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Fast and Good

Although we appreciate switches that process simple requests at lightning speed, we weren't nearly as concerned with rated performance as we were with consistent performance with a full configuration and under heavy loads. Our real-world content and concurrent-session-based test scenario shows these devices' real performance capabilities. No switch we tested matched its advertised performance metrics, mainly because those numbers are pegged using tiny files and multiple requests per connection.

Still, these devices performed over and above CMP's stated needs in terms of concurrent sessions and total throughput, with several products--especially F5's Big-IP 9 Application Switch and NetScaler's 9950 Application Delivery Switch 6.0--showing marked improvement over previous generations. We think they've evolved nicely.

Our biggest concern was CPU utilization. We're comfortable with a 60 percent maximum utilization threshold, but NetScaler's 9950 and Array's TMX3000 failed to stay under the maximum while under load. We noted with interest that though Array's switch fell down completely as its CPU utilization climbed to the 95 percent range, the NetScaler 9950 performed relatively consistently even at 100 percent CPU utilization, as seen during tests with its compression capabilities enabled. Although we appreciate decent performance at such high utilization rates, this makes us nervous because we can't predict capacity based on CPU load. The rest of the products we tested held near 30 percent to 40 percent CPU utilization under load, with spikes in the 60 percent range, which we found perfectly acceptable.

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