Networks Generation

Sep 11 2009   3:13PM GMT

Load-Balancer On A Stick

Steve Broadhead Steve Broadhead Profile: Steve Broadhead

F5 Networks
Load balancing
Traffic management

Terry Pratchett created rat on a stick for his Discworld novels, but my mates at jetNEXUS have gone one better with a load-balancer on a stick…

…in the sense of a USB stick, or CD if you prefer. For the relevance of this, let’s back-track a little. The first L-B product I tested, back in 1999, was the Arrowpoint chassis-based product that cost a cool $125,000 – each. It cost Cisco even more, when they splashed out $5.7bn for that company a couple of months after my test. For the record, that product is now rubbish.

However, we should note that a decent spec server in those days from HP or similar also cost a pretty penny or two. Thus, it was that someone like NetScaler could still charge just south of $100,000 per L-B device, so $200K for a redundant pair, as recently as 2004. And they were a relative bargain at just $300m to Citrix. And, for the record, that still is a good product, just expenisive, as are those from my mates at F5.

In the UK we have Zeus – whose latest product I will be testing very shortly, so watch this space – which undercuts its US rivals on price:performance, but it’s not everyone who needs an L-B (or Traffic Management/Application Delivery Controller etc) product that does 30,000 SSL transactions per second.

Moreover, the cost of server real estate has fallen dramatically since the heady days of the dot com boom, so it is not reasonable now to demand mega-money for an L-B solution if it’s simply cheaper to add more servers and other forms of redundancy.

So, enter jetNEXUS and the L-B on a stick. The premise is thus: got some old servers that are doing time as a temporary coffee table or simply ticking over without really having an active role to play in your IT shop? So, take a bootable stick or disk from jetNEXUS with its ALB code on it, boot from the disk and watch your old server turn into a load-balancer in a matter of minutes. Key in an IP address and you’re away. No mega money required, no weeks of training required, just basic networking skills.

How cool is that?

We tried it with a couple of “retired” servers randomly picked from jetNEXUS’ official dusty corner of the machine room and they were magically turned into a redundant pair of L-Bs 10 minutes later, for miles less than the cost of an entry-level product from aforementioned US vendors.

So, if you’ve got some old servers gathering dust, you know where to go – just checkout – a full report will also be appearing on the Broadband-Testing website shortly.


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