Tuesday, July 26, 2016

DevCentral at F5 Agility 2016

Four outta Five DevCentral members will appear in person at #F5Agility 2016.

That’s right! Jason, John, Chase and yours truly will be in Chicago next week for F5’s annual gathering of customers and partners. The DevCentral area will be in the heart of the Solution Expo and we’ll be offering some short technical presentations throughout the event. We’ll also have some t-shirts to give away along with a few other goodies.

Here is where we’ll be:



And here is our presentation schedule* to lock in to your mobile app.



If you will be at Agility 2016, please stop by to see us. 

And here are your Top 10 reasons to visit DevCentral at F5 Agility 2016:
  1. This is your F5 community
  2. Learn some new technical tips
  3. Ask your technical questions
  4. Watch a few technical presentations
  5. Our presentations are only 20 minutes
  6. Meet the team
  7. Grab a T-shirt
  8. Hang with other DC community members
  9. Relax and take a break
  10. Chase Abbott’s Session
Hope to see you there!

ps


*Subject to change

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Is 2016 Half Empty or Half Full?

Updating passwords is a huge trend in 2016

With 2016 crossing the half way point, let's take a look at some technology trends thus far.

Breaches: Well, many databases are half empty due to the continued rash of intrusions while the crooks are half full with our personal information. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC), there have been 522 breaches thus far in 2016 exposing almost 13,000,000 records. Many are health care providers as our medical information is becoming the gold mine of stolen info. Not really surprising since the health care wearable market is set to explode in the coming years. Many of those wearables will be transmitting our health data back to providers. There were also a bunch of very recognizable names getting blasted in the media: IRS, Snapchat, Wendy’s and LinkedIn. And the best advice we got? Don’t use the same password across multiple sites. Updating passwords is a huge trend in 2016.

Cloud Computing: According to IDC, public cloud IaaS revenues are on pace to more than triple by 2020. From $12.6 billion in 2015 to $43.6 billion in 2020. The public cloud IaaS market grew 51% in 2015 but will slightly slow after 2017 as enterprises get past the wonder and move more towards cloud optimization rather than simply testing the waters. IDC also noted that four out of five IT organizations will be committed to hybrid architectures by 2018. While hybrid is the new normal remember, The Cloud is Still just a Datacenter Somewhere. Cloud seems to be more than half full and this comes at a time when ISO compliance in the cloud is becoming even more important.

DNS: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, DNS is one of the most important components of a functioning internet. With that, it presents unique challenges to organizations. Recently, Infoblox released its Q1 2016 Security Assessment Report and off the bat said, ‘In the first quarter of 2016, 519 files capturing DNS traffic were uploaded by 235 customers and prospects for security assessments by Infoblox. The results: 83% of all files uploaded showed evidence of suspicious activity (429 files).’ They list the specific threats from botnets to protocol anomalies to Zeus and DDoS. A 2014 vulnerability, Heartbleed, still appears around 11% of the time. DevOps is even in the DNS game. In half full news, VeriSign filed two patent applications describing the use of various DNS components to manage IoT devices. One is for systems and methods for establishing ownership and delegation of IoT devices using DNS services and the other is for systems and methods for registering, managing, and communicating with IoT devices using DNS processes. Find that half full smart mug...by name!

IoT: What can I say? The cup runneth over. Wearables are expected to close in on 215 million units shipped by 2020 with 102 million this year alone. I think that number is conservative with smart eyewear, watches and clothing grabbing consumer’s attention. Then there’s the whole realm of industrial solutions like smart tractors, HVAC systems and other sensors tied to smart offices, factories and cities. In fact, utilities are among the largest IoT spenders and will be the third-largest industry by expenditure in IoT products and services. Over $69 billion has already been spent worldwide, according to the IDC Energy Insights/Ericsson report. And we haven’t even touched on all the smart appliances, robots and media devices finding spots our homes. Get ready for Big Data regulations as more of our personal (and bodily) data gets pushed to the cloud. And we’re talking a lot of data.

Mobile: We are mobile, our devices are mobile and the applications we access are mobile. Mobility, in all its iterations, is a huge enabler and concern for enterprises and it'll only get worse as we start wearing our connected clothing to the office. The Digital Dress Code has emerged. With 5G on the way, mobile is certainly half full and there is no empting it now.

