cost. If you’re willing to trod the slightly rougher path to getting the Zeus system configured, it will do most of the things the BIG-IP will do. If you already have an application firewall appliance, both products offer comparable performance up to the limit of their number of ports. The BIG-IP will be a better choice if you have a large intranet with lots of users accessing Web-based applications. For a company that has maxed out its single Web server and is looking to get started, the ZXTM offers a lower starting price, but with the capability to scale out in the future.