F5's Latest Big-IP Updates Target SDN, Hybrid Cloud Environments

The latest version -- Big-IP v11.4 -- is the fourth iteration of Big-IP v11, the application delivery software F5 unveiled in 2011. Like the initial release of Big-IP 11, the new Big-IP v11.4, according to F5, was designed to streamline the application delivery process within next-generation data centers, or those employing a mix of hardware, virtual and cloud environments.

"We have all these customers who are trying to use these new technologies as they come into the data center, or they are trying to use off-premise technologies, like those from a cloud provider," explained Alan Murphy, director, Enterprise Marketing Architecture at F5. "And they are having a really difficult time in two areas."

[Related: F5 Networks To Acquire SDN Startup LineRate Systems ]

The first, Murphy said, is simply managing application growth, given the growing number of mobile devices being used in the enterprise. The second pain point, Murphy continued, is controlling or managing applications across hybrid data centers, or those compromised of both on- and off-premise environments.

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Big-IP v11.4 tackles these challenges largely through F5's ScaleN architecture. ScaleN, according to F5, is designed to scale up or scale out to create an elastic application delivery controller (ADC) processing platform that adjusts itself as business needs change. In other words, ScaleN can allocate network resources to a particular application or service when needed and then automatically dial those resources down when they aren't.

"With the v11.4 release, we see the culmination of a lot of work that has gone into ScaleN on the hardware and software side, and we have seen the full realization of what this technology can do," Murphy told CRN. "ScaleN was designed from the ground up to be the scaling mechanism for all of our hardware and software combined."

ScaleN is supported by both F5's physical and virtual application delivery appliances, including the new Big-IP 5000 and 7000 series application controllers rolled out alongside Big-IP v11.4.

Also included in Big-IP v11.4 is F5's new iCall technology. Through integration with F5's Application Visibility and Reporting (AVR) system, iCall allows Big-IP appliances to modify traffic delivery on the fly based on network policies. If a policy, for example, states a certain application, like Microsoft Exchange, should never consume more than 80 percent of a network's resources, iCall is the technology that stores that policy and ensures it's carried out.

"iCall, at its heart, goes back to application visibility," Murphy said.

In addition, Big-IP v11.4 includes native integration for software-defined networking topologies, including VXLAN and NVGR. F5 said it will continue to "expand capabilities" related to the emerging SDN trend. Gary Fish, co-founder and CEO of FishNet Security, a Kansas City, Mo.-based solution provider, said that while the release of Big-IP v11.4 won't immediately impact his business as an F5 partner, it does underscore the industry's shift toward more programmable, software-based data centers.

"The idea of the programmable network is starting to take hold," Fish told CRN. "In reality, I think [adoption] is going to take a little bit, but enhancements like this from manufacturers like F5 will continue to open the door to making this a reality."