Zeus Technology has updated its Zeus Extensible Traffic Manager (ZXTM) to integrate better with emerging data centre technologies such as virtualisation and service-oriented architectures. ZXTM version 4 includes a new control API, allowing it to drive - or be driven by - other applications or devices.

Another key enhancement is web content caching with the ability to serve different versions of the same page to different users, for example one for logged-in customers and another for casual browsers, said Zeus CTO and co-founder Damian Reeves.

He added that the control API, which uses XML and SOAP, will be vital as more data centres adopt virtualisation. For example, it could allow ZXTM to request additional or larger virtual servers as application loads increase, or to push policy changes to an IPS if it detects an application-based attack.

ZXTM combines a number of functions formerly done separately, such as application performance management, load balancing, security and traffic acceleration, Reeves said. It sits on the border between a company's network and the Internet, processing Web application traffic as it passes by, but it is not designed to optimise traffic between offices, nor are there specific acceleration modules for typical enterprise applications.

He added that although ZXTM also handles tasks such as TCP acceleration, its primary focus is the application layer, layer 7: "It is putting business logic into the network fabric, for example companies increasingly want to deliver differentiated services. We still need to do everything beneath as well, but those layers have commoditised now."

Differentiated services might mean providing one level of service for an online shopper in the process of paying for goods, and another for those still browsing, he explained.

"We're seeing virtualisation take-up now, and when you wire virtual machines into server management you get an order of magnitude increase in network complexity," he added. "Then there's service-oriented architecture, which is a new way to design applications as components, all of which need to communicate with each other securely and reliably, which also increases network complexity.

"So we're looking at wiring our edge devices into utility computing - application acceleration is a management and configuration challenge now, it's not how fast you can move data any more."