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F5 Highlights BIG-IP Integration With vSphere

Application Delivery Network (ADN) provider F5 Networks unveiled a series of deployment guides focused on integration of its BIG-IP products and VMware's vSphere 4 and vCenter Server solutions. The guides cover several deployment scenarios, including a single data center, multiple disparate data centers, and even automated failover for between data centers in a disaster recovery situation.  Unlike many white papers, these deployment guides offer the specific steps to configure both vendors' products for these scenarios.  Guides like this could prove invaluable to administrators, even if their own environment doesn't exactly match the use case, as well as provides exposure to the latest capabilities of their products.

In the data center, the vCenter server and BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager communicate with each other, with the ability to turn up or turn down virtual servers based on network and application demand. Furthermore, the BIG-IP waits for notification that the virtual servers are ready to go before adding them to the load balancing pool.  This allows new server instances to be added to the application pool prior to new connections being starved for resources and can more proactively manage connections as they occur. As demand drops, connections can be bled off servers and the servers can be retired.

In disaster recovery scenarios, the Global Traffic Manager (GTM) module and VMWare's Site Recovery Manager can work together to automatically redirect network application traffic to backup data centers even to cloud based services.  Similar processes can be used to leverage cloud services or alternate data centers during peak periods or balancing network traffic by geographic location. The level of automation eases recovery operations and can drastically reduce downtime in the event of an unplanned failure.

What is most compelling about this integration is that F5 Networks was able to accomplish this level of VMware integration without introducing any new products. Using VMWare's API and BigIP iControl language, the integration is straightforward. Using a plug-in to vCenter, administrators define the events that are triggered such as high CPU or connection rate and actions to be taken to manage load. F5's BIG-IP product has been capable of automating these tasks, but customers were tasked with discover this for themselves or scouring the various Internet forums for best practices.  With these new guides, F5 has delivered a set of best practices to make the network and the virtualized servers much more aware of each other.