F5 Networks last week announced it had revamped its Big-IP traffic management line to include more application acceleration and compression features in one box. The news has already got at least one competitor making a case for their product.The new Big-IP appliances and the software running on it, F5's Traffic Management Operating System (TM\/OS), have been redesigned to track more than just application packets, F5 says. The appliances will monitor application traffic flows bi-directionally (on the server and on the client), and the software will be able to add relevance to the traffic reporting because it is looking at more than just the overall packet - it is also reading its content.That means the software will be able to apply pre-defined policies on the request and response sides. It also means that the software will help the switch associate packets with certain applications and identify common conversations between clients and servers, according to F5."The product will remember the contents of the packet, not just know its header source and destination, and make intelligent decisions based on that," says Erik Giesa, vice president of product management at F5.While F5 worked for the past few years on updating its architecture to offer this type of application proxy capabilities, one competitor says it already does this level of application traffic management.NetScaler earlier this year introduced its 9000 and 9300 series of appliances, which include a Layer 4-7 packet inspection engine, which can balance loads among different servers based on high-level packet data. NetScaler this year introduced AppCompress, AppCache and AppExpert features on the appliances, which the company says allow it to perform more capabilities that its competitor."NetScaler is now shipping its new AppCompress functionality, which provides the ability to accelerate all TCP-based applications, not just HTTP traffic, since the traffic traversing enterprise networks are comprised of both Web- and non-Web application data," a NetScaler spokesman said. "NetScaler has offered features including compression, TCP offloading, [denial-of-service] attack protection that F5 is just now adding, and other capabilities, such as caching for dynamic application data, that F5\u2026\u00a0 still doesn't offer."For its part, F5 says its products\u2019 differentiators include a lights-out management capability provided via an additional port on the appliance that lets network managers access the box and take it offline in case of a failure. The company also says its TM\/OS platform helps its products scale better than other application delivery products from competitors such as Foundry Networks, Radware, Redline Networks and NetScaler.