F5 Starts a Delivery Business
It's something F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV) has been struggling with, and part of the reason why the company is going on a Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) promo campaign starting next week. It's come up with a new term for its market: Service Delivery Networking (SDN).
F5 already has telco customers. But it's finding that a lot of carriers -- including some of those customers -- have a blind spot when it comes to areas like policy enforcement or applications management.
"They don't know what to call it," says Jason Needham, F5 director of product management. "It's exactly the struggle that we faced almost 10 years ago in the rise to the enterprise space. I mean, you had all Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) Layer 2/Layer 3 jockeys who were basically saying, 'My world is routers and switches.' That does nothing for you in controlling and scaling the quality of service."
It's probably not just F5. Any number of competitors are selling policy- or applications-related gear into carriers after making their names in enterprise circles: Blue Coat Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BCSI), Cisco, Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS), Ipanema Technologies , Radware Ltd. (Nasdaq: RDWR), Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD), and Zeus Technology , to name more than a few. (See Cisco Turns Up the Apps Delivery Dial, The Boy From Ipanema, Radware Intros New Alteon Switches, and Verizon Teams With Riverbed to Optimize Apps.)
They may all be facing the issue that policy and applications work doesn't neatly fit an OSI layer. The term "Layer 4 through 7" is commonplace, but Needham says that telcos usually hand him over to those Layer 2/Layer 3 people.
Our suspicion is that telcos will be (or ought to be) hiring more people out of the IT and software and applications realms. They need policy advocates who think outside the OSI stack -- SPITters, if you will.
In the meantime, F5 and others will probably continue talking to telcos' packet experts. Creating the SDN definition might not help much -- in fact, it might end up being the type of vendor-specific term that adds to the confusion. But I can see why F5 would want a simpler, layerless name for what it does.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading