Test Center guide: Load balancers and Web accelerators
Barracuda, Citrix, Coyote Point, F5, Kemp, and Zeus offerings stretch from no-frills appliances with basic load balancing to kitchen-sink solutions with rule-based traffic management, application security, and application performance optimizations; here's how to pick 'em, based on our tests
How the products stack up
There’s a wide range of capabilities and prices represented here, from the inexpensive but functional Barracuda and Kemp products, to the Coyote Point and Zeus boxes in the middle, to the high-end systems from Citrix and F5. Barracuda and Kemp offer bare-bones load balancing functionality in Intel-based appliances at rock-bottom prices. Coyote Point and Zeus combine good functionality and good value for the price. And Citrix and F5 offer all the functionality anyone could want, but at premium prices.
At the three tiers, Barracuda, Coyote Point, and Citrix offer the best bang for the buck. Barracuda, Kemp, and Zeus are excellent places to start if you’re just looking for fault tolerance and scalability of a basic Web site. F5 stands out from the crowd with superb ease of use, and its programmability and available extra features will make even sophisticated e-commerce sites or corporate application delivery sites easy to create. The Juniper DX line has been discontinued, which goes to show that even excellent products don’t always survive. For a quick, feature by feature comparison of all the products, see the table, "Load balancers and Web accelerators compared."
Barracuda Load Balancer 340 Version 2.1.033
Bottom Line: The Barracuda Load Balancer is a good choice for any organization looking for a low-cost way to move from a single Web server to a Web farm. It has a good basic feature set, including cookie persistence, SSL offloading, and intrusion prevention capabilities. It's not as sophisticated -- or as expensive -- as some competing products.
Citrix NetScaler 8.0
Very Good 8.6
Bottom Line: NetScaler 8.0 offers a very sophisticated suite of load balancing, Web application acceleration, Web application firewall, security, and logging features, at a good price. The system is easy to configure, yet offers the power to create a secure site that gives great response times and reduces loads on Web servers.
Coyote Point Equalizer E550si
Very Good 8.6
Bottom Line: The Equalizer E550si offers a big jump in performance over the previous model at about the same price. With 20 gigabit Ethernet ports, an unlimited number of clusters, and support for more than 8 million simultaneous users, the E550si can support large commercial Web sites with ease, as well as internal Web-based applications that need higher bandwidth.
F5 Networks BIG-IP 6800
Very Good 8.5
Bottom Line: The BIG-IP 6800 is an extremely capable load balancer and Web application optimization engine. It should be scalable enough for even the largest Web application, and offers a depth and breadth of features difficult to equal. Functions such as application firewalling and global load balancing come at additional cost.