Of course, F5 has solutions to address many of these challenges whether you’re boiling over or bone dry. Our security solutions, including Silverline, can protect against malicious attacks; no matter the cloud -  private, public or hybrid - our Cloud solutions can get you there and back; BIG-IP DNS, particularly DNS Express, can handle the incredible name request boom as more ‘things’ get connected; and speaking of things, your data center will need to be agile enough to handle all the nouns requesting access; and check out how TCP Fast Open can optimize your mobile communications.

That's what I got so far and I'm sure 2016's second half will bring more amazement, questions and wonders. We'll do our year-end reviews and predictions for 2017 as we all lament, where did the Year of the Monkey go?

There's that old notion that if you see a glass half full, you're an optimist and if you see it half empty you are a pessimist. I think you need to understand what state the glass itself was before the question. Was it empty and filled half way or was it full and poured out? There's your answer!

ps 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Road to F5 Certification

Over the last 4 months, the DevCentral team has been preparing for the F5 Certification exam. We’ve met a number of times for group study and for each session, we reviewed a particular section of the Exam 101 - Application Delivery Fundamentals Study Guide. We prepared and presented a certain topic and had open discussions about particular use cases, customer scenarios and even played some guessing games as to what might be asked on the exam for that section.

Now the time has come to take the test.

Since the DevCentral team will be at Agility 2016 in Chicago this year, we decided to take advantage of the Certification Team’s mobile testing center. While you can certainly go to one of Pearson Vue’s test centers, the Certification Team will be on hand at F5 Agility to administer their various exams for those looking to get F5 Certified. It’s a pretty cool set up – almost like a band on a mini regional tour. They’ll have everything you need to take the test.

I gotta tell you, I’m a little nervous.

I’m sure I’ll be able to nail sections 2-5 since those are the areas I’ve focused on for the past decade…it’s the first part, OSI, that I’m a little weary. Not that I don’t know my 7 layers – All People Seem To Need Data Processing – but maybe some of nuances or lack of recent real world subnetting that concerns me. I’ll use this last month before the exam to keep prepping to make sure I don’t embarrass myself.

But let's look at the stats.

Recently Ken Salchow, F5’s Sr. Manager Professional Certifications, has posted some interesting statistics about the program, particularly pass rates and certification by region. Ken notes about the pass rate graph, ‘I am also often asked about exam pass rates ... which is not an easy thing to really post. Below is a graph that shows ALL TIME pass rates by exam. It is important to note that these pass rates encompass thousands of exams and even different versions of exams. As such, take these with a grain of salt and realize that if I did a 12-month average, 24-month average and last month average, they would all differ from the below. Oh ... and have I mentioned how much I distrust data coming from our candidate management system?? Yeah ... so ... you've been warned.

And the graph:


So there's a 70% pass rate on the 101. Fairly decent.

Ken also posted another chart which shows the breakdown of certification by region as a percentage of the whole.


Nice mix of global certifications.

We - the DevCentral team - will take some pictures and let you know how we did. If you are at Agility and taking a Certification exam this year, let's compare notes for the final wrap. Pass or Fail.

My energy says, 'Success!'

ps

Related:

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Q/A with Yann Desmarest - DevCentral's Featured Member for July

Yann Desmarest is the Innovation Center Manager at e-Xpert Solutions SA and one of DevCentral’s top contributors. e-Xpert Solutions SA is a F5 Gold Partner, Unity Partner Support and a Guardian Partner. Yann has been a BIG-IP administrator for 6 years and enjoys basketball, table tennis, hacking, cinema and manga (especially Naruto).

And one of his favorite activities is developing complex iRules and that’s why he is DevCentral's Featured Member for July!

We got a chance to chat with Yann about his work, his life and why he enjoys participating in the DevCentral Community.

