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F5 Extends Storage to the Cloud

F5 Networks is readying software that will let enterprises extend their storage networks to public and private clouds.

The company last week said it will release by year's end its ARX Cloud Extender, software that will let enterprises integrate cloud storage as part of their data center infrastructures.

ARX Cloud Extender, in conjunction with F5's ARX file virtualization appliances, allows customers to create policies specifying how data is tiered, stored and accessed and it enables them to add public and private cloud resources as part of that infrastructure.

"Increasingly we have many customers and prospects interested in using either public or private forms of cloud as a storage alternative in their infrastructures," said Nigel Burmeister, F5's director of product marketing, in an interview. "Customers need to be discerning about the types of data that's suitable to put into the cloud, and how they get it into and out of the cloud in a seamless fashion."

One of the challenges the cloud poses from a storage perspective is it speaks a different language. Where enterprises rely on protocols like NFS and CIFS in terms of file storage, public and private cloud is often based on an object based storage interface, such as the REST or SOAP APIs. In order to reconcile that requires translation, typically via gateways.

F5's Cloud Extender will work with third-party translation gateways. So far, F5 has certified it to work with Iron Mountain's Virtual File Store, NetApp's StorageGrid (the cloud-based storage solution it gained from its acquisition of Bycast earlier this year) and Amazon Web Services S3 database storage service. Others will be announced in the future, according to Burmeister.

F5 is also extending its storage solution to branch locations. The company said it will release next quarter ARX Virtual Edition, a software-based version of ARX that doesn't require the customer to purchase it as an appliance. Rather, they can run it on an existing file server.

The company also released its iControl File Services API, which will allow customers and ISVs to use ARX's real-time change-notification in their applications. The API, which supports Java, .NET and Python, ships with ARX, but additional documentation is available via F5'2 DevCentral developer community.

Burmeister said the API can be used to extend the functionality of ARX with applications such as search, indexing, backup, audit and quota management tools. Among those who are using the API is Digital Reef, an ISV that provides electronic discovery and file governance software.

"We see tremendous value in the ARX API functionality and technology stack,” said Steve Akers, founder and CTO at Digital Reef, in a prepared statement. "This will simplify and accelerate our search processes."

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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