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Bringing Management and Automation Together

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This week sees the release of BIG-IQ 6.1, the latest evolution of F5’s management platform. While this release looks similar to the previous release, it includes significant new functionality—and it marks a new theme in F5 management capabilities—the inclusion of declarative technology for automating the delivery of network services. I will explain below, but first, let’s look at what is new in BIG-IQ.

The key themes of this release include:

  • Enhanced support for security solutions with added security visibility and analytics
  • Integration of automation and management with the addition of the Application Services 3 Extension (AS3) into BIG-IQ
  • Broader BIG-IQ’s multi-cloud story with support for auto-scaling in Microsoft Azure
  • Improved usability

In the latest release of BIG-IQ management, F5 showcases added visibility in new security reports and dashboards that give you real insight into the security of your network. Dashboards include enterprise-wide views into application (L7) security, DDoS events, firewall events, and much more. 

Figure caption: New security reports and dashboards give a bird’s eye view of security status—and let you drill down for details

These new dashboards build on the detailed analytics from BIG-IQ 6.0, providing you with the insight you need to stay on top of the health and security of your network and your application.

BIG-IQ has always supported some level of automation. The system is built on a well-documented set of APIs that allow programmatic management of BIG-IP devices. However, while powerful, this traditional, imperative approach to automation required a deeper understanding of networking and F5 products, as well as requiring dev teams to programmatically specify each step and variable when configuring their systems. The truth is that modern DevOps and Super-NetOps teams are often not F5 experts and can’t necessarily take the time to learn the intricacies of configuring a virtual BIG-IP appliance.

BIG-IQ 6.1 ships with the F5 Application Services 3 Extension (AS3) technology on board. AS3 configures F5 application services such as load balancing and WAF through a declarative model. This means that you provide a JSON declaration that defines the desired configuration end-state though a single REST API call rather than issuing a set of imperative commands. This simplifies and accelerates BIG-IP app services configuration while minimizing the requirement for BIG-IP domain expertise.

The Application Services 3 Extension runs on BIG-IP, on BIG-IQ 6.1+ or in a container. However, applications deployed through AS3 on BIG-IQ have a critical advantage—their health and performance can be viewed in the BIG-IQ application dashboards.

The F5 Application Services 3 Extension (AS3) is part of the F5 Automation Toolchain, a set of tools that allows network and application services such as traffic management and application security to be managed programmatically, through simple, declarative APIs. And you can expect to see more synergies from F5 between management and automation in the days to come!

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