F5 101 Summary
The F5 101 Exam is the entry point to the F5 Networks certification program so it will be the 1st exam you take. This exam is fairly easy if you already have a solid networking background and some day to day experience managing F5’s. Having recently passed the F5 101 exam this article will be a supplemental study guide of sorts to compliment the F5 blueprint and F5 Study Guide.
Official Blueprint/Study Guide
I would highly recommend by starting with the Blueprint linked on the exam materials page. This document outlines all of the topics covered on the test so that you can get an idea of the topics you will need to cover. Once you have reviewed this document then I would move onto reading the Study Guide.
As you go through the study guide I would suggest stopping at each topic to review additional information not contained in it which I will outline below. Additionally the Cloud Docs version of the Study Guide has embedded Youtube videos for those of you that prefer that extra content.
The Exam blueprint is going to start off covering basic, universal networking concepts and then move on to covering more F5 specific concepts. Since the F5 is a Networking Appliance these fundamentals are vital to understanding its operation.
In addition to the study guide, blueprint, and references I have below there are also free courses from F5 that will help you gain the knowledge required for both the 101 and 201. These are the Introduction to Big IP and Introduction to LTM courses.
Udemy has a newly updated course specifically for the F5 101 exam. These courses are great if your a more visual learner and are usually a little more interesting than the F5 University courses.
Working OSI model knowledge is going to be a requisite for passing this Exam. If you’ve already passed other Network Certifications then you likely have this covered, however, it doesn’t hurt to do a review of some of the resources linked below (Some are linked in the Study Guide).
As we go further into the study guide you will example each layer of the OSI model in depth as it applies to the test.
Ethernet Switching (Layer 2)
A working knowledge of Ethernet switching is a must for passing this Exam. If you’ve already passed a cert such as the CCNA or JNCIA then you should already have this covered, but below are some resources to help you further.
IPv4 Networking and IPv6 Introduction (Layer 3)
The test is going to cover some IP concepts both on the networking and on the server/client side. It will also require you to be able to do some basic subnetting calculations so be sure you’ve done some practice.
You should also have some basic IPv6 knowledge to make it through this test. If you already have some of the aforementioned certifications then you should already have this knowledge covered.
Get ready for a ton of links.
TCP and UDP Concepts (Layer 4)
The test is going to expect a good foundational knowledge of network operations at layer 4. If you’ve already acquired a firewall certification such as the CCNA Security or JNCIA-SEC then you likely have the knowledge required.
Additionally if you have experience with other Application Deliver Controllers (ADC’s) or extensive server side experience then you also likely have the knowledge required.
Application Concepts (Layers 5-7)
Getting deeper into the stack the test is going to expect some good knowledge of the Application level. The emphasis here is going to be on HTTP, FTP, and DNS, but you will also need some basic knowledge of SIP and SMTP.
If you have server side experience with typical web hosting environments where HTTP and FTP are used you should have most of the knowledge required. For further study here are some useful resources :
Understanding the F5 Product Stack (Modules)
This is the point in the blueprint where the test starts becoming more F5 centric. You will be expected to understand what all of the F5 products (Modules) do as well as when their use would be applicable.
If you have some experience working with F5’s then you should have this knowledge, however, it is strongly recommended to brush up on the modules functions if you have never worked with them.
iRules (Programmatic Load Balancing)
Continuing on with F5 specific knowledge the test is going to expect a basic understand of F5 iRules. These pieces of TCL code are very important for performing custom actions or handling unusual situations. The Exam will expect you to understand what they are, when they should be used, and when they shouldn’t be used.
F5 has created iApp templates to help with the transition to app centric deployments. These templates handle all of the configuration on the F5 related to a specific application and can also be created for the handling of custom applications. This exam expects you to have a basic knowledge of iApp’s, when to use them, and the advantage they provide.
Understanding Full Proxy and Packet Forwarding Architectures
F5 will expect you to understand the difference between a full proxy and packet forwarding load balancer as well the pros/cons of each solution. This is something that we have covered in the past, but I will also provide some additional resources below.
Understanding HA (High Availability)
F5 will expect you to understand HA and how it is deployed within the F5 family of products. If you have some previous experience with other network appliances then you should have the required fundamental knowledge. F5 will also expect you to understand F5 specific HA methods and technologies and I have provided some useful resources below.
Basic Load Balancing Concepts
This exam will expect you to have a general understand of how load balancers work with an emphasis on the specific F5 methods and processes. If you have worked with F5’s in the past then you should already have this knowledge, but it is best to review as some of the more esoteric options are covered on the test.
Client-side vs Server-side
Understanding the client side of a connection vs the server side of a connection is of vital importance when working with the F5 due to the full proxy architecture. This comes into play when configuring profiles such as TCP and SSL as well as in troubleshooting. The guide does a good job describing this, but there are some additional references below.
Positive and Negative Security Models
F5 is going to expect that you have a basic understanding of Network Security models that are commonly applied to access (Firewalls) and filtering (WAFs) devices. If you have experience with security appliances such as Next Generation Firewalls or Web Application Firewalls then these concepts should be familiar to you.
Another security related topic on this exam is going to be cryptogrpahy. As the F5 is primarily an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) this will be focused around SSL. If you have experience with PKI (Public Key Infrastructure), SSL, and a Security background then you should have the knowledge required.
F5 is going to expect you have some basic authentication knowledge around traditional providers such as LDAP or Radius as well as SSO (Single Sign On) like that which SAML provides. If you have a background in security these topics should be familiar, but there will be some specific questions on the test.
This exam is going to expect some fundamental knowledge and understanding for IPSEC VPNs, SSL Clientless VPNs (Portals), and SSL Client VPNs (Tunneled). If you have some experience with Firewalls and their VPN technologies (Such as Cisco IPSEC and AnyConnect) then you should have the required knowledge.
F5 Hardware Platforms
F5 will expect you have to knowledge over their various hardware platforms. While you do not need to know the specific details of every single chassis sold, You do need to know the advantages of Hardware over Virtual or the benefits provided by VIPRION chassis.
Had I completed the article series around F5 optimizations we would have some of our own content for this… Perhaps I will finish this at some point. Just know that F5 will expect you to understand the various optimization’s that can be performed such as TCP, Connection Reuse (OneConnect), Caching, Compression, and so on.