F5 Merges WAN and Web Acceleration in One Box


With new software, one BIG-IP box could replace as many as five others, says F5

Application delivery specialist F5 Networks is readying a software update for its BIG-IP application delivery controllers which will add features such as WAN optimisation, network virtualisation and inline monitoring.

Due for release next week, the new BIG-IPv10 software includes a function called iSessions which creates an encrypted and compressed link between two F5 devices, said product management director Jason Needham.

He said this will make BIG-IP the first device to offer both asymmetric application acceleration and symmetric WAN acceleration, and will let F5 users set up network tunnels between their data centres for tasks such as site-to-site replication.

Application delivery controllers (ADCs) are typically deployed in the data-centre ‘single-ended’, and use techniques such as caching, compression, connection management and protocol optimisation to provide faster access to web applications.

WAN optimisers use similar techniques, but are deployed in pairs at each end of a connection to speed up remote access to applications, files and services; F5 currently offers this technology as its WANJet product line.

“The backdrop is that the market is moving from static to dynamic infrastructures, with virtualisation, adaptive data-centres, cloud computing and so on,” Needham said. He added that an open and dynamic infrastructure not only needs ADCs to serve remote users, it also needs links between data centres to move the load around.

“Traditional application accelerators don’t have the security or scale – no core load balancer has any form of connected delivery,” he claimed. He added that by also providing other features such as web application firewalling, load balancing and local traffic management, a pair of BIG-IP boxes could potentially replace as many as ten separate devices.

Other new features in BIG-IPv10 include the ability to partition one physical device into several virtual ones. Needham said this is aimed at service and hosting providers, as it enables one device to support multiple customers.

“There’s also a big focus on manageability and visibility – we’re talking about much faster deployment,” he added. “There’s a new graphical interface, a new command line interface, a whole new dashboard system, and the notion of application templates.”

The latter include all the policies and specific optimisation needed to scale, accelerate and secure popular applications such as Siebel, Microsoft SharePoint or VMware View, he said.

Needham said that the BIG-IPv10 software, including application templates, will be free to customers under maintenance. It should run on both F5’s current systems and its previous generation hardware, dating back as far as 2004, he said.