As virtual appliances become a bigger part of its business, F5 is tweaking some of its products to better fit the concept of developers programming the network.
The company has separated its orchestration tool from its management tool. The latter, which involves monitoring the network and making sure features such as high availability are viable, is still within the purview of networking people. But orchestration and provisioning of services is becoming more of a programmer’s job.
“It turns out they’re used by different people,” says Lori MacVittie, F5’s principal technical evangelist. “The folks who are, day-to-day, managing devices and managing certificates, just checking the health of the devices in the network, are not the same people who are doing orchestration.”
So, orchestration has been pulled out of F5’s BIG-IQ software and placed into its own workflow automation tool, iWorkflow — version 2.0 of which was released today. (I somehow missed the creation of iWorkflow 1.0. I’m not alone, MacVittie says.)
By separating the tools, F5 could give each party the interfaces it’s been accustomed to. The management side continues to use BIG-IQ and its network-centric interfaces, while orchestration is now handled by iWorkflow, which is tailored to developers, architects, and engineers.
iWorkflow includes integration with DevOps tools such as Ansible, Chef, and Puppet. It’s also the vehicle for tying F5’s services to software-defined networking (SDN) platforms, specifically Cisco‘s Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and VMware NSX.
That was another reason to separate the tools. “It makes no sense to integrate something like ACI when you’re managing and updating devices. But you do need that when you’re doing orchestration,” MacVittie says.
Finally, BIG-IQ received an upgrade of its own. The management tool got a boost in scale: It can now manage 200 physical and/or virtual devices.