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Optical/IP

Foundry Fortifies Layers 4-7

Foundry Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FDRY) today launched a set of Layers 4-7 products aimed at forging a lead in the high end of that market, with an additional emphasis on security.

The stars of the pack are two new chassis-based boxes, the four-slot ServerIron 450 and eight-slot ServerIron 850. Each can be outfitted with 10-Gbit/s Ethernet ports and can fit increased numbers of Gigabit Ethernet ports -- up to 16 Gigabit Ethernet ports or 48 10/100 Ethernet ports per slot.

This doubles the Gigabit Ethernet density of the ServerIron family, a step Foundry sees as important due to the increased acceptance of Gigabit Ethernet in the enterprise. "More and more server farms are gig-connected today," says Gopala Tunuluri, Foundry's product line manager for multilayer switching.

Foundry counts size among its advantages, claiming to have the only chassis-level system dedicated to Layers 4-7 processing. "These are not switches that were originally developed for Layer 2-3 switching with a blade that slides in to support Layer 4-7," Tunuluri says.

Foundry is also releasing the ServerIron GT family of fixed-configuration stackable devices, 1.5 rack units high, in four- or 12-port Gigabit Ethernet formats. The GT boxes and the new chassis systems all run on a new version of Foundry's homespun network processor.

In both cases, Foundry is emphasizing the potential for security applications. The GT boxes, for example, can switch packets based on application information, making them useful as firewalls, either to block certain external traffic or to keep internal traffic separated between departments.

Other major changes announced today come in the form of enhancements to Foundry's TrafficWorks software. Foundry added policy-based server load balancing, expected to be used as a spam-control feature, and added security to DNS.

Foundry also tweaked TrafficWorks to support more protocols, going beyond HTTP and XML. In particular, the company added support for the Financial Information Exchange (FIX) protocol, used by securities firms to transmit real-time trading data. The TrafficWorks enhancements can be applied to the older ServerIron 100, 400, and 800 as well.

In the Layers 4-7 space, particularly when it comes to load balancing, Foundry competes with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV), Radware Ltd. (Nasdaq: RDWR), and the Alteon products acquired by Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT).

But Foundry's not the king yet. Based on Dell'Oro Group’s fourth-quarter 2003 market-share results, Nortel's Alteon switches were number one in the Layers 4-7 server load-balancing (SLB) switch segment and in the Layers 4-7 SLB Gigabit Ethernet segment for the fourth quarter and the full year 2003 (see Nortel Scores Well in Reports).

Competitor Radware was less than overwhelmed by the Foundry announcement. "They are obviously addressing what the general public are looking for, but quite frankly, they are not one of the early comers to this game," says Michael Rothschild, senior manager for project management at Radware. "We have been doing stuff on the security side since 1999, when we came out with the FireProof."

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading and — James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-gen Data Center Forum

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