F5 Networks Connects Containers, Applications and Cloud in New Update

F5 Networks today is announcing new hardware and software updates to advance its vision of accelerating application delivery. Among the updates are new BIG-IP iSeries hardware and new connector technologies for cloud and containers.

The BIG-IP iSeries is debuting with multiple new appliances including the top-end i7800, which has 96 GB of DDR4 RAM and boasts a maximum throughput of 80 Gbps. In terms of hardware DDoS protection, the i7800 can protect against up to 70 million SYN cookies per second.

Among the new capabilities that is part of the iSeries is a feature that F5 has branded as ‘TurboFlex’. Lori MacVittie, Principal Technical Strategist at F5 explained that TurboFlex allows users to change what functions are accelerated in hardware. TurboFlex also allows users to switch to a different profile as business needs change.

“Usually, hardware assistance with protocol processing or security functions is hardwired when it is manufactured,” MacVittie told EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet. “With TurboFlex, users are able to select what hardware assistance is most appropriate based on the profile they enable (Private Cloud/SDN, ADC, or Security) to improve performance by offloading from CPU to dedicated FPGA chipsets. “

A core part of F5’s update are a pair of new connector technologies. MacVittie noted that the Container Connector is a new feature in BIG-IP v12.1.1, available in all iSeries products.

“It works with Container orchestration tools Mesos/Marathon and Kubernetes to automatically discover new container instances and then provision needed application services.,” MacVittie said.

The overall goal of the Container Connector is to help network administrators cover the container lifecycle, including the ability to provision, scale and remove upon termination. MacVittie added that if all the application needs is simple load balancing, customers can use F5’s new lightweight Application Services Proxy. For more robust application delivery services, the connector automates provisioning to a BIG-IP appliance.

While F5 is embracing containers, it’s networking connector doesn’t actually connect directly with Docker, yet. The F5 container connector also doesn’t yet make use of the Kubernetes Container Networking Interface (CNI), which is an emerging standard for enabling container networking.

“The container connector will connect to a container orchestrator (Kubernates, Mesos/Marathon) rather than interfacing with the CNI directly,” MacVittie said. “Docker Swarm isn’t yet on the official support list, but if customers want it, I’m sure it will be on the roadmap.”

Overall MacVittie commented that F5 is seeing and hearing interest in container networking as organizations pilot new applications deployed in container architectures. She added that anecdotally, it seems like the level of customer demand for container networking is pacing slightly behind container adoption itself, but not nearly as far behind as cloud-based options were at the same point in its maturity.

“We also included specific questions about containers and application delivery for our forthcoming State of Application Delivery report,” MacVittie said. “Based on early responses, we are seeing demand for container networking from a small percentage of respondents.”

F5 is also debuting a new Application Connector as part of today’s updates in BIG-IP v12.1.1. The Application Container is designed to hook up cloud-based instances with instances in an on-premises, or other hosted location. MacVittie noted that what that connection enables is a more seamless experience for provisioning of security and application delivery services out to the cloud location.

“I wouldn’t classify it as a CASB (Cloud Access Security Broker), which is more about controlling and monitoring usage of cloud based services,” MacVittie explained. “The Application Connector is focused on automated provisioning and subsequent management of security and application delivery services via BIG-IP, anywhere it might be deployed.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at Enterprise Networking Planet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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