F5 Networks strengthened its relationship with Microsoft's network virtualization and IaaS technologies by adding NVGRE gateway functionality to its BIG-IP application delivery controller and the availability of a virtual BIG-IP for the Windows Azure cloud.
Network Virtualization using Generic Routing Encapsulation (NVGRE), the tunneling protocol analogous to VMware's virtual extensible LAN (VXLAN), is the foundation of building network virtualization with Microsoft Hyper-V. F5 Networks will start by offering NVGRE gateway functionality on the virtual edition of its BIG-IP application delivery controller (ADC) and later add support on hardware appliances.
"NVGRE support and the gateway functionality [are] needed in order to have connectivity between traditional data centers and Windows network virtualized data centers," said Jeff Bellamy, director of business development for F5. The gateway support will enable multi-tenant networks and hybrid cloud networks by allowing customers to move workloads between a NVGRE and Hyper-V-based environment and a non-Microsoft network virtualization environment. The gateway functionality achieves this, in part, by abstracting IP addresses from their physical locations so that engineers don't need to make manual configuration changes to enable these interactions and migrations.
When asked why F5 was rolling out NVGRE support only on its virtual BIG-IP initially, Bellamy explained: "[Mcirosoft] wanted [NVGRE support] to come to market as quickly as possible. We realized we could come to market more quickly when running on Virtual Edition on Hyper-V."
F5 also provides VMware's VXLAN gateway functionality on its ADCs, giving it a footprint in both leading network virtualization environments.
"These are the two big overlay encapsulation protocols going on right now, so F5 is absolutely looking to support both of these, especially as Azure and Hyper-V continues to expand its footprint," said Bob Laliberte, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.
F5 enables Layer 4-7 services in Windows Azure cloud
In addition to adding NVGRE gateway capabilities to BIG-IP Virtual Edition, F5 also enabled the platform for Microsoft's Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offering Windows Azure. With this Azure support, customers will be able to link their Windows Azure Virtual Network to their on-premises network via highly available site-to-site VPN connections.
"It makes it easier for enterprises to extend things out to the cloud but not move it out to the cloud completely," said Andre Kindness, senior analyst with Forrester Research.
F5 offers similar virtual ADC capabilities to Amazon Web Services customers.
"Microsoft is trying to achieve the same thing," said Brad Casemore, research director at IDC. "They're trying to create an alignment with tools like network and security services, and create alignment with SLAs [service level agreements] between what enterprises are doing in private data centers and the cloud."
Casemore said more Layer 4-7 vendors will be adding NVGRE and Windows Azure support as the year proceeds.
At Microsoft's annual tradeshow, TechEd, F5 demonstrated a use case in which a customer can use these new capabilities to create a secure IPsec tunnels to Azure data centers on both the East Coast and the West Coast, Bellamy said.
"In the event of an outage in one of those data centers, the customer's service is still running in the other one," Bellamy said.
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