Getting Started with BIG-IP Next: Fundamentals

In the first article in this series, I introduced BIG-IP Next at the 50,000-foot (or meter for the saner parts of the world...) level. In this article, I will get closer to the brass tacks of tackling some technical tasks, but still hover over the trenches so I can lay a little more groundwork into the components of the BIG-IP Next: Central Manager and instances.

Central Manager

The Central Manager is the brains of the operation, and aptly named since it is the centralized location where most management tasks regarding BIG-IP Next instances will coalesce. Gone are the days of logging into BIG-IP devices. It won't be supported!

Also gone are the days of creating a node to create a pool and creating some profiles and iRules and snat pools and then slapping all that together on a virtual server. That's not to say that some shared objects won't exist--they will, or at least they can. In classic BIG-IP, the virtual server was the "top dog" from an object perspective unless you already have used iApps or AS3 declarations, in which case those options are similar to what we have with BIG-IP Next, where the application service wears the crown. Everything about that application service is defined within that context, including multiple virtual servers where necessary. That will be done in the GUI via application templates, or via the API with AS3 directly or via FAST templates. The included http application template in the Central Manager GUI allows for a lot of checkbox functionality, but accessing some of the functionality you may be used to will require additional or edited templates.

Beyond managing the instances and the application services, you'll also be able to manage your security policies, attack and bot signature security services updates and monitor/report on deployed policies.

And of course, you'll be able to manage users and performance maintenance on the Central Manager system itself.

There is no license required for Central Manager; you can download it now and get started with your discovery as soon as you're ready! I have it installed on my iMac in VMware Fusion currently, and I'll be writing articles in the next couple of weeks on installation for Fusion and ESXi.


Whereas Central Manager is the brain of the BIG-IP Next operation, the instances are the brawn. They can take the form of a tenant on F5 VELOS or rSeries hardware, a KVM and/or VMware Virtual Edition for private clouds and coming soon, or a Virtual Edition on select public clouds. (Note: Instances can also take the form of CNFs in headless kubernetes deployments, but that won't be addressed in this series.)

Onboarding instances is not as complex a process as setting up classic BIG-IP because day one operations are not intermingled with day two and beyond. You define the CPU, memory, disk, and network resources you need depending on what modules you're licensing for use and fire it up. Once that candle is lit, you run through a few onboarding steps with either a postman collection or write an onboarding script to walk through those steps for you. That's it for setup on the instances; the rest of the process is managed on Central Manager.

Limited access will be available on instances for troubleshooting through a sidecar proxy, but even that is configured and managed through Central Manager.

Instances are licensed. Make sure to check with your account team; you might already be entitled to BIG-IP Next licensing, but a conversion transaction will be necessary. For lab discovery, you can generate a trial license on MyF5 to get started! I'll cover installation on KVM, Fusion, and ESXi in the next couple of weeks. Leon Seng has already written up installing a BIG-IP Next instance on Proxmox!

"Next" Up

Alrighty then! Enough talk, Jason, let's do something! I hear you, I hear you...starting next week, I'll be releasing incremental steps into the installation, onboarding, licensing, upgrading, backup/restore, etc, of both the Central Manager and the instances. Here's the general workflow I'll follow:

Ignore the platform. I'll step through all the support versions I have access to and keep placeholders to circle back as more platforms are supported. I hope to see you all at AppWorld, but if not, don't be a stranger here on DevCentral, reach out any time!

Updated Feb 15, 2024
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