F5 augments its already comprehensive availability solutions such as trusted N+1 HA architectures with ScaleN. ScaleN was architected with elasticity and multi-tenancy in mind. ScaleN enabled BIG-IP is as elastic as the applications it provides services for and isolates applications to enable application-level failover and scale, a capability unique to F5.

ScaleN supports three models for infrastructure and application scalability: Virtualization, Horizontal Clustering, and On-Demand Scaling. These models are not mutually exclusive, and can be layered and used together to implement scalability of infrastructure and applications that best fits operational and business requirements.

Today we're going to dive into ScaleN Virtualization.

ScaleN Virtualization

ScaleN Virtualization is, in a nutshell, the technology that enable BIG-IP to scale itself seamlessly and provide the multi-tenant capabilities required to make shared infrastructure without compromising on application and business-specific requirements a reality. 

The core BIG-IP system, based on TMOS, combines the power of device virtualization and partitioning approaches into a single, scalable system which we call ScaleN Virtualization.



Multi-tenancy is the ability of software to serve multiple tenants sharing a single instance of software or, in the case of hardware-based solutions, a single instance of the operating system. Multi-tenancy for shared network infrastructure typically begins with virtually partitioning data and configuration to allow each tenant its own set of profiles and policies. This is the common approach used by SaaS providers, where customers share the same software but are able to personalize its behavior on a per-organization basis. For network infrastructure, however, this partitioning must extend into the network and include the ability to isolate routing and networking domains.

F5 BIG-IP supports both these capabilities through its administrative and routing domain features. These capabilities allow ScaleN-enabled BIG-IP to virtually partition itself, isolating configuration and routing on a per virtual domain basis.

Within each virtual domain, organizations can further isolate and secure configuration and policies by leveraging a role-based access system for greater administrative control. Route domains provide isolation of networks such that overlapping subnets and IP addresses do not result in conflicts that can lead to outages or disruption of services.

Device Virtualization

Device virtualization allows the provisioning of resources based on a diverse set of requirements, all within the same physical device. Where partitioning shares the OS, device virtualization shares only the underlying hardware, offering each tenant its own OS and solution stack. This approach has advantages over partitioning in that it offers benefits vcmp-examplebeyond configuration and routing isolation. The ability to virtualize BIG-IP with Scale In means providers and enterprise customers can isolate based on BIG-IP version, enabling departmental or project-based tenancy as well as performance guarantees and increased utilization of ScaleN-enabled BIG-IP. 

Device virtualization is enabled by F5’s unique vCMP (virtual Clustered Multi-Processing) technology. vCMP allows F5 hardware platforms to run multiple guest instances of BIG-IP. Each BIG-IP guest instance looks and acts like a “real” BIG-IP, providing all the same management and real time traffic management capabilities as a stand-alone BIG-IP system.

Each vCMP guest can further be divided using multi-tenant features such as partitions and route domains, providing the means by which IT can support diverse business, application and departmental requirements without sacrificing predictable performance or the simplified management of a single, consolidated application delivery platform.

Elastic Infrastructure Realized

The combination of device virtualization, partitioning, and vCMP enables fewer BIG-IP instances to scale comparatively to solutions requiring many more physical or virtual instances. ScaleN Virtualization technology leverages purpose-built F5 Clustered Multi-Processing (CMP) technology that makes more efficient use of multi-core processors for internal scalability. CMP is then leveraged as part of vCMP to further extend the ability of individual tenants to scale compute and routing requirements on demand. Each vCMP instance has its own route domain, which enables isolation of and control over the network and routing for that instance. ScaleN Virtualization supports hundreds of partitions in addition to vCMP instances, resulting in a highly scalable multi-tenant architecture.

ScaleN Virtualization  enables organizations to take advantage of combinations of hardware, software and virtualized components, in the local or remote data center as well as the cloud. vCMP makes it possible to deploy individual BIG-IP LTM instances that enable fault-isolation, version independency, and on-demand, hardware-layer scalability.


Stay tuned for our next post where we'll dig into On-Demand Scaling.

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