F5 Friday: Automating Operations with F5 and VMware

#cloud #virtualization #vmworld #devops Integrating F5 and VMware with the vCloud Ecosystem Framework to achieve automated operations

A third of IT professionals, when asked about the status of their IT cross-collaboration efforts1 (you know, networking and server virtualization groups working together) indicate that sure, it's a high priority, but a lack of tools makes it difficult to share information and collaborate proactively.

Whether we're talking private cloud or dynamic data center efforts, that collaboration is essential to realizing the efficiency promised by these modern models in part by the ability to automate scalability, i.e. elasticity. 

While virtualization vendors have invested a lot of effort in developing APIs that provide extensibility and control, automating those infrastructures is simply not a part of the core virtualization feature set. And yet, controlling a virtualized infrastructure is going to be a key point of any automation strategy, because virtualization is where your resource pools and elasticity live.

-- Information Week reports, "Automating the Private Cloud", Jake McTigue

Consider that in a recent sampling of more than 2003 BIG-IPs the majority of resource pools comprised either 10 to 50 members or anywhere from 100 to 999 members, with the average across all BIG-IPs being about 102 members. The member of a pool, in the load balancing vernacular by the way, is an application service: the combination of an IP address and a port, such as defines a web or e-mail or other application service. Such services might be traditional (physical) or hosted in a virtual machine.

That's a lot of individual services that need to be managed and, more importantly, at some point deployed. And as we know, deploying an application isn't just launching a VM – it's managing the network components that may go along with it, as well.

While leveraging an application delivery controller as a strategic point of control insulates organizations from the impact of such voluminous change on delivery services such as security, access control, and capacity, it doesn't mean it is immune from the impact of such change itself. After all, for elasticity to occur the load balancing service must be aware of changes in its pool of resources. Members must be added or removed, and the appropriate health monitoring enabled or disabled to ensure real-time visibility into status.

A lack of tools to automate the infrastructure collaboration necessary to deploy and subsequently manage changes to applications is a part of the perception that IT is sluggish to respond, and why many cite lengthy application deployment times as problematic for their organization.


VMware and F5 both seek to provide technologies that make software defined data centers a reality. A key component is the ability to integrate application services into data center operations and thus enable the automation of the application deployment lifecycle.

One way we're enabling that is through the VMware vCloud Ecosystem Framework (vCEF). Designed to allow third-parties to integrate with VMware vShield Manager which can then integrate with VMware vCloud Director, enabling private or public cloud or dynamic data center deployments.

The integrated solution takes advantage of F5's northbound API as well as vShield Manager's REST-based API to enable bi-directional collaboration between vShield Manager and F5 management solutions. Through this collaboration, a VMware vApp as well as an F5 iApp can be deployed. Together, these two packages describe an application – from end-to-end. Deployment of required application delivery services occurs when F5's management solution uses its southbound API to instruct appropriate F5 BIG-IP devices to execute the appropriate iApp.

The iApp is automatically executed again upon any change in resource pool make-up, i.e. a virtual machine is launched or de-provisioned. This enables the automatic elasticity desired to manage volatility automatically, without requiring lengthy manual processes to add or remove resources from a pool.

It also enables newly deployed application to be delivered with the appropriate set of application delivery settings, such as those encapsulated in F5 developed iApps that define the optimal TCP, HTTP, and network parameters for specific applications.

The business and operational benefits are fairly straightforward – you're automating a process that spans IT groups and infrastructure, and gaining the ability to create repeatable, successful application deployments that can be provisioned in minutes rather than days.  

This is just one of the many joint solutions  F5 and VMware have developed over the past few years. Whether it's VDI or server virtualization, intra or inter-data center, we've got a solution for VMware technology that will enhance the security, performance, and reliability of not just the delivery of applications, but their deployment.

1 Enterprise Management Associates' 2012 Network Automation Survey Results

Additional Resources for F5 and VMware Solutions Related blogs and articles


Lori MacVittie is a Senior Technical Marketing Manager, responsible for education and evangelism across F5’s entire product suite.

Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning technology editor at Network Computing Magazine. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

She is the author of XAML in a Nutshell and a co-author of The Cloud Security Rules


    Published Sep 07, 2012
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