In my opinion F5 are the market leader in load balancing appliances.
If you are just starting out and want to get some experience on the platform how do you do it? With a new F5 4000s coming in around $30,000 its not a cheap box to put in your lab.
The answer is the F5 virtual appliance.
Available as a 90 day trial download or as a permanent lab license for $95.
Either way you can have a virtual F5 load balancer up and running in under 30 minutes. This is perfect for training and certification requirements.
The Virtual appliance with 90 day trial or full lab license is bandwidth limited so only suitable for training purposes, but if you wanted to run the F5 virtual appliance in production you just need to license it accordingly.
For the purpose of this tutorial I am going to be using the 90 day trial license and a VMWare ESXi 5.1.0 server running in my home lab. At the end of the post I will show you where to purchase the full lab license.
Step 1 – F5 Virtual Appliance Download
To get your hands on the software head over to https://downloads.f5.com and register for a free account.
Once logged in you will see many versions, it is not explained clearly but the f5 virtual edition download version you require for the 90 day trial license is 11.3.0
Click on BIG-IP v11.x/Virtual Edition
Then select 11.3.0 from the drop down menu, then towards the bottom click on Virtual-Edition-Trial
Finally click on BIGIP-22.214.171.124.0-scsi.ova this is the ova file required for VMWare ESXi
NOTE: The 90 day trial license will only give you Local Traffic Manager (LTM) features. If you want to look at other features e.g. Global Traffic, Access Policy, Firewall you will have to purchase the Lab License which will give you access to all the features.
So you should now have a file called BIGIP-126.96.36.199.0-scsi.ova on your computer, we now need to deploy this to our ESXi server.
Step 2 – Deploy the OVA file to ESXi server
From your ESXi server select File / Deploy OVF template and select the file downloaded above.
Once the VM has deployed power it up and open the console – from here we will confirm the F5 virtual appliance is running and will also verify the management IP address that it is using. If required we could then change that.
If all has gone to plan you should now be looking at the console.
The F5 virtual appliance username is root with a password of default
Login and your screen should look something like this.
You will notice that it says NO LICENSE – this is because it is a new install and we have not applied the 90 day trial license yet.
To verify the IP address being used for management – or to change the IP address on the management interface.
From the console enter the command config this will bring up a blue screen which should look like the one below.
Click OK and you will see the management IP address details.
From here you can see my management IP address is 192.168.1.155 this has been acquired from DHCP from my router. If you don’t have a DHCP server on the management network you will have to assign an IP address here.
Now you have the management IP address for your F5 virtual appliance you can then connect to it using your browser
Point your browser to https:192.168.1.155 (or whatever you have set your management IP to)
This should bring you to this screen.
The default login to the front page is username: admin password: admin
Once you logged in you will see for the first time the F5 Virtual Edition configuration screen. The first thing you will notice is it is not licensed.
Step 3 – License the F5 Virtual Edition Trial
We now have to request the 90 day trial license from F5 networks. Go to http://f5.com and click on Free Trials in the top right this should bring you to the screen below, click on Get the 90 day Big-IP LTM Trial
Or you can just click here – https://www.f5.com/trial/big-ip-ltm-virtual-edition.php
Login with the credentials you setup to get the download.
Click on Generate Registration Key
Then enter the captcha details and select how many keys you would like, I selected 1
The 90 day trial key will be emailed to you shortly.
Once you have the license key go back to your appliance admin window and click on License
Paste the license key into the blank space where it says base activation key.
Click on Activate – wait 30 seconds and you should have a licensed F5 virtual appliance to play with.
Note: The 90 day trial license will only give you access to the LTM. If you require access to GTM and Firewall features etc you will need to purchase the Lab License.
You can get that from here at a cost of $95 – https://www.cdw.com/shop/products/BIG-IP-Virtual-Edition-Lab-License-v.-13.X-license/3591055.aspx
Or ask your local distributor who should be able to assist.
The Video below shows the entire installation and licensing process.