Layer 7 is not the first SOA security gateway vendor to release its product as a virtual appliance; Vordel has been doing the same since earlier this year. However, virtualization was a much less significant step for Vordel because its VS3000 was already available as software designed to run on standard server hardware. Indeed, the Vordel appliance is simply a blade server preloaded with the software and optimized to run it.
In Vordel's view, the main benefit of hardware over software is simply additional resources: The Vordel VS3000 appliance gives the software its own dedicated server, rather than having to share CPU cycles with unneeded OS services and, potentially, other software.
Layer 7's SecureSpan box is also based on a blade server, but unlike Vordel's VS3000 it contains dedicated XML acceleration silicon from Tarari, making it a close competitor to Cisco Systems' Reactivity and IBM's DataPower.
VMware can't emulate the Tarari chip, so Layer 7's road to virtualization been slightly lengthened. But its effort seems worthwhile—adapting SecureSpan to run without the custom chip means Layer 7 can also launch a non-virtualized software version of the product, able to run on commodity hardware and competing directly with products from Vordel and Xtradyne.