F5 Teams with NetApp and VMware to Enable Live Migration for Applications

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F5 Networks, Inc., a systems management tools provider, has announced improved live virtual machine migration capabilities for customers using NetApp unified storage and VMware virtualization solutions. The new solution combines the companies' technologies to help customers migrate live virtual machines between data centers without perceivable disruption to users or applications.

Combining F5, NetApp, and VMware technologies, customers can improve the effectiveness of live migrations of virtual machines as well as applications that were not originally designed for distributed deployment.

According to F5, the combination of VMware vSphere 5, VMware vMotion, NetApp FlexCache, and F5's BIG-IP products enables customers to distribute application deployments and virtual machines across multiple data centers, bolstering business continuity efforts. Through F5's broader BIG-IP portfolio of Local Traffic Manager, Global Traffic Manager, and WAN Optimization Manager solutions, user requests can be redirected and optimized throughout the migration process, so that systems can stay online and users maintain access to applications and data.

F5 has had a networking solution for VMotion between data centers since 2009, and "we were the first company to invent something like that," Phil de la Motte, business development director for F5 Networks, tells 5 Minute Briefing. What is new about this "is that we have tested and validated it with NetApp FlexCache doing the storage movement and then we validated it with vSphere 5, which has some changes to the way it does VMotion." 

With the new version of vSphere 5 that just came out 2 months ago, explains de la Motte, VMware for the first time is officially supporting VMotion over distance. "They are allowing customers to do VMotion at latencies up to 10 milliseconds."  In the past, he says, while it was possible to do VMotion over a WAN, it was not an officially supported offering from VMware.

In addition, says de la Motte, if you are running NetApp filers, it is fairly straightforward to add the FlexCache component which is essentially a caching layer on top of the storage and that simplifies the process of moving the storage that the virtual machine needs to operate  between the data centers. "The beauty with NetApp FlexCache is that you can have a hot cache of the traffic in the secondary site so that it is much faster to execute the storage part of this." Because of FlexCache, the storage is already taken care of, "so that is a very nice value-add," says de la Motte.

As far as use cases for the live virtual machine migration capabilities, there are three main scenarios, says de la Motte. First, the technology may be used for disaster avoidance but would not work in a disaster recovery scenario because once a data center is lost, there is nothing to VMotion from. "It is something that will help you avoid planned downtime," says de la Motte. For example, he says it could be used to avoid an impending disaster such as a hurricane coming or flood waters rising, where an organization has time to move the applications to a safer locate.

Second, aside from business continuity, the technology is also used in consolidation scenarios where there has been a merger, and there are more data centers than necessary. In such a case, an organization could keep applications running and move them to a new data center without dropping a connection and have them running in a new data center.

A third use case for the live migration capabilities tends to be capacity planning-related where a data center is running out of power in a primary data center and needs to start growing in a secondary data center. 

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