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Archived Manual Chapter: BIG-IP Solutions Guide v4.1: Introduction
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Introduction



Getting started

Before you start installing the BIG-IP, we recommend that you browse this BIG-IP Solutions Guide and find the load balancing solution that most closely addresses your needs. If the BIG-IP® unit is running the 3-DNS software module, you may also want to browse the 3-DNS Administrator Guide to find a wide area load balancing solution. Briefly review the basic configuration tasks and the few pieces of information, such as IP addresses and host names, that you should gather in preparation for completing the tasks.

Once you find your solution and gather the necessary network information, turn back to the Installation Guide for hardware installation instructions, and then return to this Solutions Guide to follow the steps for setting up your chosen solution.

Choosing a configuration tool

The BIG-IP offers both web-based and command line configuration tools, so that users can work in the environment that they are most comfortable with.

The First-Time Boot utility

All users will use the First-Time Boot utility, a wizard that walks you through the initial system set up. You can run the First-Time Boot utility from the command line, or from a web browser. The First-Time Boot utility prompts you to enter basic system information including a root password and the IP addresses that will be assigned to the network interfaces. The BIG-IP Reference Guide provides a list of the specific pieces of information that the First-Time Boot utility prompts you to enter.

The Configuration utility

The Configuration utility is a web-based application that you use to configure and monitor the load balancing setup on the BIG-IP. Once you complete the installation instructions described in this guide, you can use the Configuration utility to perform the configuration steps necessary for your chosen load balancing solution. In the Configuration utility, you can also monitor current system performance, and download administrative tools such as the SNMP MIB or the SSH client. The Configuration utility requires Netscape® Navigator version 4.7, or Microsoft® Internet Explorer version 5.0 or later.

The bigpipe and bigtop command line utilities

The bigpipeTM utility is the command line counter-part to the Configuration utility. Using bigpipe commands, you can configure virtual servers, open ports to network traffic, and configure a wide variety of features. To monitor the BIG-IP, you can use certain bigpipe commands, or you can use the bigtopTM utility, which provides real-time system monitoring. You can use the command line utilities directly on the BIG-IP console, or you can run commands via a remote shell, such as the SSH client (encrypted communications only), or a Telnet client (for countries restricted by cryptography export laws). For detailed information about the command line syntax, see the BIG-IP Reference Guide, Chapter 7, bigpipe Command Reference, and Chapter 11, Monitoring and Administration.

Using the Administrator Kit

The BIG-IP® Administrator Kit provides all of the documentation you need to work with the BIG-IP. The information is organized into the guides described below. The following printed documentation is included with the BIG-IP unit.

  • Hardware Configuration Guide
    This guide includes information about the BIG-IP unit. It also contains important environmental warnings.
  • Configuration Worksheet
    This worksheet provides you with a place to plan the basic configuration for the BIG-IP.

    The following guides are available in PDF format from the CD-ROM provided with the BIG-IP. These guides are also available from the first Web page you see when you log in to the administrative web server on the BIG-IP.

  • BIG-IP Installation Guide
    This guide walks you through the basic steps needed to get the hardware plugged in and the system connected to the network. Most users turn to this guide only the first time that they set up a BIG-IP. The BIG-IP Installation Guide also covers general network administration issues, such as setting up common network administration tools including Sendmail.
  • BIG-IP Solutions Guide
    This guide provides examples of common load balancing solutions. Before you begin installing the hardware, we recommend that you browse this guide to find the load balancing solution that works best for you.
  • BIG-IP Reference Guide
    This guide provides detailed configuration information for the BIG-IP. It also provides syntax information for bigpipe commands, other command line utilities, configuration files, system utilities, and monitoring and administration information.
  • F-Secure SSH User Guide
    This guide provides information about installing and working with the SSH client, a command line shell that supports remote encrypted communications. The SSH client and corresponding user guide is distributed only with BIG-IP units that support encryption.
  • 3-DNS Administrator and Reference Guides
    If your BIG-IP includes the optional 3-DNS software module, your administrator kit also includes manuals for using 3-DNS software. The 3-DNS Administrator Guide provides wide area load balancing solutions and general administrative information. The 3-DNS Reference Guide provides information about configuration file syntax and system utilities specific to the 3-DNS software.

Stylistic conventions

To help you easily identify and understand important information, our documentation uses the stylistic conventions described below.

Using the solution examples

All examples in this documentation use only non-routable IP addresses. When you set up the solutions we describe, you must use IP addresses suitable to your own network in place of our sample addresses.

Identifying new terms

To help you identify sections where a term is defined, the term itself is shown in bold italic text. For example, a virtual server is a specific combination of a virtual address and virtual port, associated with a content site that is managed by a BIG-IP or other type of host server.

Identifying references to objects, names, and commands

We apply bold text to a variety of items to help you easily pick them out of a block of text. These items include web addresses, IP addresses, utility names, and portions of commands, such as variables and keywords. For example, with the bigpipe pool <pool_name> show command, you can specify a specific pool to show by specifying a pool name for the <pool_name> variable.

Identifying references to other documents

We use italic text to denote a reference to another document. In references where we provide the name of a book as well as a specific chapter or section in the book, we show the book name in bold, italic text, and the chapter/section name in italic text to help quickly differentiate the two. For example, you can find information about bigpipe commands in the BIG-IP Reference Guide, Chapter 7, bigpipe Command Reference.

