F5 brings traffic management to blades

F5 Networks is extending its presence in the emerging blade-server management market with new security and packet-inspection enhancements to its BIG-IP Blade Controller software.

Not typically considered a network-management software player, the networking equipment maker announced on Monday that it has added the security features from its traffic-management software to its blade-server management software to stop DoS (Denial of Service) attacks. F5 has also included an inspection engine to enable the examination of incoming IP packets.

"Some blade-server vendors have load-balancing software, but none have traffic management," said Mark Harris, a senior systems engineer at F5. "With traffic management, you can check the availability of a specific blade server and protect against viruses."

According to F5, traffic management entails not only server load balancing, but also the ongoing health and performance monitoring of low-cost, multipurpose blade servers sold by IBM, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Dell Inc., and Sun Microsystems.

Scott Hankinson, vice president of IT at CRG Total Events Solutions in Seattle , uses F5's Blade Controller. CRG builds Web-based, event-registration applications for clients to run on blade servers. Hankinson said F5's solutions helps ensure their applications remain up and perform well. He said the new features will help the applications remain available even when users flood it.

"With Blade Controller, you can have resources idle or unconfigured and bring them online and configure them as needed," Hankinson said, explaining that CRG often needs to scale an application quickly as traffic grows. "The traffic-management portion of the package meets our requirements."

F5's Harris says the enhancements are only the beginning. The company plans to add to the software as it moves toward autoprovisioning. He outlined a future scenario in which Blade Controller would know when traffic hitting the blade (or series of blade servers) tasked to run a specific application reached a user-defined threshold. At that point, additional blades would be provisioned automatically to meet the spike in traffic and deprovisioned as the traffic dropped back below the threshold.

F5 plans to accomplish that vision, Harris said, through its partnership with Altiris Inc., announced last Monday. Altiris is a Utah-based company that develops blade-server deployment and provisioning software. A number of blade server manufacturers including HP and IBM already bundle Altiris' software with blade servers.

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