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F5 Viprion chassis gets cheaper for the masses at Interop 2011

At Interop 2011, F5 Networks unveiled a midrange F5 Viprion chassis application delivery controller and muli-tenancy capability through virtualization of its OS.

The takeaway: F5 Viprion chassis application delivery controllers (ADCs) are now available at a midrange cost. Users can now also run virtual instances of F5 ADCs on a single appliance, enabling multi-tenancy.

F5 Networks launched a new midrange Viprion application delivery controller (ADC) chassis at Interop 2011 and announced that customers can now run multiple virtual instances of its operating systems on a single F5 ADC for multi-tenancy.

The Viprion 2400 is a two-slot blade chassis that can run 160 Gbps of Layer 4 traffic and 72 Gbps of Layer 7 traffic. It offers a smaller, more affordable counterpart to the existing Viprion 4400 four-slot chassis.

"Three years ago we launched the original Viprion chassis. It is very popular with service providers and Web monsters, people who are pushing a ton of traffic and expecting a ton of growth," said Mike Krasnow, product manager at F5. "But many customers kept telling us, 'We don’t have the budget to move up into the high-end chassis.'"

Appliance-based application delivery controllers offer linear scalability, much like chassis-based Layer 2/3 switches. Rather than stacking individual ADC boxes, a company can buy a single chassis and add blades as its traffic requirements grow. It can then scale capacity upward without adding a new device to configure and manage. Unfortunately, the Viprion 4400 was just too expensive for most companies. The Viprion 2400 should make chassis-based application delivery controllers from F5 more accessible to enterprises that have until now been running fixed-configuration ADCs.

Hobsons, a provider of online software and services for educational institutions, currently has multiple F5 BIG-IP 3600 ADCs deployed, with five in each of its two U.S. data centers and two in its European data center. The company has been discussing an upgrade and consolidation of its ADC infrastructure because it needs more horsepower, said Patrick McFadin, Hobsons director of systems and architecture. While the Viprion 440 had been “a little up there” in price for the company, the Viprion 2400 could be an option, McFadin said.

The Viprion 2400 list price is $9,995 and each blade starts at $59,995. Blades are not interchangeable between the two different chassis.

Virtualizing the F5 ADC for multi-tenancy

F5 also announced its new Virtual Cluster Multiprocessing (vCMP) capability for Viprion at Interop 211. vCMP allows enterprises to run multiple virtual instances of F5 ADCs on a single appliance. F5 had previously allowed customers to partition an ADC logically, but that partitioning didn't extend down to the level of TMOS, F5's operating system.

With vCMP, an enterprise can run multiple virtual instances of the ADC inside one box so that it can let owners of different services running on the appliance have complete control of their own instance of the technology. This is distinct from the new crop of virtual ADCs arriving from multiple vendors on the market.

"Partitions are nice, but they're just separate views, really," McFadin said. "With the virtual CMP stuff, you get separate BIG-IP instances that you can operate independently. It's the same reason we virtualized our servers. You get one piece of hardware with lots of OSs.”

Offering multi-tenancy solves major management challenges.

“When you have multiple products going through one [non-virtualized] box, if someone does something stupid like reboots, it takes everybody out,” said McFadin. “And if they want to be on a different OS level, we can let them upgrade to [TMOS] 11.0 and someone else can stay on [TMOS 10.2]."

Historically, application infrastructure has been built out in separate silos, with each application getting its own ADC or load balancer, said Zeus Kerravala, distinguished research fellow and vice president at Yankee Group. 

"With virtualization technology, we're finding that one application delivery controller per application silo doesn't work," Kerravala said. "You are going to deploy your applications in a shared environment. And if you're going to do that, you need your ADCs to be able to virtualize."

To learn more about Interop, view our 2011 Interop Las Vegas conference page.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor

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