F5 revs-up application acceleration market

Application accelerator F5 Networks has released a new solution that works with VMware View 4.5 to enhance the performance, scalability and availability of back-end VMware services. F5’s Application Ready Solution for VMware View 4.5 offers desktop virtualisation single sign-on and high-performance PC-over-IP protocol-handling through its BIG-IP Edge Gateway device and HA through its BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager.

It's the latest in a long line of products that have contributed to a jump in the company's share price and for it to report a quarterly profit increase of 70% this week with a 35% annual sales increase to $882 million. According to Gartner, F5 now owns just over 60% of the worldwide market in application acceleration equipment. Around 23% of F5's revenue comes from EMEA and it says this is increasing by the quarter.

What's the secret of F5's success? According to Owen Cole, F5's technical director for the UK Ireland and Sub Saharan Africa, a lot has to do with moves the company made seven years ago.

"When we developed our TMOS traffic management operating system product in about 2003, we could kind of go back to square one and say: 'What would we want this product to look like if we could reinvent ourselves?'. We came up with TMOS and we came up with a revolutionary software architecture. And the real key thing about this is it gives us the ability to separate users away from applications and for us to be the application broker. So if there’s an F5 device in that network, users do not talk to application, users talk to the F5 device. And then applications talk to the F5 device as well and we’re the intermediary."

This gives F5's products an "incredibly powerful" position in the application delivery network, according to Cole, which is why the likes of Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and, indeed, VMware are eager to pursue joint development projects with the company. In turn, these partnerships make the TMOS full TCP reassembly technology user-friendly. Cole uses the example of optimising a SharePoint setup.

"Let's say I’m a company and I want to provide SharePoint and I want to provide F5 acceleration. What I do is I put an F5 device in front of my SharePoint providers, I turn it on and I give it a basic configuration and then I go to the acceleration menu, pull down the list and select SharePoint 2007, for instance, and click 'apply' and it’s done, because F5 and Microsoft have already developed the acceleration policies for you."

The effectiveness of such an implementation relies on F5's deep knowledge of how SharePoint works and what users expect from it. "We understand what the end user’s doing, we understand what the application behind us does and then we tune and optimise both ends," says Cole.

This ability to work so closely with developers' applications is, in part, due to iControl, an open XML-based API for TMOS. Another key part of the F5 approach is iRules, which allows users to set up their own event-driven management of application traffic. Cole uses the example of an online retailer that needs to address PCI compliance.

He says: "One of the really, really cool things that you can do with iRules is you can create a small piece of logic that you apply to an application that says: 'When I see a response leave a server and go towards a user, look at the response, scan it and if I see a string of 16 digits I’m going to replace the first 12 of them with stars and then I’m going to deliver it'. That functionality isn’t a product that we sell and charge loads of money for. Any F5 user can turn this on for nothing."


Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.