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F5 Enters The Virtual ADC Market With LTM Virtual Edition

F5 Networks is dipping its toe into the virtual application delivery controller market with a free 90-day trial edition of their Local Traffic Manager, Virtual Edition (LTM VE). LTM VE is a VMware virtual appliance that is targeted at non-production developer use. F5 does plan on releasing a production version of LTM VE in the first half of 2010 and is withholding pricing until that product is available.

Following on the heels of Citrix Systems' May 2009 announcement of it Netscalar VPX virtual appliance, LTM VE, which currently only runs on VMware's vSphere ESX4, ESXi 4 and Workstation 7, is a fully functional LTM virtual appliance that is rate limited to 1Mbps throughput. The 90-day trial includes access to F5's support site and web-based support.

The first thing to note about LTM VE is that this current version is not to be used in a production deployment. The purpose is to provide developers and IT administrators a way to test web applications against an LTM deployment prior to installing a new web application or upgrading an existing one. The LTM VE runs all of the iRules--custom rules that manipulate IP traffic--that the hardware LTM runs. LTM VE supports F5's API, iControl as well. Developers can test web traffic in a mirror of their live environment. With the 90-day trial, using LTM VE is a good way to try out the product before buying.

Mandar Ghosalkar, application infrastructure manager for Byer California, a clothing manufacturer, is an F5 customer and is trialing LTM VE.  "Want to move the development environment. We have many projects that need to be tested with full environment. We'd like to get our developers off the BigIP hardware to keep them separate from production systems," Ghosalkar said in a phone interview.

What aren't available today are modules like the WEB Accelerator and Application Security Manager which enhance LTM. F5 is evaluating making those modules available in the future, and we think they should. Even though some of the modules have production value, some like Application Security Manager and Access Policy Manager do alter the application experience, and having a fully functional virtual test bed would be useful.

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