F5 BIG-IP Review

iRule performs some traffic control and management functions that are not supported out of the box.

What is our primary use case?

We mainly use the following F5 modules 

ISP environments:

  • DNS firewall
  • Load balancer
  • WAF to be sold as a service to their clients

Enterprise environments:

  • Web application firewall
  • Load balancer
  • Application policy manager
  • Fraud protection (Web and mobile)
  • DDoS (on-premise, and cloud-based)

What is most valuable?

iRule: It's a great feature that helped us multiple times have an advantage over competition (during PoCs) performing some traffic control/management functions that are not supported out of the box. Use Case: One client was deploying a new web app, where video/chat Traffic is configured over the SOCKS protocol. We used iRule to disable the WAF Inspection when a SOCKS protocol packet passed through (because it is not supported), and enable the WAF Inspection for all other URLs on the same Web page. (No other vendor in our region was able to provide that.)

Appliance Performance: One of the main advantages we always have over competition is in hardware performance, where the smallest F5 appliances compete with competitors’ medium to high-end appliances, while high-end devices can sit in the datacenter without risking performance degradation.

What needs improvement?

  • Reporting: One of the negative things about F5 is there is no place to generate a summary/executive/detailed report about everything happening on the box, especially for WAF & APM events. The only way to get some kind of report is enable the AVR module, and manually export the data required into PDF/XLS documents.
  • GUI interface: F5 appliances lack a standard dashboard page, where it shows a summary for all events on the boxes. (This is usually available with firewalls & IPSs...) In the F5 GUI, we have to perform multiple steps to reach the required info, but there is no simple (and attractive) GUI interface when compared to some other WAF competitors.
  • Event notifications

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I have not encountered any stability issues. It is a very stable product, even in big, high-load deployments. What I mean is that all F5 Hardware appliances are very stable and does not cause any performance degradation or failure when it has a high load (Of course a supported load).

We have deployment for different modules of F5 (LTM, ASM, CGNAT...) in Data Centers and in Telco's Public network, and we have never heard any complaints or of issues from our clients regarding the performance. - no packet drops, delays or disconnections.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We only encountered issues with small appliances, 2000s, when we needed to add more than two modules...

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support is great.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We previously used Cisco ACE (for load balancing & WAF). We switched because the Cisco ACE solution features were very basic compared to F5. Plus, the solutions line was discontinued several years ago.

How was the initial setup?

Initial setup is straightforward; easy deployment with lots of available online documentation.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

F5 Prices are considered higher then competitive solutions, but performance & features are worth the extra money.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Over our year of engagement with F5, we evaluated multiple products from other vendors and competed with many others, and we always found F5 products to be our first and best choice to advise our customers to use, with respect to:

  • Performance, protection, stability, scalability
  • Being modular based, for a better long term investment

F5 is dedicated to a specific technology line, which makes it the best of breed in the application delivery market. F5's main business is always focused on application delivery, whether in availability, security, or performance.

What other advice do I have?

F5 is a very stable and recommended product, whether needed on the internet edge or inside the data center. It can provide different application delivery solutions, such as:

  • Load balancing
  • Web application firewall
  • Access policy manager
  • Web fraud
  • DDoS protection.

I rate it nine out of 10 because we are an F5 partner, and we have been selling and deploying different F5 modules for different industry vectors. In any deployment we always had a great customer experience, mainly in the following areas:

  • performance stability 
  • overall stability
  • rich features in the appliances, that customers can benefit from.

It's a modular-based appliance. You can double the performance specs by a license upgrade, and regarding features you can add a license for additional modules (E.g.: Web application firewall, application policy manager, fraud, DDoS). In general, for a client doing a proper ROI over five years, F5 appliances become their preferred choice.

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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