DevCentral: Hi Yann. Thanks for your time. You’ve been a tremendous contributor to the DevCentral community over the years and wondered what keeps you involved?
Yann: I’m always looking for new challenges and DevCentral is a really good place to solve complex issues and to share knowledge and experiences with peers. It’s also a place that I can find useful information on iControl, iRules and iApps code.
DC: Tell us a little about the areas of BIG-IP expertise you have.
YD: At my earliest stage in the business world, I was involved on basic BIG-IP LTM projects. After some successful experiences, I wondered if I could rise up to another level and decided to learn BIG-IP ASM, APM and GTM modules as well.
Now, I think I’m pretty comfortable with all F5 BIG-IP modules but I’m clearly specialized in security and more precisely the authentication and WebSSO part delivered by BIG-IP APM.
I also acquired some development skills using iRules and iControl.
DC: You often participate and post in the Codeshare area – tell us about some of your favorite submitted iRules/iApps and how they work.
YD: I've had several requests to protect Microsoft Skype for Business Edge services against NTLM brute force and dos attacks. I decided to develop an iRule to intercept the encrypted traffic and identify NTLM authentication attempts on the SIP flow. Then, suspicious IPs and users are blacklisted for a duration that you can define in the RULE_INIT event.
I had also requirements to provide Client certificate authentication on Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync for Apple iOS devices. The main issue is that this kind of authentication requires a Mobile Device Management or Apple Configurator system. Deploying a full MDM for that need may be overkill so we developed an iRule that provisions the Exchange payload to the iOS device. The client certificate is retrieved using SCEP protocol. Now, with the availability of iRulesLX, I will be able to extend this feature to retrieve a certificate using third party APIs.
And finally my favorite is the APM Full Step Up Authentication iRule and Access profile that we published on DevCentral. I had a look at the Step-Up authentication feature on the APM v12.1.0 and found that it’s currently limited. I decided to develop my own configuration to make it more flexible and mainly to have this feature available for older BIG-IP versions. No doubt that my configuration will be deprecated in future releases because APM will enhance its own feature set.
I have many more iRules, iApps and iControl scripts to share with the community in the future.
DC: Describe one of your biggest BIG-IP challenges and how DevCentral helped in that situation.
YD: I had a requirement to integrate APM with an iOS and Android mobile application. The application use SOAP body to POST credentials and a second factor was required for external users. I had to intercept the SOAP body to retrieve the username and password, then play those credentials through an external REST API web service and if the user is connecting from a public IP address, prompt the end user for a second factor that I send to a third party web gateway. This is a lot of peers and exchanges to integrate in the authentication process. I had also to implement full SOAP responses and handle errors. I consulted DevCentral and the iRules wiki to find how to use sideband connections, ifiles, ACCESS events and some crypto commands. Without the DevCentral community, I would not have been able to face this challenge.
DC: Lastly, if you weren’t an IT admin – what would be your dream job? Or better, when you were a kid – what did you want to be when you grew up?
YD: Computer science was part of my life since the very beginning. Later, I decided to be an IT expert, to solve complex challenges and to help people securing their environments. Now, I’m following my dreams and work hard to be a computer expert.
Just few words to thank all my colleagues and our F5 Field System Engineers that help me a lot to acquire more skills and experience on F5 technologies.

DC: Thanks Yann! Check out all of Yann’s DevCentral contributions and follow him @expertsolch

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Orchestrate Your Infrastructure

The digital society has emerged.

Today’s always-connected world and the applications we interact with are changing the way we live. People are mobile, our devices are mobile, and by all accounts, everything that is a noun – a person, place or thing – will soon be connected and generating data... and all that traffic is destined for an application – that could also be portable - located somewhere in a data center.

But not all data traffic is created equally and critical information might need some action that requires automation of the deployment process. At the same time, organizations can’t afford to manually make policy adjustments every time something needs attention. Automated coordination between applications, data and infrastructure from provisioning to applying policies and services which are in-line with business needs must be in place.

This is Orchestration.

Humans have always differentiated ourselves from all other creatures by our ability to reason. Today, we’re building reason into systems to make some of these decisions for us. Software that incorporates, ‘What’s the purpose?’ ‘What’s the reason why?

Purpose-driven networking – programmability - means not just recognizing this is Thing 1 or Thing 2 and route requests to the appropriate service, but recognizing what Thing 1 or Thing 2 is trying to do and delivering in such a way as to meet expectations with respect to its performance.

The underlying infrastructure/architecture also needs to understand the purpose or reason for the data traffic adjustment and enable the scale and speed of deployments necessary for business success.
There is a ton of communication between us, our devices and the things around us, along with the applications that support us. It takes an agile and programmable infrastructure which is able to intercept, evaluate and interpret each request with an eye toward user, device, location and, now, purpose.

