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F5 Networks adds 10 GigE to ARX file virtualization product

F5 Networks introduces a file inventory software module that aggregates usage reports across multiple filers, while a new model of the ARX switch now supports 10 Gigabit Ethernet connections.

F5 Networks Inc. has updated its ARX file virtualization switch product line with the addition of a new midsized model with support for 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) connections, as well as a new file system inventory software module.

The new ARX4000 switch fits between the ARX1000 and ARX6000 offerings in F5's file virtualization product line with support for 12 Gigabit Ethernet ports compared to the ARX1000's 6 GigE ports and the ARX6000's 24 GigE ports. The ARX4000 is the first of the switches to also offer two 10 GigE ports.

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Terri McClure said adding 10 GigE ports to a smaller box than the top-of-the-line ARX6000 makes sense, since the offering will probably appeal most to companies needing throughput for smaller numbers of large multimedia files. "This fills a gap in their product line and positions them to target the media and entertainment space, which needs high bandwidth," she said.

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IDC analyst Rick Villars added that enterprise customers will soon begin a move to 10 GigE in the data center, as well. "It's important to start lining up products for what's coming."

F5 user Bill Montgomery, manager of information systems for Lulu Press said it's the size of the box, rather than the 10 GigE networking that interests him. "There was definitely a big gap between the 1000 and 6000, and this concerned me as we get closer to the limits of our ARX1000," he wrote to in an email. "The increase in the number of files managed from 384 [million with the ARX1000] to 2 [billion with the ARX 4000] is important to us -- we're already at around 300 [million] files."

F5 also added a new software module while changing the name of its software line for ARX. What previously had been called the FreedomFabric Network Manager will now be referred to as Data Manager. Previously, F5 had introduced a configuration software module under FreedomFabric, and is adding a file system inventory module, also called Data Manager.

Before, users could track storage capacity and utilization on filers separately. The new reporting software will aggregate metadata on file systems under management by ARX into one screen, according to Nigel Burmeister, director of product marketing for F5. The file system inventory module will track data on NAS systems by type, capacity consumed, age and frequency of access to allow users to set policies that balance capacity and performance in their environment.

For now, users set the policies in the ARX management console separately after gleaning information from the reports, but Burmeister didn't rule out deeper integration that might allow new policies to be generated directly from the reporting results in the future. "Today, the functionality isn't as integrated as we would like," he said.

Meanwhile, F5 customer Sean Maisey, manager of IT operations for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, said his shop probably won't have a need for 10 GigE for file virtualization soon, but he finds the new reporting software interesting. "Right now we don't have any [performance] bottlenecks," he said. "But the new reporting software is of interest because it fits in with our general direction of unifying management with Microsoft's Operations Manager and NetApp's Operations Manager suite."

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