Manual Chapter : BIG-IP Administrator guide v4.0: Introduction

Applies To:

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BIG-IP versions 1.x - 4.x

  • 4.0 PTF-04, 4.0 PTF-03, 4.0 PTF-02, 4.0 PTF-01, 4.0.0
Manual Chapter


Getting started

Before you start installing the controller, we recommend that you browse the BIG-IP Administrator Guide and find the load balancing solution that most closely addresses your needs. If the BIG-IP Controller 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 the Administrator Guide to follow the steps for setting up your chosen solution.

Choosing a configuration tool

The BIG-IP Controller 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 Installation 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 Controller. 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 later, 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 Controller, 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 Controller console, or you can execute 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 2, bigpipe Command Reference, and the BIG-IP Administrator Guide, Chapter 18, 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 Controller. The information is organized into the guides described below.

  • 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 controller. The BIG-IP Installation Guide also covers general network administration issues, such as setting up common network administration tools including Sendmail.

  • BIG-IP Administrator Guide
    This guide provides examples of common load balancing solutions, as well as additional administrative information. Before you begin installing the controller 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 basic descriptions of individual BIG-IP objects, such as pools, nodes, and virtual servers. It also provides syntax information for bigpipe commands, other command line utilities, configuration files, and system utilities.

  • 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 Controllers that support encryption.

  • 3-DNS Administrator and Reference Guides
    If your BIG-IP Controller includes the optional 3-DNS software module, your administrator kit also includes manuals for using 3-DNS Controller 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 Controller.

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 Controller 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 1, 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


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 Controller 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,, 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 4.0

The BIG-IP Controller offers the following major new features in version 4.0, in addition to many smaller enhancements.

3-DNS on the BIG-IP Controller

With this release of the BIG-IP Controller, you can order the full wide-area load balancing functionality of the 3-DNS Controller combined with the local-area load balancing functionality of the BIG-IP Controller. An advantage you gain with this configuration is that the combined configuration requires less rack space.

OneConnectTM content switching with HTTP Keep-Alives

OneConnect content switching allows you to turn on the Keep-Alive functionality on your Web servers.

You can now configure BIG-IP Controller rules to support HTTP 1.1 Keep-Alive functionality. This feature allows you to benefit from the Keep-Alive features on your Web servers.

Another benefit of this feature is client aggregation. You can aggregate client connections by configuring a SNAT for inbound requests. This reduces the number of connections from the BIG-IP Controller to back-end servers and from clients to the BIG-IP Controller.

Bridging and Layer 2 forwarding

The bridging and Layer 2 forwarding functionality in this release provides the ability to bridge packets between VLANs and between VLANs on the same IP network. The layer 2 forwarding feature provides the ability to install a BIG-IP Controller without changing the IP network configuration. For an example of how to use layer 2 forwarding, see VLAN group in the BIG-IP Reference Guide, Chapter 1, Configuring the BIG-IP Controller.

HTTP Redirect pool property

The HTTP redirect feature adds the ability to redirect clients to another site or server or to a 3-DNS Controller when the members of a pool they were destined for are not available. For more information, see HTTP Redirect (specifying a fallback host) in the BIG-IP Reference Guide, Chapter 1, Configuring the BIG-IP Controller.

Load balance any IP protocol

The load balance any IP protocol feature provides the ability to load balance IP protocols other than TCP or UDP. This means that you can load balance VPN client connections across a number of VPNs, eliminating the possibility of a single point of failure. For more information, see Chapter 7, Using IPSEC with VPN Gateways.

Link aggregation and fail-over

The link aggregation, and related fail-over, feature provides the ability to combine multiple Ethernet links into a single trunk. This allows you to increase available bandwidth incrementally and improve link reliability. For more information, see Trunks in the BIG-IP Reference Guide, Chapter 1, Configuring the BIG-IP Controller.

On-the-fly content converter

The on-the-fly content converter provides a simplified method of converting URLs in HTML files passing through the BIG-IP Controller to ARLs that point to the Akamai Freeflow NetworkTM. For more information, see Chapter 13, Configuring a Content Converter.

SNAT automap feature

The SNAT automap feature provides the ability to automatically map a SNAT to a BIG-IP Controller VLAN or self IP address. This simplifies the ability to load balance multiple internet ISPs. For more information, see SNATs in the BIG-IP Reference Guide, Chapter 1, Configuring the BIG-IP Controller.

Health monitors

This release contains predefined templates that you can use to define many different types of monitors (EAVs and ECVs) that check the health and availability of devices in the network. You can associate a monitor with a single node or many nodes. For more information, see the Health monitors in the BIG-IP Reference Guide, Chapter 1, Configuring the BIG-IP Controller.

Performance monitors

A performance monitor gathers statistics that are the basis for load balancing decisions made with the Dynamic Ratio load balancing method. You can implement Dynamic Ratio load balancing on RealNetworks RealServer platforms, Windows platforms equipped with Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), and on platforms that support simple network management protocol (SNMP). For more information, see the Configuring servers and the BIG-IP Controller for Dynamic Ratio load balancing under Pools in the BIG-IP Reference Guide, Chapter 1, Configuring the BIG-IP Controller.

Default controller configuration

The BIG-IP Controller includes a default configuration that allows you to connect to a controller remotely and configure it by command line or from a web-based user interface. The default configuration provides a default IP address (RFC 1918) on the default internal VLAN or on the Admin VLAN if the controller has three interfaces. You can connect to the default IP address and log on to the controller with the default user name and password. This provides the ability to run the First-Time Boot utility from a remote SSH client or from a web browser. For more information, see the BIG-IP Installation Guide, Chapter 2, Creating the Initial Software Configuration.

Web-based Configuration utility enhancements

This release includes a number of improvements to the web-based Configuration utility. There are new wizards for tasks such as adding virtual servers, rules, monitors, and initial setup. A new tab-style navigation system simplifies navigation in the utility. In addition to the wizards for completing simple tasks, this release includes several configuration wizards that simplify creating a configuration for the BIG-IP Controller. These wizards include the Basic Site Configuration wizard, the Secure Site Configuration wizard, and the Active-active wizard.

Learning more about the BIG-IP Controller product family

The BIG-IP Controller 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 Controller to the BIG-IP HA Controller, which supports all BIG-IP Controller features.

  • The BIG-IP HA Controller with optional 3-DNS software module
    The BIG-IP HA Controller provides the full suite of local area load balancing functionality. The BIG-IP HA Controller also has an optional 3-DNS software module which supports wide-area load balancing.

  • The combined product BIG-IP Controller
    The combined product BIG-IP Controller provides the ability to choose from three different BIG-IP Controller feature sets. When you run the First-Time Boot utility, you specify the controller type:

    • The BIG-IP LB Controller
      The BIG-IP LB Controller provides basic load balancing features.

    • The BIG-IP FireGuard Controller
      The BIG-IP FireGuard Controller 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 an group of cache servers.

  • 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.