F5 Networks Storage Buying Guide

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F5 characterizes itself as serving the application delivery networking market. This relates most closely to file storage.

“There have been a number of new technologies introduced in response to the rapid data growth of recent years, including SSD, data deduplication and, more recently, the cloud,” said Nigel Burmeister, director of product marketing, F5 Networks. “ARX helps organizations leverage any type of storage technology within their file storage infrastructure, while our ARX Cloud Extender helps integrate cloud storage offerings, typically based on an object storage platform, into their file serving environment.”

ARX, then, is the primary product line of F5. But this is supplemented by the Cloud Extender version as well as Data Manager to manage storage resources.

ARX Series

The ARX Series of file virtualization devices are designed to assist organizations in the optimization of file storage infrastructures by coupling data mobility with data management. F5 recently launched two new platforms — the ARX1500 and ARX2500 — that increase the virtualization scale and performance for midsize enterprises. In addition, F5 released an ARX Virtual Edition, which provides ARX capabilities as a VMware virtual machine and can be deployed by small enterprises or in virtual environments.

“The fundamental feature of ARX is to decouple the logical access to files from the physical locations where those files are stored,” said Burmeister.

The ARX device provides a virtual namespace through which user and application clients access files, and then proxies file access to the appropriate physical location. This allows file data to be stored on any file storage device, as well as migrate between them, without disrupting user and application access.

In addition, the ARX comes with data management policies to manage the storage and migration of file data. Policies cover areas like migrating files between heterogeneous storage without interfering with user access and automated storage tiering, and capacity balancing to increase storage efficiency by balancing storage utilization across all of their storage devices.

ARX comes in five platforms:

  1. The ARX4000 is the top of the line model, aimed at enterprise users. It supports environments with up to 12,000 users, offers both 10GbE and 1GbE connectivity, and comes in a 4U form factor.
  2. The ARX2500’s lower price point targets midrange users. It supports up to 6,000 users, offers 10GbE and 1GbE connectivity, and comes in a 1U form factor.
  3. The ARX2000 is another midrange product. It can deal with up to 6,000 users, but it offers only 1GbE connectivity. It comes in a 2U form factor.
  4. Next down the chain is the ARX1500, which is for SMEs with large or rapidly growing file storage environments. It supports environments up to 3,000 users, offers 1GbE connectivity and comes in a 1U form factor.
  5. Another SME product is the ARX Virtual Edition, which can also be harnessed by departments or organizations with a virtual file storage environment.

“Typically, a combination of manual data management and additional storage capacity is viewed as an alternative to storage virtualization solutions like ARX,” said Burmeister. “However, this alternative is rapidly becoming unsustainable for most organizations in the face of explosive data growth and flat to modest increases in IT staffing and budgets.”

ARX Cloud Extender

The ARX Cloud Extender is an F5 product with a goal of integrating public and private cloud storage and object-based storage solutions into their existing file storage infrastructure. Most recently, ARX Cloud Extender added support for the Nirvanix Cloud Storage Network and Dell DX Object Storage Platform. This is software that provides a file system front-end to cloud-based storage capacity.

“The ARX Cloud Extender provides native CIFS and NFS client access to files stored in the cloud,” said Burmeister. “It also does protocol translation from client CIFS and NFS file access to the relevant web services API for the cloud or object-based storage platform.”

Other functions include: local metadata cache for files stored in the cloud; integration of cloud and object-based storage with existing file access control mechanisms; data encryption for every file stored in public cloud storage services; and support for private and public cloud storage solutions based on CIFS/NFS-compliant devices, Amazon S3, EMC Atmos, Nirvanix Cloud Storage Network and Dell DX Object Storage Platform.

Data Manager

Data Manager is F5’s file storage resource management tool to improve the visibility into file data. This includes health and capacity monitoring for storage devices. This software installs on a Windows or Linux file server and provides file system monitoring and reporting.

Burmeister explained that file data analysis can be done by date, type, owner, size and so on. Further, it monitors storage utilization, performs suspected duplicate file identification, keeps track of directory activity and does time-based trending.

Drew Robb
Drew Robb
Drew Robb is a contributing writer for Datamation, Enterprise Storage Forum, eSecurity Planet, Channel Insider, and eWeek. He has been reporting on all areas of IT for more than 25 years. He has a degree from the University of Strathclyde UK (USUK), and lives in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.

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