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F5, VMware & Cisco: One happy family?

F5 Networks execs talk software-defined data centers, Cisco and VMware partnerships

By , Network World
November 11, 2013 03:26 PM ET

Network World - At first blush, F5 Networks' new Synthesis Architecture for Software-Defined Application Services might appear to compete with new offerings from Cisco and VMware. But no, F5 CEO John McAdam and executive vice president of Strategic Solutions Manuel Rivelo tell IDG Communications Chief Content Officer John Gallant that F5 is very much in sync with these two data center giants (we did not, however, press them on the relationship between Cisco and VMware). 

Read on for more on how F5 is working with these vendors, and go here to get the F5 execs’ take on Synthesis itself and the future of virtualization and software-defined networking

John, does Synthesis put you into competition with somebody like a VMware that has this vision of virtualizing the entire data center?

John McAdam

McAdam: No, it's actually the opposite, in fact. One of the reasons that we did the announcement with Cisco yesterday was because of the ability to take our fabric and overlay it, as per your original question, across the SDN solution. We do exactly the same with VMware. VMware and others have been waiting on this type of capability for quite a while. What we have that's unique is this access, the Layer 4/Layer 7, or really the actual application services level, and that's where all our value-add sits. So we would basically work in conjunction with the NSX solution. In fact, we're involved in their announcement as one of the key partners.

So, in terms of their entire vision of the software-defined data center, there aren't VMware components that would handle similar functions that you're addressing?

McAdam: We have a small load balancing capability, but that's about the only area that I would say is in any way significant. Most of the services that we have, including the TMOS proxy that actually creates those services, they don't have. So we see ourselves partnering with them all the time.

Manuel Rivelo
Manuel Rivelo

Rivelo: There's a little overlap, but the overlap is just customer choice.

McAdam: And it's truly minimal, from our perspective.

In addition, I want to go into some depth on the Cisco partnership, but would it be feasible for you, for example, to be partnering with other hardware makers like an HP, an Arista or a Juniper?

McAdam: Absolutely. In fact, I was personally involved in the Arista launch on Monday (See “Arista fires broadside at Cisco/Insieme with new switches”) We actually did a press release today on the Synthesis technology ecosystem. That went out this morning. It names Arista, names VMware, Dell is there, HP is there. It's pretty universal in terms of its architecture.

Rivelo: Because it goes back to the point you made, John, that we really sit on top of those fabrics. Anybody Layer 2, Layer 3 fabric, our services sit on top of that, stitching together that whole Layer 2-Layer 7 world. So if it's a Cisco customer deploying the new Insieme technology or VMware NSX customer or HP with their OpenFlow solutions, that's to a large degree immaterial to us, because we have an abstraction layer from the network to the application, and that allows us to sit very well in those environments.

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