Orchestration is the glue that holds together all the quick networking decisions, ensures the provisioning of policies go where they need to go and provides the intelligence for the architecture to make automatic decisions and adjustments based on policy.

There could be many good reasons to automatically adjust the system and the F5 proxy architecture can augment application delivery functionality in tune with many other frameworks.

Because everyone has a unique environment, we’ve built custom integrations for a variety of 3rd party solutions including Cisco APIC, Amazon EC2, VMware NSX, and OpenStack. It begins when an administrator creates a custom integration based on Application Templates.


These templates can contain any configuration for a BIG-IP – from firewalls to local traffic management or anything else. Many configurations are seamless but with Cisco APIC, the configuration is then turned into a custom plug-in. The device package can then be uploaded directly to Cisco APIC, where application developers can deploy their targeted configuration correctly without using lots of knobs, but only the knobs they need to configure their application.


The application developer only has to specify a couple of parameters because when the administrator created the templates, they pre-configured everything the application developer needs in order to correctly deploy their application. This is different from other vendor’s integrations, which simply expose a large series of configuration clicks that then users have to get correct…and they’re easy to get wrong.


At this point, iWorkflow translates this small set of parameters into the complete configuration needed by the BIG-IP. And it deploys it on the BIG-IP. The BIG-IP is now completely configured for your application.

But we’re not done yet.

This is a dynamic integration since environments are always changing. When new application servers are added, or removed from your network, APIC will notice this, inform the BIG-IP, and BIG-IP’s configuration will update to reflect the new application servers and the associated application services. Now that the BIG-IP is aware of these application servers, it will immediately start directing traffic to those servers allowing your application to expand.

Likewise, when application servers are removed, the BIG-IP’s configuration will immediately be updated and will stop passing traffic to those application servers, allowing you to take a maintenance window or decrease the capacity provided to your application.

And while this all happening, the iWorkflow is collecting application level statistics, to provide a complete view of your infrastructure and reporting them upstream to the Cisco APIC in this example.
That’s it, we’re done right?!?!

WRONG!! What about security? What happens when you’re under attack?!?

As you know, it is critically important that the security services dynamically follow the application also, no matter where it lives or how it got there. And in some cases, an old application needs a new home.

The idea is that you start with the (figurative) castle protecting the queen's treasure – The Data - and we drop in the different service pieces to keep the application secure, available and resilient. The wall and moat around the castle represent BIG-IP AFM perimeter protection; there’s a satellite dish for signaling to Silverline DDoS Service; BIG-IP APM's draw bridge to thwart unauthorized access. The whole point is that F5 can add these services around all your 'castled' applications to protect them from threats. This is especially true for ‘older’ applications that may have issues adding security services. F5 can be deployed with the latest security services to protect your entire environment.

Orchestration gives organizations the automated provisioning processes of application policies in our hybrid, dynamic, mobile and risky world. And check out Nathan Pearce's great iWorkflow Series!


ps

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Your Applications Deserve iApps

F5 iApps are user-customizable frameworks for deploying applications that enables you to ‘templatize’ sets of functionality on your F5 gear. You can automate the process of adding virtual servers or build a custom iApp to manage your iRules inventory.

Application ready templates were introduced in BIG-IP v10 and the goal was to provide a wizard for the often deployed applications like Exchange, SharePoint, Citrix, Oracle, VMware and so forth. This allowed the abstraction some of the configuration details and reduced the human error when following the pages of the thick deployment guides for those applications. Application templates were great but there was no way to customize the template either during the deployment or adjust it after.

Then came iApps®.

Introduced in TMOS v11, iApps is the current BIG-IP system framework for deploying services-based, template-driven configurations on BIG-IP systems. iApps bundles all of the configuration options for a particular application together.

Roughly a third of F5 customers use iApps and they are especially popular for more complex configurations, like Microsoft Exchange, for example, which requires up to 1200 mouse clicks to configure manually and only 50 mouse clicks to configure with the iApp. iApps are also often used to roll out similar configurations to multiple BIG-IP's. Some customers run hundreds of iApps, some run none--the choice is yours.

