F5 is coming out with new hardware and software for service providers that will allow them to provide new revenue-generating services and offer better service-level agreements at a lower capital cost than they'd have to lay out with traditional gear.

The company says its combined offerings support an architecture it calls service delivery networking. There are nine solution sets in four categories: voice and messaging, video content delivery, data services and service operations.

The solution sets take features of F5's BIG-IP VIPRION gear and map them to particular needs of carriers. For example, the equipment can be used to steer customer traffic toward the most appropriate carrier infrastructure to efficiently deliver the services customers request.

If a customer accesses the service provider network via a WAP-enabled phone seeking a video service, a traditional network layer 2-3 policy router might send the traffic to a WAP gateway because all it knows is that the request is coming from a WAP device. The request would more appropriately be handled by a video-optimization server, but instead is handled by the WAP gateway, wasting CPU cycles.

To address this problem, F5's architecture calls for placing one of its BIG-IP VIPRION devices between the policy router and the carrier service network, steering the traffic to the appropriate services based on layer 4-7 sorting.

Because the infrastructure supporting the services would be used more efficiently, carriers could slow the need to expand that infrastructure, F5 says.

In addition, an F5 BIG-IP VIPRION could add new services that carriers could charge for. Layer 4-7 visibility can pick up on the application the customer is using and insert packets, for example. So if a customer is calling down video to a device, the F5 gear could recognize that and follow policies that insert an advertisement into the stream that the carrier can charge for, F5 says.

The company is announcing two new pieces of hardware in support of service delivery networking, VIPRION Performance Blade 200 and the BIG-IP 11050 appliance. Both perform the same functions, but the appliance is for deployments where a full chassis that holds the blades might not be needed.

New software features that support service delivery networks are available now, and the hardware is due to become available by year-end.