RE: NLB Recommendations

I have experience with F5 BigIP, Foundry, Cisco CSS, Nortel Alteon and
the Inkra VSS.

F5 is great for ease of use. It's built on BSD, so the CLI is exactly
unix with special commands to manipulate the load balancing features. I
think you can only used this box in routed-mode LB, but someone speak up
if you can use it in bridged-mode. They have an iRule feature where
you can filter and route traffic based on many parameter, such as
various http headers. If you have a lot of layer 7 switching to do, you
can configure it easily on the F5. Their support, however, needs work.
I haven't called in a year, so it may have improved.

The Foundry is very good at many sessions per second. I've used these
mostly in DSR (direct server return) mode and have had good luck with
them. For basic layer 4 switching they're very good. I've never used
any layer 7 features on the Foundry. Foundry's documentation needs
help, though.

The Cisco Content Services Switch is ok, but overpriced. I don't care
for the interface. I've never loaded this one up, so I'm not sure how
it performs under heavly load.

The Nortel Alteon is pretty good. I've seen some odd issues with the
VMA architecture, but they're usually addressed in the latest patch.
The cli takes a burn-in period, but once you know it you can fly on the
box. Configuring layer 7 features can be cryptic, however. Use they're
application guides for help. I've used the Alteon in routed-mode and
bridged-mode load balancing.

Lastly, the Inkra. I've been using the Inkra for a few years, but it's
relatively new compared to the others listed above. They market it as a
virtual services switch which means it not only does load balancing, but
also firewall, ssl acceleration, ids/idp, etc. We've seen big
improvements in the past six months with load balancing performace due
to the release of 2.0 code. I'm eagerly awaiting their 3.0 due out in
mid summer.
NOTE: I may be biased since the company I work for has been helping
Inkra develop and test it for several years.

You may want to join the list for more load balancing
advice and help.