F5 Networks this week is expected to announce three updates to its BIG-IP family of data center and WAN traffic-control devices; on tap are 10G Ethernet upgrades for F5's data-center switches and advanced traffic-shaping features for the vendor's wide-area load balancing and WAN-link optimization products.F5's BIG-IP 8400 is the company's largest-scale Layer 4-7 switch, letting users consolidate massive amounts of data-center server links and provide traffic load balancing and services such as SSL acceleration and Layer 7 application switching at 10Gbps.New versions of F5's BIG-IP Global Traffic Manager and BIG-IP Link Controller introduce features that can help a business fail-over customer traffic among data centers, or improve the performance of sites hooked into multiple carrier connections.The BIG-IP 8400 includes 12 Gigabit Ethernet and two 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports that can process IP packets with Layer 4-7 switching features without degrading traffic throughput, according to F5. The company says it is able to do this by offloading specific Layer 4-7 tasks - such as SSL acceleration, cookie inspection and denial-of-service attack-prevention features - to ASICs, which are specialized processors inside the device.The 8400 would be deployed in a data center, attaching multiple server links via its Gigabit Ethernet ports, with the 10G uplinks connecting to a data-center core switch, such as a large chassis from 3Com, Alcatel, Cisco, Nortel or Foundry Networks.It competes with products such as Foundry's ServerIron GT (announced last week with 10G interfaces), as well as 10G-capable load balancers from Cisco, Citrix (Netscaler), Nortel (Alteon) and Radware. The box is priced at $77,000, with 10G Ethernet optics costing $3,500 per port extra.A new version of F5's Global Traffic Manager (GTM) includes features that let the box do a better job of tying together disparate applications or services used in service-oriented architecture and portal-based applications, F5 says. Past GTM products were used just to boost the performance of traffic failover among primary and back-up data center sites or mirrored Web server farms.F5 says the GTM performs faster and more efficient redirection than basic Border Gateway Protocol redirect functions in Cisco routers.A new management interface lets users tie together applications located at separate data centers that may belong to one Web portal or dashboard application. This Distributed Application Management feature lets administrators manage connectivity and access for the piece parts of a Web portal as if it were a single application, F5 says. The device costs $27,000.F5 also is introducing a new version of its Link Controller. This device, which is used to optimize multihome connections to multiple carriers, such as T-1 links from AT&T and MCI terminated on the same router. Multihome links let organizations boost bandwidth to the Internet, while offering redundancy in case of a carrier network outage.F5 is adding features commonly found on WAN optimization boxes from Cisco, Citrix, Juniper and SilverPeak. F5's Link Controller now can add traffic shaping and compression as well as TCP session termination.The additional features could help businesses increase the performance of traffic on multihome links in addition to managing the availability to the links, F5 says. The Link Controller costs $15,000.