F5 Networks Acquisition Portends SDN Move

Michael Vizard

There’s a lot of debate these days about the best place to apply software-defined networking (SDN) technologies. Providers of networking equipment say the center of the networking universe is still the controller. Others argue that SDN by definition needs to be deployed higher up the stack. Now providers of application delivery controllers (ADCs) are starting to make their own SDN case.

F5 Networks this week announced it has acquired LineRate Systems, a provider of SDN technology. According to Jason Needham, vice president of product management and marketing for F5 Networks, the deal to acquire LineRate represents a technology acquisition so F5 Networks isn’t committing to just how or when SDN technology will show up on its ADC platform.

But Needham contends SDN is going to be best applied on the platform that has the most application awareness. As the ADC is now the central point of control within the data center, Needham says ADCs provide a more application- and services-centric approach to managing the IT environment, of which the network is only one component.

In fact, Needham goes as far as to say that given how poorly load balancing has worked at Layers 2 and 3 of the network, an ADC platform is the only logical place to manage a function that should be handled at Layers 4 through 7 of the networking stack.

While it’s not clear how all this vendor maneuvering will eventually play out, it’s certain that fundamental changes to the way IT is going to be managed are under way. There will be much less reliance, for example, on command line interfaces in favor of platforms that can simultaneously manage hundreds of devices as if they were one logical unit. In fact, at this point it’s not really a question of what SDN is, but rather who is going to actually deliver it where and when.



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