Here is one example of iApp customization and its evolution. When we released SAML support in v11.3, many customers wanted to use BIG-IP APM as a SAML Identity Provider (IdP) for Office365 but there are a few steps to configure that in BIG-IP. Configure Active Directory, then SAML, then the access policy and so forth. One of our very smart Security Architects, Michael Koyfman, wanted to make that task simple, repeatable and accurate.

He decided to write an O365 iApp and posted it to DevCentral where there was immediate interest from the community. From that, Product Development engineers rewrote it to follow their libraries and best practices and then moved to the supported status.  You can now use this F5 supported iApp template to configure the BIG-IP system as a SAML IdP to Microsoft Office 365 applications, such as Exchange and SharePoint. This template configures the BIG-IP APM system as an IdP for Office 365 to perform single sign-on (SSO) between the local Active Directory user accounts and Office 365-based resources such as Microsoft Outlook Web App and Microsoft SharePoint.

But we didn’t stop there.

Since it is the same framework and easily extensible to add more services to an iApp, they took it a step further. With the O365 iApp as the basis, the team then built a SaaS Federation iApp which allows you to configure BIG-IP APM as SAML IdP to 11 commonly used SaaS applications including Salesforce, Concur, WebEx, O365 and others. Now, with a single iApp, you can federate your employees to many SaaS applications easily, efficiently and securely. This iApp also went through a beta period on DevCentral and was recently released as a F5 supported iApp.


UI configurations for the SaaS iApp


Summary of configurations for the SaaS iApp

So if you need quick and easy way to deploy your applications, look no further than F5 iApps. You can use the F5 built iApps, you can customize F5 built iApps or you can build your own iApps. Your applications, infrastructure and business will thank you.

ps

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Control It All with iControl

The concept of Application programming interfaces (APIs) has been around for a while.
According to CSC Distinguished Engineer & Chief Product Architect (and bass player) Martin Bartlett,
'The concept of an API pre-dates even the advent of personal computing, let alone the Web, by a very long time! The principal of a well-documented set of publicly addressable "entry points" that allow an application to interact with another system has been an essential part of software development since the earliest days of utility data processing. However, the advent of distributed systems, and then the web itself, has seen the importance and utility of these same basic concepts increased dramatically.’ (Courtesy: http://history.apievangelist.com/)

An API is a set of routine definitions, protocols, and tools for building software and applications. It is software written to function as a communication bridge between Web applications. That’s how iControl started according to Joe Pruitt – as a way for the early versions of BIG-IP LTM (BIG-IP) and BIG-IP DNS (3-DNS/GTM) to communicate with each other to ensure they were making the right traffic management decisions. And this was 16 years ago!

Today, APIs are all over place running behind the curtains without any direct user interaction. They are primarily used for computer consumption and typically absorbed by web applications. APIs make services available for developers to build those same services into their applications. eBay, Amazon & AWS, Facebook, Twitter and Google Maps are some examples you might be familiar with. For instance, Google Maps has an API so developers can use the back-end services to create their own ‘maps.’ Maybe it is a map of restaurants in the vicinity of a hotel. The hotel website could use the Google maps API to show different shopping, eating or recreational activities in the area. They wouldn’t need to develop the maps nor house the data themselves.

With the Internet of Things (IoT), APIs allow you to share, manage, access and interact with your previously unconnected items like cameras, bicycles and even medicine bottles. And there are many IoT APIs that are available.

And that’s really the point with iControl.

Whether you’re looking to tweak a feature or spin up 500 new pool members, iControl can do it. Anything you can do via the command line or GUI, you can accomplish via iControl. And, you can do it programmatically so you don’t have to enter in every single command in the chain, or wake up someone at 3am during the change control window just to bleed the servers off a pool.

iControl is F5’s open, web services-based API that allows complete, dynamic, and programmatic control of control over nearly every aspect of both execution and configuration on BIG-IP systems. With iControl you can work like a wizard—add, modify, or configure your F5 device in real time. It is the primary means through which BIG-IP is integrated into both commercial management offerings and cloud computing environments. In short, iControl is a simple, light weight API that allows you programmatic access via Traffic Management Shell (tmsh) commands.

And now you can say, 'I control my infrastructure with iControl.'

ps

Related: