Cisco-F5 partnership yields secure, multisite load balancing technology

Expanded partnership delivers tighter integration between Cisco ACI tools and F5 BIG-IP DNS software to improve application availability and performance for mutual customers.

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Cisco and F5 have extended their partnership with new technology that lets enterprises balance large amounts of traffic between multiple sites to ensure availability and improve application performance.

Specifically, the companies are meshing Cisco’s ACI Multi-Site/Multi-Pod package with F5’s Big IP DNS software to help customers more effectively utilize resources distributed across multiple locations, according to Yousuf Khan, vice president of technical marketing with Cisco’s enterprise and datacenter networking group.

ACI is built on Cisco’s intent-based networking technology, which gives customers the ability to implement network and policy changes on the fly and ensure data delivery. ACI Multi-Site typically lets two geographically dispersed data centers link via L2/L3 networks and offers consistent policy enforcement across both sites. The Multi-Pod technology lets multiple groups of equipment within the individual data centers network with each other.

F5 Big IP DNS distributes secure Domain Name System information and user application requests based on business policies, data center and cloud service conditions, user location, and application performance, the company says. With the DNS integration, customers can bolster security by encrypting traffic at the edge of the network and decrypt traffic once it reaches the desired application server, protecting applications from DDoS attacks, malware, and data breaches, Cisco stated.

By integrating the packages, organizations can load-balance global and local application traffic or automatically redirect applications, Khan said.  

In case of unexpected events, such as a data center goes down due to a power outage caused by a storm, or the data center becomes unreachable due to a network outage, the F5 BIG-IP LTM and DNS solutions can continue application delivery by redirecting the application requests to the next available virtual servers in a different data center so that the application can continue to be available, Khan said.

The package is managed individually; the Cisco ACI fabric is managed via the Cisco Nexus Dashboard Orchestrator and the Cisco APIC, and F5 products are managed by F5, Khan said.

The main idea with this integration is to help customers effectively utilize resources distributed across multiple locations.

“We have many customers using Cisco ACI across multiple sites, as well as F5 BIG-IP. Given that large, common customer base, we believe it’s important to provide design guides and recommendations that help those customers deploy with even more confidence,” Khan said. “Currently, Cisco doesn't have a load balancing solution. We now partner with F5 for these capabilities given many of our customers also use their BIG-IP load balancer.”

More information about the integration requirements for the package are available at: Cisco ACI Multi-Site/Multi-Pod and F5 Big-IP Design Guide.

Cisco and F5 have partnered on technology integration for more than 10 years and offer a variety of secure technologies for enterprise customers including a way to integrate Cisco Secure Workload with F5 BIG-IP to extend application visibility and policy enforcement to L4-L7.

The F5 BIG-IP platform offers load balancing, WAF, DDoS, L4 firewall, and SSL VPN services to applications. F5 BIG-IP’s full proxy gives visibility into—and the power to inspect, encrypt, decrypt, and control—all of the traffic that passes through the network. This combination of Secure Workload and F5 BIG-IP provides full visibility and policy enforcement from L2–L7 solution.

In addition, F5 and Cisco Secure offer two validated deployment architectures that help customers secure critical networks, applications and end points while achieving optimal performance.

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