Redline Revs Up Performance Claims

Startup claims its new application processor is super-fast, but details are thin on the ground

June 14, 2004

4 Min Read
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Redline Networks Inc. today unveiled its new, high-end application processor: the E/X 3670, which it claims offers a major performance hike compared to the companys existing products.

The E/X 3670 can be deployed behind a firewall in large corporate data centers to secure Web traffic and applications. But the launch comes at a time when Redline’s competitors are also looking to ramp up the performance of their own products through a combination of high-performance silicon and software enhancements.

The 2U E/X 3670 boasts over 10,000 new SSL connections per second, Redline says. If true, that's a major improvement on the company’s next largest device, the E/X 3650, which handles 1,600 new SSL sessions per second. The new device can also handle 100,000 simultaneous SSL connections, Redline claims.

The catch is that the machine has yet to be independently tested, so there's really no way to know whether it goes as fast as the vendor says. And in an industry segment characterized by intense competition and serious marketing braggadocio, it's always a good idea to take performance claims like Redline's with a pinch of sodium chloride.

Craig Stouffer, vice president of marketing at Redline admits that the company's internal testing has so far been "limited to a couple of hundred thousand [connections]." But he doesn't see that as a problem; in fact, his spin is that the product could potentially support a higher number of connections. [Ed. note: Sure. And it could potentially stabilize the Venezuelan Bolivare.]Redline also won't go into details on why its product is so darn tootin' fast. According to the Campbell, Calif.-based company, a mysterious new "OEM design" used for the E/X 3670's processor, as well as enhanced software drivers, are behind these improvements. Redline was unwilling to provide any information on the new chip, although the firm already uses technology from Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) and nCipher Ltd. elsewhere in its product line.

One company that has been subjected to independent scrutiny is NetScaler Inc. An independent test of SSL VPN gateways conducted earlier this year by Heavy Reading, found that its 9500 device could cope with up to 58,000 users at one time -- the highest load of any system in the test (see The Lowdown on SSL VPNs ).

In January, NetScaler launched its new high-end products, the NS9900 and NS9950. These are capable of at least 240,000 concurrent SSL connections, a figure that has been verified by customers, according to NetScaler. However, executives at the company say that this figure will increase to 480,000 connections thanks to a new sofware, code-named K2, that will be available within the next month.

On paper, Redline's E/X 3670 has the edge over the NS9900 and NS9950 in terms of "new" SSL connections: the NetScaler boxes can handle 9,000 per second. However, Mark Weiner, vice president of worldwide marketing at NetScaler confirmed that his company is working on processor enhancements to boost performance in this area. NetScaler already has a close relationship with Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and uses Xeon chips in its range of products.

Michael Kennedy, managing partner of Network Strategy Partners LLC, says that all these performance improvements are hardly surprising. He says, “Generally speaking, all the system suppliers are following the basic price performance of the underlying hardware...“The trick is to make sure that your architecture is a modular one so that you don’t have to start over from scratch when a new processor comes along."

F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV), another company playing in this space, is also hard at work developing new technology. Code-named "Buffalo Jump," the combination of new hardware and software is currently being tested, prior to a fourth-quarter launch.

Dan Matte, F5's senior VP of product management and marketing says, “We’re demonstrating in live scenarios something that leapfrogs [Redline’s announcement] significantly in terms of performance in transactions per second or simultaneous connections.”

But, for now, according to the specs, Redline has the edge in terms of new SSL connections per second. F5 Networks’ BIG-IP 5100 application switch can handle 4,000 new connections.

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-gen Data Center Forum0

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