F5 Unveils Big-IP 11.4 to Help Scale Application Networks

F5's software platform and ScaleN architecture enable application delivery infrastructures to leverage the cloud and SDN.

F5 Networks officials are looking to make it easier for enterprises and service providers to scale their application delivery networks into the cloud and to extend those infrastructures to support emerging trends such as software-defined networking.

The company on July 16 released the latest version of its Big-IP software platform that enables organizations to better integrate their application delivery environments with software-defined networks (SDNs) through support for virtualization, and introduced its new iCall technology, which automates event-driven policy decisions in the network.

At the same time, F5 refreshed its Big-IP hardware portfolio and broadened the hypervisor support in its Big-IP virtual editions.

The goal is to create a portfolio of unified physical and virtual products that can help organizations scale their application delivery networks to meet the growing demands of virtualization, SDN and on-demand computing, according to Alan Murphy, director of enterprise marketing architecture at F5.

Pinning it all together is the company's ScaleN architecture, which F5 officials introduced more than two years ago with the rollout of Big-IP 11.0, Murphy told eWEEK. The ScaleN architecture dynamically and automatically allocates resources to help systems scale in both physical and virtual environments as needed. ScaleN will help find the best route for an application, and then move it through that route.

"ScaleN is the brains and the brawn behind all the scaling that we do," Murphy said.

Now F5 is offering new and enhanced technologies that employ the ScaleN architecture. Big-IP 11.4 supports SDN platforms by leveraging VMware's VXLAN technology and Network Virtualization using Generic Routing Encapsulation (NVGRE), a network virtualization technology designed to address scalability issues in large cloud deployments and backed by Microsoft.

SDNs are designed to separate the network intelligence from the underlying physical hardware, creating networks that are more scalable, flexible and programmable, and putting them more on a par with the increasingly virtualized server and storage areas of the data center. Murphy said interest in SDNs among organizations is growing, though he added that some businesses are wrestling with how to factor it in with other data center demands.

F5's platform also can support cloudbursting into cloud environments, and hybrid cloud models where public or private cloud environments can be leveraged. The company is offering more flexible licensing of Big-IP products, enabling users to buy only those resources they need.

The iCall technology from F5 builds on what the company already has with iRules. Using iRules, customers can determine how they want to manage applications and networks based on policies and user commands. With iCall, they now can enable the Big-IP products to dynamically react based on what's going on in the application delivery network at that moment, without user intervention. iCall also works with other orchestration software, and can react to changes the application and networking environments.

iCall is integrated with the company's Application Visibility and Reporting (AVR) software, which gathers the data that is running through the Big-IP environment and makes that information available to the software, and iCall can ensure the necessary resources are available for that application.

F5 also refreshed its midrange hardware platforms with the Big-IP 5000 and 7000 series systems. In addition, the company will offer 5-gigabit-per-second throughput for Big-IP virtual editions.