F5 Networks Aims to Enable DevOps

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By: Michael Vizard

F5 Networks (FFIV) last week launched BIG-IP Cloud Edition, reflecting a trend in how network services are being consumed in the age of the cloud. 

BIG-IP Cloud Edition is designed to make it more economically feasible for organizations to attach an instance of a virtual application delivery controller (ADC) to every cloud application deployed, says Lori MacVittie, principal technical analyst for F5 Networks.

BIG-IP Cloud Edition provides organizations with a web application firewall (WAF) and a lighter-weight ADC to load balance applications that is about half the size of previous iterations of the company’s ADC, says MacVittie. The firewall and ADC can then in turn be centrally managed via the company’s BIG-IQ console provided as a cloud service. To simplify deployment of Big-IP Cloud Edition, F5 Networks has also added support for IT automation frameworks such as Red Hat (RHAT) Ansible, adds MacVittie.

In addition to providing developers with a self-service catalog for automated provisioning, configurations, and upgrades of BIG-IP Cloud Edition, IT organizations for the first time gain additional visibility into each individual application, says MacVittie.

This latest F5 Networks offering is designed to appeal to organizations that are enabling developers to programmatically deploy applications on public clouds that, for example, make extensive use of containers, notes MacVittie. Each of those applications is typically made up of microservices based on containers that require their own load balancing and firewall. BIG-IP Cloud now makes it more economically feasible for developers to add those capabilities to their applications on their own as part of an integrated set of DevOps processes, says MacVittie.

MacVittie says that as developers embrace containers and platforms such as Kubernetes they are becoming more exposed to networking. Kubernetes routing is based on traditional IP tables. But load balancing is being used into service mesh frameworks such as Istio, a complementary project being spearheaded by the same Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) consortium that oversees the development of Kubernetes. At the same time, however, there will still be a need to connect Kubernetes clusters to legacy networking environments using, for example, Container Connection software from F5 Networks.

It may, however, still be a while before developers master all the nuances of networking.
“It’s going to be a long education process,” says MacVittie.

Nevertheless, it’s already clear developers are starting to exercise a lot more influence over networking decisions, especially in cloud computing environments that network administrators don’t control. The truth of the matter is traditional networking hasn’t been all that relevant in the age of DevOps. But as more applications get deployed in the cloud, it’s now only a matter of time before the need to bridge on-premises and cloud-based networking services finally forces the issue.