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SDN Journal Authors: Elizabeth White, Gil Allouche, Lori MacVittie, Dana Gardner, Adrian Bridgwater

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Protocol Fluency

It's a polyglot kind of world

How many different network protocols can you name?

There are, of course, a set of staples just about everyone knows: IP, ARP, VLAN, TCP, UDP, DNS, HTTP, SSL, TLS, SMTP, FTP, SMB, CIFS, 802.1q, 802.1ad.

Then there are recent additions like VXLAN, NVGRE, SPDY.

But we could fill post upon post with abbreviations and acronyms representing the literally hundreds of network protocols used across the Internet on a daily basis. The list of those used just to connect a client to a server is lengthy of its own accord: ARP, DHCP, IP, DNS, TCP, HTTP. And that's not even digging into the various routing and network support protocols that are probably flying by under the hood like RIP, STP and CDP.

The reality is that even the simplest of application transactions requires the use of a wide variety of protocols that span the entire OSI stack.

That's why protocol fluency is a key characteristic of an ADC and related technologies. ADCs, and thus technologies founded upon its capabilities such as F5 Software Defined Application Services (SDAS), are topologically situated in a strategic point of control within the data path: between the client computing device and the server-side application. It must, therefore, be able to fluently speak a multitude of network "languages" from core routing and switching all the way up the stack to application specific dialects.

the protocol stack

This fluency is what enables F5 SDAS to provide the breadth and depth of application services required to support delivery of the myriad applications  that make up business today. Protocol fluency across the entire stack enables services with gateway capabilities, that can translate between network protocols (VXLAN <--> VLAN) as easily as application protocols (such as SPDY <--> HTTP).

The greater the depth and breadth of protocol fluency available, the greater the flexibility in supporting architectures that rely on different sets of protocols.

F5 is constantly adding and enhancing its protocol support, and the most recent version of F5 Synthesis is no exception. From unicast VXLAN to full NVGRE to MPTCP, from MySQL and SQL to WebSockets, from TDS, DICOM, and FIX to ISO8583, the latest version of F5 Synthesis brought a variety of new protocol support to its already comprehensive list.

In an increasingly application world that's changing the very core of our networks and architectures, it's imperative that network devices be able to speak fluently a wide variety of technology languages to ensure interoperability and compatibility. Everything from business to networks to architectures are rapidly recognizing that they must be application-driven to succeed in the new app economy, and to be application-driven means you must first be application-fluent. You can't be fluent unless you understand not only the application layer protocols, but the network protocols, too, because the interaction between the two "stacks", as it were, is part of the way in which we solve challenges associated with security and performance and availability.

Both breadth and depth of protocol support is required to enable application fluency, and F5 continues to expand and enhance its fluency by bringing new protocols across the entire network stack to its software-defined application services.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.

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