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Latest Articles from James Harris | F5 DevCentral

The latest Articles from James Harris on F5's Technical Community!

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LTM Source Address Persistence

Wed, 23 May 2007 08:42:39 -0700


BigIP is deep and has lots of features that can boggle the mind from time to time. As a former customer of F5 there are a few key features that we took advantage of to make life easier for us.

One of these features is Source Address Persistence. When testing a new version of our software we would often install the upgrade on a portion of the production servers. Those newly updated servers would be defined in a network pool.  We would take advantage of the BigIP Servers and use source address persistence to route all our internal users though the newly upgraded servers. We ‘tested in production’ before taking the upgrade live to our general customer base.  This looked like:

Internal corporate network -> external gateway to the Internet (IP -> BigIP -> Virtual Server directed at test pool ( with profile that persisted all users from to the virtual server at

We would often run this for several days to make sure we had caught any issues during the upgrade. The nice thing about session persistence was that we were sure that we were 'stuck' to the test servers while testing and had not been balanced over to production boxes in our multi-tiered environment. Once we were comfortable with things, we often took advantage of the dynamic ratio feature to start to move a portion of ‘real world’ traffic to the site. More on that in another post.

Using Virtual Server to install updates on BigIP

Tue, 20 Mar 2007 13:28:34 -0700

With the 9.x version of BigIP you can set-up the Microsoft Virtual Server to be a PXE boot server that will allow you to easily install / upgrade your BigIP. You will want to: Backup your configuration Download the install CD ROM ISO from F5 Networks Create your Virtual Server Install the package onto your BigIP Saving and backing up your configuration Save yourself some pain if something goes wrong. It is one simple command from the console:            bigpipe config save /config.ucs Download the install CR ROM ISO from F5 Networks Log into AskF5. On the top button bar is a downloads link. From there navigate to the software version you would like to install on your BigIP. For more help see SOL167- Downloading software from F5 Networks Creating you Virtual Server This processes assumes you have installed and configured Windows Virtual Server. Once you have the Virtual Server running you will need to take the following steps: Start Virtual Server Choose create new Virtual Server and complete the following:               Name – assign it a name                Memory – keep at default                Virtual Disk – keep as default                Virtual Network Adaptor – External Network                Now save this new Virtual Server. Once your new Virtual Server has been created you will need to configure the CD / DVD drive to point to the correct ISO image. To do this you will: Click on the CD/DVD link in your new Virtual Server Select known image files Enter the fully qualified path to the ISO image file Click the Add CD/DVD Drive>> Now you are ready to start your Virtual Server. Install the package onto your BigIP You will need to take a few steps to configure the PXE server. Start your virtual Server. Once the Virtual machine starts up. The following message displays:               Select terminal type? [vt100]               Press Enter to use vt100 emulation, or type the name of the terminal emulator you are using. After you select the terminal type, the following screen opens:               Maintenance OS Options               Serve   Provide network installation services               Install Install software onto hard disk               Reboot  Reboot to your current system               Exit    Exit to maintenance shell Select the default, Serve.               A list of available network interfaces displays.               Select one for the installation server interface. After you select the interface you want to use as the installation server interface, the following prompt displays:               Use existing DHCP server on subnet [no]? Indicate your DHCP choice:               · If there is an existing DHCP server on your subnet that you want to use, type yes.                             The server configuration automatically completes.               · If you want to set up this server as the DHCP server, type no.                             The following series of prompts displays:                             IP network [10.1.10]?                             IP address of server 10.1.10[n] [199]?                             Lower range for clients 10.1.10.[n] [199]?                             Upper range for clients 10.1.10.[n] [200]?               · If your subnet consists only of the server and the target BIG-IP unit, or is otherwise a private subnet,                  use the default IP addresses provided.                 If the settings displayed a[...]

Second Big Step

Mon, 19 Mar 2007 13:56:57 -0700

Earlier this week we announced the release of ControlPoint (its codename was spaten). The full details of the press release can be found here.

Personally I find this to be extremely cool because we are taking the next step along our the path to making our products be easier to maintain and manage. With Enterprise Manger we started down the path to making it much more simpler to deploy, update, and control BigIP boxes. As a former customer we could have really benefited from  this vs. having to ‘roll our own’ solution.  As soon as we solve this problem, we needed to solve another – which was to demonstrate the ROI for our BigIP investments. Sure we could build business cases on how we used the BigIPs to manage upgrades and roll backs; we often used BigIPs to divert to less content rich sites during large surges of traffic;  and in general the BigIPs we a critical and valuable part of our network.

With the ROI information at hand, we then could easily and quickly build business cases for upgrades and show the value for ourselves and our execs. In my case we had to take a series of open source tools; divert a few development resources away from their regular jobs and come up with a monitoring solution that helped show the ROI.

With ControlPoint you don’t need take that expense and can just get it off the shelf. I’m all up for engineering skunk work projects to build tools that are helpful to the company and keep engineering skills sharp. That said the big test in my mind is ‘if it is not your core business then look for off the shelf technologies’. If our core business is monitoring products then we should spend the time and effort to build a home grown solution. If it is not, and in most companies that is the case go out and get something. With ControlPoint we now can offer something – not only something that works great with F5 but is also based on a Microsoft technology that very well may be already part of your network / server management suite.

I’m glad to see this second step and certainly would have put it to quick use in my previous company.

- James


Thu, 22 Feb 2007 16:03:00 -0800

Let me introduce myself. I've recently moved into the Business Development Team focused on our Microsoft partnership.

I've been at F5 for a little over 3 years working as a Program Manager for the FirePass, WANJet, and WebAccelerator teams. I've been in this industry for the past 20 years; prior to joining F5, I've worked at Classmates, Asta Networks, WRQ, the Navy; and Boeing.

I've done a lot of different things in the past 2 years but have always focused on the intersection between technology and business. Some of my more favorite highlights are: doing a ‘crash’ data center move in under 30 days; defining the procedure for rolling out code on one of the top 10 destinations of the Internet; supporting partnerships with HP and Freshwater; developing and deploying an interim system for a completely automated warehouse; and pitching a Denial of Services Detection tool in the executive offices of the White House.

I'm very excited about the possibilities of the joint interaction between Microsoft and F5. Both companies have a lot to gain from the partnership. If you are on campus, swing by. I'm in building 25.

- James