F5 Networks ARX Platform Removes Chaos From Enterprise Storage

Managing enterprise disk storage is difficult. F5 is reducing this burden with the ARX Series, a family of appliances that abstract physical file storage from logical user access using virtualization.

By: Frank Ohlhorst dnu

Many IT professionals are wondering if the exponential growth of disk storage and the associated management chores will ever slow down. Regrettably, for those charged with the day-to-day administration of enterprise storage, the answer is likely no.

Several factors are forcing the growth of storage pools, ranging from basic drivers, such as robust applications, to more complex factors, such as "big data" analytics, compliance requirements and disaster recovery. Simply put, storage is growing with no end in sight, and management is becoming more complex and time-consuming. That all adds up to higher costs, reduced efficiencies and longer backup windows.

F5 Networks thinks it has an answer to that dilemma (and several others) in the form of its appliance-based ARX storage virtualization platform, which focuses on abstracting physical file storage from its native, closed, management tools and virtualizing it into a centrally managed, easy-to-control layer. With an entry price of around $30,000, ARX combines several capabilities that make it a welcome addition to any large enterprise network that is struggling with storage issues.

Of course, F5 Networks isn't the only player in the storage virtualization game. Vendors ranging from FalconStore to RedHat to even Microsoft (with the forthcoming Windows Server 8) have products that can be classified under the storage virtualization realm. However, what makes F5's product really interesting is that ARX does this without having to make any changes to the original storage devices or management software. It leaves well enough alone and raises virtualized storage to its own layer, which can be centrally managed with ease.

The real trick here is that the ARX works as an intelligent proxy, converting abstracted, generalized storage access requests into something that a native storage solution can understand. Operating like a file storage "router," the ARX is able to provide universal access to heterogeneous storage without impacting performance or forcing changes to the underlying storage technologies. What's more, ARX brings additional functionality to existing storage solutions by allowing the creation of dynamic pools, storage tiers and so on.