F5 Collaborating with Microsoft on Network Virtualization Gateway

Microsoft Hyper-V partner F5 Networks on Monday announced a forthcoming network virtualization product designed to move virtual machines (VMs) from traditional datacenters to those based on Windows Server 2012, while preserving management controls.

The "Microsoft Network Virtualization" gateway product was built in collaboration with Microsoft. The gateway will be part of F5's BIG-IP application delivery controller suite of products. It will also be available as a Virtual Edition to be run right off Microsoft's Hyper-V hypervisor. The gateway is specifically designed to work with Service Pack 1 of Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and System Center 2012, whenever those service packs are released.

Microsoft hasn't yet indicated when the SP1 releases will be available, but F5 is planning to ship its Network Virtualization gateway in the first quarter of 2013.

The gateway is a new solution for F5, which joined Microsoft's Hyper-V partner program as part of its collaboration efforts, according to Calvin Rowland, vice president of technology and ISV alliances at F5.

"These collaborative efforts are the result of F5 fulfilling an earnest request from Microsoft to produce this solution as they prepare to be successful in the marketplace with their SDN [software defined networking] technology," Rowland said, in a phone interview. "This solution means that customers are going to be able to continue to take advantage of all the BIG-IP network-based optimizations they've grown to count on over these many years -- things like local and global load balancing, advanced traffic steering, access control, application security, acceleration, etc."

He added that a big distinction for F5's Network Virtualization gateway product will be the ability of customers to move virtual machines from non-Microsoft-technology datacenters to those using Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

With F5's Network Virtualization gateway, the IP address for an application or service gets abstracted from its location space on particular hardware, and that allows application portability across multitenant datacenters, explained Jeff Bellamy, F5's director of Microsoft alliances. It also allows two applications or services with the same IP address to be ported into the same datacenter without conflict.

The gateway eliminates manual work that might otherwise be required to move virtual machines, according to Rowland.

"The biggest problem that network virtualization solves is, today, the location of IP addresses are tied to a specific geographic boundary," Rowland said. "And so I couldn't move a virtual machine from my datacenter in Los Angeles to a datacenter in Tokyo without having to manually re-IP and reroute the old network to the new location of the virtual machine that I was moving. So, by using network virtualization, that location is abstracted away from the IP address and now I can actually move that virtual machine over to the new datacenters…[and] that is one of the key benefits of network virtualization."

The Microsoft Network Virtualization gateway works with the F5 BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager Virtual Edition and it interacts with Microsoft System Center 2012 Virtual Machine Manager. It's designed for use with multitenant environments, such as datacenters, but it also works with private clouds if the services are offered in a multitenant fashion, Bellamy explained.

Licensing and pricing isn't available yet. In addition to collaborating with Microsoft on this Network Virtualization gateway product, F5 is working with VMware on similar initiatives.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.