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Zero Touch Application Delivery with F5, Terraform, and Consul

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[This is a guest newsroom blog post from HashiCorp]

Overview

Organizations compete on speed-to-market in today’s digital world. Responding quickly to market demands and customer feedback is critical to win in business. The processes used to build and deliver today’s applications have undergone a dramatic shift due to these business requirements. More companies are adopting a DevOps approach and agile methodologies to streamline and automate the application delivery process. However, one of the biggest hurdles that stop companies from achieving end-to-end automation is the lack of network automation. The traditional approaches are often manual and ticket-based. It can easily take days or weeks for multiple siloed teams to provision and update the app delivery controllers. These tedious, error-prone processes could significantly delay new service rollout, add additional operations burden when services scale up and down frequently, and increase the risk of downtime disruption due to misconfiguration. As organizations continue to scale the modern application deployments and expand their cloud adoption, the increasing demands and pressures drive the network teams to look for a new approach to operate and scale efficiently in the dynamic world.

F5 and HashiCorp work together to enable NetOps automation, allowing network and IT operations team to unblock application development with an automated application delivery process and provide a fast, scalable, and reliable network.

F5 Application Services 3 Extension (AS3) is a flexible, low-overhead mechanism for managing application-specific configurations on a BIG-IP system. It enables all the network and traffic control configuration on BIG-IP to be declared from code. HashiCorp builds tools to provide cloud infrastructure automation to enable self-service automation and DevOps practices. By integrating AS3 with the HashiCorp tool stack, users can automate the end-to-end application delivery lifecycle by incorporating the networking services into their development pipelines.

HashiCorp Terraform uses infrastructure as code to provision infrastructure. It allows network operation teams to treat the F5 BIG-IP platform “as code,” so the network infrastructure can be provisioned automatically when new services are deployed. The HashiCorp Consul as a service networking tool helps to automate the ongoing configuration for the F5 BIG-IP platform. Consul’s central service registry and service discovery capabilities track the real-time network location and health status of all backend services. It can update the BIG-IP pool members dynamically and trigger configuration reload automatically without operator intervention.

Terraform

Infrastructure as code is the foundation of DevOps practices. HashiCorp Terraform is the world’s most widely used cloud provisioning tool to enable infrastructure automation through codification. It uses API abstraction through declarative configuration files that can be shared amongst team members, treated as code, edited, reviewed, and versioned. Terraform works with over 200 different providers for a broad set of common infrastructure components. Providers leverage infrastructure-specific APIs to preserve unique capabilities for each provider. Using the BIG-IP provider, many key operational tasks can be automated, such as deploying a pool, nodes, and virtual servers for new applications. This allows network operations for BIG-IP to be treated as “code” and to be seamlessly incorporated into development teams’ CI/CD pipelines.

Consul

Once the application is up and running, it can be scaled up and down to manage the load and ensure high availability. The backend member pools need to be updated accordingly to route the traffic to the available application instances. Manual approaches to such change management is time-consuming and error-prone…not to mention dealing with hundreds of changes across different applications in a distributed environment. HashiCorp Consul is a service networking tool designed to address networking challenges for dynamic infrastructure. One of its core use case is to provide a central service registry as a real-time directory, tracking service network location and health status. AS3 can do Service Discovery using worker node on BIG-IP to query Consul’s service registry to automatically update the pool members as services are added, removed, or become unhealthy. Services can now be scaled up and down or fail gracefully without operator intervention.

Conclusion

As organizations push more frequent software releases to the market, there is an increasing need for NetOps automation to close the gaps in the application delivery chain to achieve end-to-end automation. To learn more about the automated approach enabled by F5, HashiCorp Terraform, and Consul, read the guest article by HashiCorp Technical Specialist Lance Larsen on DevCentral. In addition, click the link to watch demos from our joint webinar.

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