F5 BIG-IP Review
The Local Traffic Manager provides the means and the intelligence to load balance based on advanced logic


Primary Use Case

Primary use case for the product is high availability and load sharing of applications to be serviced. Also, it provides application security by use of the Application Security Manager.

Improvements to My Organization

It has enabled us to keep a sustainable and supported load balancing platform. This is partly due to Cisco withdrawing a large number of their load balancing products and also related to Microsoft Network Load Balancing not scaling enough to suit our needs.

Valuable Features

The most valuable feature is the F5 LTM (Local Traffic Manager). This is the part of the product most organisations will be using most. It provides the core functionality to be able to load balance services and the means and the intelligence to be able to load balance based on advanced logic, e.g., TCL scripting.

The F5 GTM/BIGIP DNS (Global Traffic Manager) is another valuable feature. This feature allows for DNS load balancing, which means that high availability and load sharing can be done across services locally, as well as across datacenters with advanced capabilities.

Room for Improvement

I would like F5 to incorporate the ability to create your own custom roles and customised permissions within the product set. I have seen many customers wanting to give a certain level of access for the purposes of out-of-hours servicing to out-of-hours staff or teams that fulfill an operations type role.

For example, I would like to see the ability to create roles within F5 where I can specify permissions instead of choosing from a set list that does not always fit my organisation’s needs. The current roles available out-of-the-box do not allow for enough granularity for an operator role to take pool resources offline and push or commit those changes to the configuration/HA cluster. Every role within the F5 that can make changes should be able to commit those changes if the administrator(s) permits.

Use of Solution

Three to five years.

Stability Issues

Stability has never been an issue with F5 BIG-IP. The product is geared predominantly at providing stability and resiliency across your infrastructure.

Scalability Issues

No issues with scalability have been encountered. I would say that this has largely been due to having a good F5 consultant and consultancy throughout the buying process and implementation. This has ensured that the product being purchased can scale past our current needs and fulfill potential future needs.

Customer Service and Technical Support

I would give a 10 out of 10. Technical support through F5 is very thorough. On most occasions, the F5 DevCentral and support website generally gives you a lot of the expertise that you need without having to raise a support ticket. If you ever reach the stage of needing to raise a support ticket, you usually are handed quickly to someone who is able to deal with your query as efficiently as possible.

Previous Solutions

Previously, I have used Cisco load balancing, e.g., Cisco CSM, Cisco ACE, Microsoft Network Load Balancing, and Cisco GSS. Previously, Cisco load balancing or Microsoft NLB had always been the preferred options. However, since Cisco discontinued most of their load balancing products, it makes it very difficult to find products of the same grade and functionality. Since we began using F5 that gap in functionality has been filled. With F5, you get not just standard load balancing, but an array of other highly useful products to boot.

Pricing, Setup Cost and Licensing

The licensing pricing seems relatively easy enough to get your head around. I would advise anyone to ensure that you have a conversation with an F5 consultant before purchasing, as you would with most products. An F5 consultant is the best placed to understand your needs and ensure that you purchase the correct licensing and products for your requirements.

Other Solutions Considered

We did evaluate other options. We had already used products such as NetScaler, Microsoft NLB, and a vast array of Cisco load balancing products. F5 was chosen due to the level of power that the product has. I have not seen many single solutions that fulfill all the criteria that an F5 BIG-IP appliance can.

It is not superior to its competitors due to how advanced the features are and the modules that can be used. The product can be used with iRules, which are an advanced ways of making functions available on a load balancer via use of scripting in TCL.

Other Advice

I would strongly advise seeking technical consultation throughout purchasing and during implementation. This is usually because you can get good advice around best practises as well as utilising as much of the F5 features as possible. In some cases, you might even find yourself finding a solution to scenarios that you might not have been aware had a solution.

I rated this product four and a half stars, because of the level of advanced features available in the product versus cost. Though functionality is high, its cost can be considered slightly higher than its competitors.

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

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