Manual Chapter : BIG-IP Reference Guide v4.6.2: Introduction

Applies To:

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BIG-IP versions 1.x - 4.x

  • 4.6.4, 4.6.3, 4.6.2
Manual Chapter


Getting started

Before you start installing the BIG-IP system, we recommend that you browse the 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 to the Configuration Worksheet and Platform Guide for hardware installation instructions, and then refer to the BIG-IP Solutions Guide to follow the steps for setting up your chosen solution.

Choosing a configuration tool

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

The Setup utility

All users need to use the Setup utility (formerly known as First-Time Boot utility). This utility walks you through the initial system set up. You can run the Setup utility from the command line, or from a web browser. The Setup utility prompts you to enter basic system information including a root password and the IP addresses that will be assigned to the network interfaces. For more information, see Chapter 2, Using the Setup Utility .

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 system. Once you complete the instructions for the Setup utility described in this guide, you can use the Configuration utility to perform additional 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 MIBs or the SSH client. The Configuration utility requires Netscape® Navigator version 4.7x, or Microsoft® Internet Explorer version 5.0, 5.5, or 6.0.

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 system, 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 system console, or you can run commands using a remote shell, such as the SSH client or a Telnet client. For detailed information about the bigpipe command line syntax, see Appendix A bigpipe Command Reference .

Using the Administrator Kit

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

  • Configuration Worksheet
    This worksheet provides you with a place to plan the basic configuration for the BIG-IP system.

The following guides are available in PDF format from the CD-ROM provided with the BIG-IP system. 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 system.

  • Platform Guide
    This guide includes information about the BIG-IP unit. It also contains important environmental warnings.
  • 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 system. It also provides syntax information for bigpipe commands, other command line utilities, configuration files, system utilities, and monitoring and administration information.
  • 3-DNS Administrator and Reference Guides
    If your BIG-IP system includes the optional 3-DNS module, your administrator kit also includes manuals for using the 3-DNS module. 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 module.
  • BIG-IP Link Controller Solutions Guide
    This guide provides examples of common link load balancing solutions using the Link Controller. Before you begin installing the hardware, we recommend that you browse this guide to find the load balancing solution that works best for you.

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 system 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 Appendix A 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 Introduction.1 explains additional special conventions used in command line syntax.

Item in text



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 system displays the syntax and usage associated with the command.
  • Third-party documentation for software add-ons
    The BIG-IP distribution CD contains online documentation for all third-party software.
  • Technical support through 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.


All references to hardware platforms in this guide refer specifically to systems supplied by F5 Networks, Inc. If your hardware was supplied by another vendor and you have hardware-related questions, please refer to the documentation from that vendor.

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 systems, 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 system to the BIG-IP HA software, which supports all BIG-IP features.

  • The BIG-IP system
    The BIG-IP HA, HA+, and 5000 software provides 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 Link Controller
    The complete version of the BIG-IP software provides 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 system provides the ability to choose from three different BIG-IP feature sets. When you run the Setup utility, you specify one of three 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.