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F5 and Reactivity Get Comfortable

Earlier this week F5 Networks and Reactivity announced a partnership that on the outside appears to be an innocent go-to-market strategy, but a deeper look shows the two are doing more than just holding hands...
One of the benefits of a SOA management and security product is the ability to route traffic using what most refer to as "content based routing". The term is seen often in the SOA space, even at the mid-tier in ESB products like those from BEA, Sonic Software, Oracle and IBM.

But it's more commonly used in the SOA management and security space, where proxies are often used to mediate for back-end web services. If the first thing you thought of at the mention of "content based routing" is load balancers, or content switches, then you're thinking in the right direction. Content switches, or application delivery controllers (ADC) as they now like to be called, like F5's BIG-IP, Netscaler's (Citrix) Application Delivery Switch, and Sun's line of Secure Application Switches have been routing traffic based on content for years. But these ADCs have been limited in their definition of Layer 7, traditionally routing based on specific layer 7 attributes like HTTP headers and cookies. It's only been in the past two years that they've fully embraced the concept of routing traffic based on the rest of the content : the payload.

SOA management and security vendors, however, started life with a view of layer 7 as the be-all and end-all of content based routing. That's because much of the information they utiize to determine where and how to route XML is hidden in the SOAP envelope, which is deep within the payload of a message. But SOA management and security vendors are not often networking gurus, and their focus remains on supporting the myriad WS-* speficiations and standards necessary to manage and security Web services, not on optimizing their content routing and proxy capabilities.

Which has always left us, at least, wondering when the two markets would begin to cozy up to one another.

The announcement, made jointly by F5 and Reactivity, tells us we can stop wondering. It isn't just about chaining an application delivery controller and an SOA management product, it's about integration of the two products at a much deeper level. F5 has often touted its TMOS architecture as being pluggable, but thus far hasn't let any partners really look under the kimono - let alone try it on. It has reserved that particular facet of its BIG-IP line as an expedient mechanism for integrating its acquisitions, like WatchFire, MagniFire, and Swan Labs.

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