In a year of many firsts I am particularly excited about this announcement. The release of the F5 Aplication Services Integration iApp on ... wait for it ... GitHub!
What are iApps? For those unfamiliar with iApps, they are a means to vastly simplify the deployment of F5's application services.
It should be easy to improve the performance, availability, and security of your applications. However, and this was a fundamental element of iApps creation, such simplicity should NOT come at the cost of the solutions effectiveness. Simplicity must not decrease value by offering a lesser service! Finding that balance, remaining at the leading edge of capability but without introducing operationally-expensive overhead, is a difficult task. The solution, F5 released iApps.
How reliable are these templates, you might ask? Much of F5's market dominance comes from what we call "application fluency". When we write a deployment guide for a particular application we ensure that it's tested and ratified with the relevant alliance partner before sharing it with the world. Consequently, when that deployment guide gets published we know it's a realiable solution. iApps–a templatization of configuration–take all the knowledge and experience, the application fluency we have developed with our alliance partners, and manage the application deployment by asking of the administrator just a few simple questions.
Take, for example, the Exchange 2011 iApp. What used to be one week of administrative effort is now mere minutes: the administrator selects the appropriate iApp template, answers a couple of questions like "Do you want to offload encryption?", "What are the server IP Addresses?", and then, as if by magic, all the remaining configuration is performed for you. The result, both time and risk have been dramatically reduced, but with NO loss of F5's rich application-services functionality.
What's so special about this iApp? I'm really glad you asked! Thus far, individual iApps have been for the templatization of specific application deployments. However, there is a new use case for iApps that is fast-growing in popularlity: managment system integration.
We've already covered the importance of operational simplicity for administrators. However, there is equally a great need for operational simplicity for technology integration. Consider SDN, and the many SDN controllers popping up in the market. SDN controllers are focussed on basic connectivity services alone (typically just Layers 2 and 3 of the network - flow related). However, an enterprise-grade network, ready for production deployment, requires far more than connectivity-services alone to ensure an acceptable, safe application experience. Missing from early-SDN architectures are the many services depicted below.
The App Services Integration iApp differes from traditional iApps in that it's not targetted for a specific application deployment. Its purpose is to 'simplify' the deployment of F5's rich application services via 'other' (non-F5) administrative tools/controllers. This aproach eliminates years of development work towards extending the capabilities of 3rd-party systems that are not geared for Layer 4 - 7 capability.
It does so by providing an administrative abstraction-layer through F5's BIG-IQ management platform. With BIG-IQ, and iApps, the SDN Controller does not need to understand the many features and variables of Layer 4 - 7 application services. The result, through this integration organizations are able to complete the SDN vision and deliver:
Faster time-to-market for new applications and services, for both employees and customers
Faster time-to-change for both planned and unplanned circumstances
Reduced risk through administrative simplification, and less time at the keyboard
Acknowledgements A huge thanks to F5's Hitesh Patel who drove the creation of the aforementioned "Integration iApp". Hitesh is part of F5's elite team of solution architects–the guys that make the seemingly impossible, possible.