F5 Brings SDN To Layers 4-7 With New Synthesis Architecture


F5 Networks has unveiled a new architecture and services fabric it says will make it easier for customers to leverage and provision application services in software-defined networking (SDN), virtualized and cloud-based environments.

F5's new architecture, called Synthesis, enables what F5 has dubbed "software-defined application services," or SDAS, meaning it finally, according to the company, allows SDN concepts to be applied to layers four through seven of the network.

"A lot of times what I am hearing from our customer base and vendor partnerships is that SDN covers the layer two and layer three plumbing aspect, but there is a pretty strong, complex world that sits above SDN -- layers four through seven," said Dean Darwin, senior vice president of marketing at F5.

[Related: F5's Latest Big-IP Updates Target SDN, Hybrid Cloud Environments]

Synthesis is based on flagship F5 technologies like TMOS and ScaleN, and it is designed to complement customers' existing layer two and layer three SDN solutions by making the application services in layers four through seven, including load balancing and access control, easier to orchestrate and provision.

Synthesis works by leveraging a ScaleN service fabric that lets enterprises and cloud service providers manage, scale and automate application services with BIG-IQ, F5's management software. Darwin said the Synthesis fabric eliminates the need for the time-consuming and manual processes typically involved with deploying and provisioning application services.

What's more, it allows for those services to stay with a particular application, even as that application moves between an on-premise and cloud-based or virtualized environment.

"The fabric will now deploy application services to all applications and, when you move those applications up to the cloud, those application services are provisioned to that app," Darwin said.

Enabling organizations to centrally deploy, manage and orchestrate application services, Darwin added, will make it more compelling than ever to wrap application services around all enterprise apps, rather than having to pick and choose.

"We are removing the barriers of how applications receive services, so now no applications are left behind," Darwin said.

The Synthesis fabric can support up to 2,560 multitenant instances with a combined throughput of 20.5 TB and connection capacity of 9.2 billion. F5 said it can be deployed on the customer's choice of F5 hardware, in the cloud or on a hypervisor.

F5 said technology partners including Cisco, VMware, Dell and HP have integration plans around Synthesis.

With the Synthesis launch, F5 also introduced a new tiered licensing structure that lets customers choose from three F5 services packages: Good, Better and Best. The lower-end Good packages includes BIG-IP Local Traffic manager, while Better adds on F5 software services and BIG-IP Global Traffic Manager, and Best adds BIG-IP Application Acceleration Manager, BIG-IP Advanced Firewall Manager and other F5 modules.

"We took a 45-page product guide with over 5,000 SKUs and reduced it to two pages and 40 SKUs," Darwin said.

Dan Thormodsgaard, vice president of Solutions Architecture at FishNet Security, an Overland Park, Kan.-based solution provider and F5 partner, said the new licensing structure will simplify the selling process for him as a partner.

"I think it's a good thing, the bundling of the different licenses," Thormodsgaard told CRN. "It simplifies purchasing and simplifies things from our perspective, in terms of ease of selling to the customer."

Thormodsgaard also applauded F5's increasing investments in the security space. F5 last year announced it would make a broader push into the security market, and in September revealed plans to acquire emerging fraud and malware detection vendor Versafe. Thormodsgaard said F5 last year became FishNet's second-biggest vendor partner.

"I think that speaks volumes in terms of their security strategy," he said.

PUBLISHED NOV. 11, 2013