Identifying command syntax

We show complete commands in bold Courier text. Note that we do not include the corresponding screen prompt, unless the command is shown in a figure that depicts an entire command line screen. For example, the following command shows the configuration of the specified pool name:

bigpipe pool <pool_name> show

or

b pool <pool_name> show

Table Intro.1 explains additional special conventions used in command line syntax.

Command line syntax conventions

Item in text

Description

\

Indicates that the command continues on the following line, and that users should type the entire command without typing a line break.

< >

Identifies a user-defined parameter. For example, if the command has <your name>, type in your name, but do not include the brackets.

|

Separates parts of a command.

[ ]

Indicates that syntax inside the brackets is optional.

...

Indicates that you can type a series of items.

Finding additional help and technical support resources

You can find additional technical information about this product in the following locations:

  • Release notes
    Release notes for the current version of this product are available from the product web server home page, and are also available on the technical support site. The release notes contain the latest information for the current version, including a list of new features and enhancements, a list of fixes, and, in some cases, a list of known issues.
  • Online help
    You can find help online in three different locations:

    • The web server on the product has PDF versions of the guides included in the Administrator Kit.
    • The web-based Configuration utility has online help for each screen. Simply click the Help button.
    • Individual bigpipe commands have online help, including command syntax and examples, in standard UNIX man page format. Simply type the command followed by the word help, and the BIG-IP displays the syntax and usage associated with the command.
  • Third-party documentation for software add-ons
    The web server on the product contains online documentation for all third-party software, such as GateD.
  • Technical support via the World Wide Web
    The F5 Networks Technical Support web site, http://tech.F5.com, provides the latest technical notes, answers to frequently asked questions, updates for administrator guides (in PDF format), and the AskF5 natural language question and answer engine. To access this site, you need to obtain a customer ID and a password from the F5 Help Desk.

What's new in version 4.1

The BIG-IP offers the following major new features in version 4.1, in addition to many smaller enhancements.

Support for the IP Application Switch platform

This release includes support for the IP Application SwitchTM hardware platform.

SSL-to-server

This release includes an SSL-to-server feature. In some situations, your security needs may require you to encrypt traffic behind the virtual server. You can use this feature to re-encrypt traffic after it is processed by the BIG-IP.

Startup enhancements

This release includes two startup enhancements:

  • Quick boot
    The quick boot feature reduces the amount of time required to start the BIG-IP.
  • Quiet boot
    When you start the BIG-IP, relevant information is displayed on the terminal. This information includes product identification, vendor identification, copyright notice, hardware configuration information, version information, and a login prompt.

Enhanced interface statistics

This release features enhanced statistics for BIG-IP interfaces. The following state information and statistics are now available: MTU, Speed, MAC address, packets in, errors in, packets out, errors out, collisions, dropped packets, bits in, bits out. The purpose of the change is:

  • To further reduce the need for separate UNIX utilities like netstart.
  • To report statistics specifically for interfaces (netstart combines interfaces, VLANS, and trunks).
  • To enable other application interfaces, like iControl, to have access to this information.
  • To view statistics for all interfaces using the Configuration utility.

Health monitor enhancements

In this release, the WMI Data Collecting Agent (ISAPI) and the WMI Monitor Agent (WMIHttpAgent) have been enhanced to support WMI metrics for Windows MediaTM Services. The new metrics are shown in the following table, along with the command for gathering the metrics (GetWinMediaInfo), and the default coefficient and default threshold values.

Port mirroring

For the BIG-IP® IP Application SwitchTM, you can copy traffic from any port or set of ports to a single, separate port. This is called port mirroring. The target port, called the mirror-to port, should have attached to it a sniffer device for debugging and monitoring.

Spanning tree protocol support

Spanning tree protocol is supported in this release.

Web-based Configuration utility enhancements

This release includes a number of improvements to the web-based Configuration utility. All new features for this release are supported by the Configuration utility.

Learning more about the BIG-IP product family

The BIG-IP platform offers many different software systems. These systems can be stand-alone, or can run in redundant pairs, with the exception of the BIG-IP e-Commerce Controller, which is only available as a stand-alone system. You can easily upgrade from any special-purpose BIG-IP to the BIG-IP HA Controller, which supports all BIG-IP features.

  • The BIG-IP
    The BIG-IP HA, HA+, and Enterprise software provide the full suite of local area load balancing functionality. The BIG-IP unit also has an optional 3-DNS software module which supports wide-area load balancing.
  • The BIG-IP e-Commerce Controller
    The BIG-IP e-Commerce Controller uses SSL acceleration technology to increase the speed and reliability of the secure connections that drive e-commerce sites.
  • The BIG-IP special purpose products
    The special purpose BIG-IP provides the ability to choose from three different BIG-IP feature sets. When you run the First-Time Boot utility, you specify one of three BIG-IP types:

    • The BIG-IP Load Balancer
      The BIG-IP Load Balancer provides basic load balancing features.
    • The BIG-IP FireGuard
      The BIG-IP FireGuard provides load balancing features that maximize the efficiency and performance of a group of firewalls.
    • The BIG-IP Cache Controller
      The BIG-IP Cache Controller uses content-aware traffic direction to maximize the efficiency and performance of a group of cache servers.
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