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Sun Unveils Application Switch for Servers

Looking to provide additional management and security for its enterprise servers, Sun Microsystems unveiled the Sun Secure Application Switch N2000 Series.

Based on technology from its Nauticus Networks acquisition, Sun officials promise the switch will provide dramatic improvements in availability, performance and security for distributed network applications.

Josh Weiss, vice president of Sun's Network Systems Group and former Nauticus CEO, said Sun's Secure Application Switch improves the resource utilization of servers at the edge of the data center, helping clients overcome the challenge of providing network and security services.

The switch monitors all incoming and outgoing traffic passing through the system, including encrypted data. Such inspection can help thwart potential attacks. The device filters out malformed packets, Denial-of-Service attacks and other application-level threats, Weiss said.

Introduced as part of Sun's quarterly product launch, the switch supports SSL at over 12,500 connections per second and application-level firewalling to allow deep content processing and analysis. These features make sure traffic going to the servers is safe and acceptable.

Weiss said the application switch is 10 times as powerful than switches from rivals F5 Networks and Alteon for nearly all network applications running on systems using SPARC and AMD Opteron chips. It also provides virtualization capabilities that dovetail with Sun's Solaris 10 containers and high-end Sun Fire servers.

"We have the ability to partition the functions into secure partitions where you have unique policies and load-balancing algorithms for each application all coming out of one singular box," Weiss told internetnews.com. This boosts server utilization.

Weiss said customers using F5 or Alteon need a single instance of a box for each application.

The product isn't as exciting by itself as it is working in conjunction with Sun's core platform products. Using E*Trade as an example of a company that provides a horizontally scaled application, Weiss said the switch can tell the N1 Grid technology to provision more servers to a domain to help E*Trade applications scale.

That new system can be a container on a very large symmetric system. With Solaris, users could provision a container as a standby. When the traffic load drops, the newly provisioned system can be dropped.

Weiss said the switch is best used with Sun servers and Opteron chips, but it will work for Windows or Linux.

Sun vies with IBM , HP and Dell in the server space, but none of those companies offer the network virtualization Sun is proposing with the application switch. Instead, Weiss said rival systems vendors usually partner with the small number of application switch vendors to fill their needs.

Analysts believe network intelligence is a key ingredient to help customers scale their data centers. Weiss said the switch is one way Sun demonstrates its goal of selling complete systems instead of "fast boxes."