F5 BIG-IP Review

Hardware and software partitioning enable us to deploy multiple instances, two vCMPs

What is our primary use case?

We’re a systems integration company. We propose this solution mostly to our banking customers and large enterprise clients, so that they can load-balance their core banking applications and their main applications.

It also provides proxying, the client cannot directly access the server. BIG-IP is a proxy between the user and the server, so the client cannot make connections directly to servers. They land on F5 BIG-IP and then F5 creates connections on servers on behalf of clients.

We use the solution for smarter, safer, and reliable connectivity.

How has it helped my organization?

It has multi-tenancy features, like hardware clustering. It has software partitioning so that you can partition F5. For example, in my recent deployments, I deployed F5 in a bank where they had two load balancers. One was Cisco Ace and the other was Citrix Netscaler.

We created two instances, two vCMP Virtual Clustered Multiprocessing, two hardware partitions in F5, one for Ace and one for Citrix. We migrated all applications which were on Ace to the Ace partition, and we migrated all applications which were on Citrix to the Citrix partition. Further, we created the outgoing internet and software partitions, and it has application visibility, reporting functions.

What is most valuable?

It has so many features. First of all, it has a full proxy architecture, it has multiple modules. The best feature is the WAF, the web application firewall module. It also has cashing type capabilities. It has all kinds of load-balancing algorithms based on your IT requirements.

So the WAF and load balancing. Both are core features of BIG-IP.

In every environment, you have a Web application firewall, you have internet firewalls. Then, traffic comes into your datacenter so that you have datacenter firewalls. F5 has everything.

It provides first-tier firewalling, for you application. And it provides server load-balancing, it provides optimization, and it provides a proxy feature, where your users cannot directly access your server. It acts as a fully proxy architecture. It has client-side and server-side connections, both, and they're separate.

It also has an AVR feature: application, visibility, and recording. It's good for customers looking for what is actually happening in their network and where the latency is. If I'm using iDirect, the bank branch is connecting to my core banking application, but if the clients are finding that the application is slow, it has TCP  LAN and WAN optimization features. It has has caching.

What needs improvement?

The room for improvement is that the product is a little costly. I live in the Third World, Pakistan. We have budget constraints, even in big enterprise servers. My team said that this product is too costly, and why don't we go with another product, we should do a comparative analysis with Citrix and F5.

I told them that is costly, but it has rich features, the support is good, the features are reliable, and the technical assistance center, the tech support, is almost perfect.

Still, I would say they need to cut their prices for countries or regions that we live in.

The one gap I saw was that pure LBN integration is a little tricky. The insertion of F5 in LBN is a little tricky. They need to work on something, on products by which they can insert F5 in any sort of cloud environment. These are not really big things. 

They are continuously improving. They are improving day by day, and they are the number-one load balancer.

For how long have I used the solution?

More than five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is a stable product. It runs on TMOS, traffic management operating system. This is very stable. 

If they see that an upgrade required, they provide you the release and they provide you the release notes, so you can upgrade your TMOS version and at any time. You can also open a case and they can guide you on how to upgrade your TMOS version.

They also keep an eye on vulnerability. If there is a bug or any sort of vulnerability in their operating system, they will immediately release an update. So the product is so much more stable compared to any load balancers on the planet at the moment.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It has that scalability for adding more F5, N + 1. 

It's scalable, and it has more functions than a service. At the same time, this device can run access policy manager, it has Web application firewall, datacenter switching to DR sites. It has a modular approach actually. It gives you what you want.

How is customer service and technical support?

They are very professional. They are highly skilled people.

How was the initial setup?

It is neither simple nor complex. It all depends on what kind of situations you are in. My last deployment was a little bit complex but previous deployments were very simple.

We did hardware partitioning and software partitioning for a multi-tenancy concept, where every application owner has its own load balancing instance within F5. So it all depends on how you deploy a device and it depends on your planning.

If you want a simple deployment you can do so. You can create multiple virtual servers on F5 BIG-IP technology, and within multiple virtual servers you can have multiple nodes, where a node equals two application servers.

It can be deployed in a complex manner and it can be deployed in a very simple manner, it all depends on your choice. 

It has a rapid deployment feature to deploy Microsoft Exchange load balancing. It has automation. You can simply click on Microsoft Exchange 2016 Email Server. Tclick on it and tell F5 about server IPs, and it goes automatically. 

What was our ROI?

 24 x 7 always on applications without any down time. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

What other advice do I have?

F5 is the number-one application delivery controller, plus they are the number-one Web application firewall, together in the market right now. So what else do you want from them? Whenever we go and pitch this solution to our customers, we tell them that we are not selling you just a load balancer. We are selling you application delivery controllers, and Web application firewalls.

I give it 9.5 out of 10. It's a really costly product and smaller organizations cannot afford this solution, so it's hard to sell a plan. But once the customer has it, this product is a 10.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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