F5 Networks adds carrier-grade NAT to NFV platform

F5 Networks announced on Wednesday that it has added carrier-grade network address translation (CGNAT) as a standalone package to its network functions virtualization (NFV) portfolio.

The CGNAT package is addition to prepackaged LAN traffic management and firewall VNFs that F5 Networks announced last summer, along with its F5 VNF Manager.

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CGNAT, which includes the F5 VNF Manager, comes with a broad set of tools designed to aid service providers in their migration to IPv6 while still supporting the existing IPv4 devices and content. The CGNAT VNF package will be available in the first half of this year.

F5 Networks' VNF Manager controls the life cycle of its VNFs by spinning them up or spinning them down as needed, or moving them to different locations.

"The VNF Manager is intended to manage F5 VNFs," said Damir Vrankic, vice president, product management at F5 Networks, in an email to FierceTelecom. "It is intentionally designed to connect to a VIM (virtual infrastructure manager) like OpenStack and overall orchestrators via the TOSCA standard.  This allows for architectural flexibility and easy deployment of F5 VNFs."

With the VNF Manager, F5's VNFs can be fully automated from deployment to operations. On the northbound part of a network, the VNF Manager works with an "orchestrator of orchestrators," which is a multitiered system focused on provisioning and assuring each of the VNF or NFV functions.

F5's NFV portfolio is also getting a performance boost through Intel's Quick Assist Technology (Intel QAT), which is a feature of Intel's Xeon Scalable processor. Pairing F5 Network's Big IP Virtual Edition support with Intel QAT for SSL and TSL acceleration and offloading can provide up to four times the performance of encryption done in software, according to F5 Networks.

Higher performance and increased throughput will also be enabled with BIG-IP Virtual Edition support of the Mellanox ConnectX family of network interface adapters (NICs), including 100G. Vrankic said F5 is supporting the ConnectX-3/4/5 family of NICs as Layer 2 NICs.

Working with Mellanox, F5 said it can boost data plane performance to near line rate by using optimized drivers that reduce the overhead associated with processing packets. Mellanox network adapters will improve the performance of the entire portfolio of F5 VNF solutions.

“5G is going to lead to an exponential increase in data usage and the creation of new applications and services that have only been imagined in the past,” said Amit Krig, SVP, Network Adapter Group, Mellanox, in a prepared statement. “ConnectX was developed to meet these needs both now and in the future. With multiple times the performance packed into the same infrastructure footprint, service providers working with F5 and Mellanox can maximize the return on their 5G network build-out and quickly reap the benefits of new 5G services.”

F5 also announced a new package of technical support and maintenance services for service providers. F5's SP Essentials will provide service providers with technical support for their 5F products and services. SP Essentials is slated for release at the end of March.

F5 will be demonstrating its Automation Toolchain at Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona. The tool chain provides for programmatic deployment, configuration, and management of F5 devices and the services they support. Available on GitHub and based on declarative technology, the F5 Automation Toolchain provides the tools necessary to automate F5 services and to integrate F5 solutions into third-party automation, analytics, and orchestration tools.

"The move to 5G and network virtualization is a major shift for service providers," said Vrankic. "On top of the significant work going into the 5G rollout, this means new skill sets, new priorities, a new way of working. On the other side of this transition, virtualization and automation will give workers the ability to manage to outcomes rather than being consumed by manual tasks or becoming an expert in all the ins-and-outs of every bit of software.

"The focus of our NFV platform is removing complexity by making it easy to buy, deploy and manage the NFV packaged solutions. Our 'use before you buy' model also allows customers to avoid being tied to per-instance licensing models which require a lot of work to predict needs."