F5 Networks Launches 5G Portfolio To Ready Cloud-Native Architectures For New Services

‘We‘re taking our multi-cloud and multi-app skillsets and applying it to the 5G service-based architecture,’ F5’s James Feger tells CRN.


F5 Networks is applying its application expertise to get ahead of the move to 5G and edge computing and help service providers and enterprises keep secure, while bringing new services to bear.

The application delivery specialist on Tuesday revealed its 5G portfolio with the introduction of two new products; BIG-IP Service Proxy for Kubernetes (SPK) and Carrier-Grade Aspen Mesh, two infrastructure offerings that can support the deployment and operation of cloud-native 5G standalone core networks, said James Feger, vice president and general manager of F5‘s Service Provider segment.

“The goal here is to help our customers ease into 5G, and specifically, for Kubernetes environments for cloud-native edge computing that [service providers and enterprises] are planning to deploy,” Feger told CRN.

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SPK, which will be available at the end of 2020, acts as a gateway in and out of Kubernetes environments. The service proxy offers broad 4G and 5G signaling protocols support that allows service providers to transition to 5G while also maintaining existing 4G services, customers, and billing systems. SPK also provides a per-service secure proxy and Kubernetes cluster firewall for control and protection for inter-cluster traffic flowing into and out of the core 5G services, and it automates Kubernetes service discovery and policy configuration for reduced complexity.

Aspen Mesh, on the other hand, will offer observability, application performance, security and control for traffic visibility within and between Kubernetes clusters. Additional features also include Kubernetes packet capture capabilities with Aspen Mesh Packet Inspector for advanced troubleshooting and meeting lawful intercept requirements, according to Seattle-based F5.

As carriers move to 5G, there‘s a shift from traditional hardware to software and container-based environments. F5’s new solutions will help providers build their new infrastructure on Kubernetes and deploy it at the core, edge, and “far edge” environments, Feger said.

“It‘s going to allow them to operate an elastic, software-based infrastructure where they can offer new services in 5G …. Like IoT, smart offices, and even private 5G for enterprises,” he said.

Kubernetes and container-based environments weren’t originally designed for telco workloads, Feger said. One of the risks is that service providers could lose some of the traffic visibility they’re accustomed to when moving to containers, he added.

To address these concerns, SPK is a service proxy at the ingress and egress of the container pods, which will allow providers to have deep security and traffic management they have today. “This is obviously critically important to them as they seek to move into these new kinds of environments,” Feger said. ”It‘s something that hasn’t been solved before.”

F5 partners that serve small service providers or large enterprises will be able to add the software-based SDK and Aspen Mesh to help with their Kubernetes or cloud-native deployments for 5G, he said.

“These should feel like just another great software offering [to partners],” Feger said.

SPK and Aspen Mesh are both being tested in production environments with customers around the world, according to F5.

“We‘re taking our multi-cloud and multi-app skill sets and applying it to the 5G service-based architecture,” he said. “It’s very different than what service providers have operated in the past.”