F5 expands file virtualization software

By Kevin Komiega

—This week, F5 Networks announced the general availability of two new software products for file virtualization environments: the latest version of its embedded operating system software, which includes a new twist on snapshots for virtual file systems, and a stand-alone management platform for file virtualization networks.

The latest release of the F5 Acopia FreedomFabric Network Operating System Software, Version 3.0, includes heterogeneous virtual snapshots that enable administrators to create snapshots spanning multiple heterogeneous filers. End users and applications then have direct access to the federated snapshots for a variety of uses, including backup, replication, and recovery of accidentally deleted or modified files or directories.

The process of creating the virtual snapshot is transparent to end-user workflow. According to F5's senior product marketing manager Nigel Burmeister, without this functionality, snapshots cannot span multiple heterogeneous filers and require administrators to perform manual processes on individual filers to protect large file infrastructures.

"The Virtual Snapshot technology gives an Acopia ARX switch the ability to schedule, execute, and present snapshots in a way that users are used to seeing it today, but instead of doing it on a file-system-by-file-system basis, the snapshot is across the entire virtual file system," says Burmeister.

The second new product from F5 is the FreedomFabric Network Manager—an independent management platform for file virtualization that provides the foundation for managing policies across distributed file virtualization systems in large enterprises.

The products work together to enable enterprise-wide automation of data management based on business policies. The Network Manager functions as a centralized point for policy management in distributed virtual environments while the embedded OS executes those policies and storage services on each F5 Acopia fabric switch.

The Acopia file virtualization software decouples file access from physical file location, enabling data migration, replication, tiering, and load balancing without disrupting applications. ARX switching products integrate into legacy NAS, Windows, Unix, and Linux environments and are managed by the company's FreedomFabric software, which automates management tasks using pre-defined policies.

The embedded OS is available to existing F5 customers as a free upgrade, while pricing for the FreedomFabric Network Manager is based on the number of systems under management. The entry price for the Network Manager is $3,500.

Version 3.0 of the OS and the Network Manager are the first new products produced by F5 since it spent $210 million last summer to acquire file virtualization vendor Acopia Networks.

This article was originally published on February 05, 2008