F5 201 Summary
Passing the F5 201 Exam will get you the F5 Certified Administrator (F5-CA, BIG-IP) certification. This exam is definitely passable if you have working knowledge of the F5 platform, hands on experience with day to day administration, and knowledge generally required for working with ADC’s.
Having recently passed the F5 201 Exam, this article will be a supplemental study guide of sorts to compliment the F5 blueprint and F5 Study Guide. Passing the F5 101 Exam is a prerequisite for scheduling this exam as well as the F5-CA, BIG-IP Certification.
Due to the fact that F5 exams tend to build upon on another, you will cover many of the same topics as the 101, but in greater detail.
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 (Not completed) for those of you that prefer that extra content. There are also some guided virtual labs should you be lacking in hands on experience.
The Exam blueprint is going to start off covering basic, universal F5 concepts and then slowly dive deeper into the basic administration of an F5 appliance. Since the all F5 modules build on this foundation this will be essential knowledge as you move forward with F5 certifications.
As mentioned in my 101 study guide, there are some free F5 university courses that will help you cover the content required for the 101 and 201. These are the Introduction to Big IP and Introduction to LTM courses.
Udemy offers some courses that can help you pass the F5 201 exam. These courses focus on overall F5 BigIP Administration. These courses are great and can be used as supplemental learning resources along side the official study guide.
Virtual Server Processing Order
The test will expect you to under stand virtual server and local traffic object processing order of precedence. This knowledge is required to understand which traffic object (Vip, SNAT, NAT) will process traffic given the configuration as well as the connection parameters. Most of this is covered in the study guide, but here are some of the useful links below :
Virtual Server Status
This test will expect you to understand what the various virtual server statuses are, how they are determined, and how they can be influenced by an administrator. The study guide covers this in great detail so I will only be linking a few reference articles. These icon’s are universal to various objects on the F5 and will be useful to memorize.
Pool Status and Priority Group Activation
F5 will expect you to have a basic understanding of how pools work to include the balancing methods, connection limits, ratios, and monitors. The study guide does a fair job in this department so I will only list a few quick references below. Do note some of this material is also covered on the 101 exam.
F5 will expand on the topic of session persistence in this exam as it applies to the BigIP platform.
Disabling Nodes and/or Pool Members
Someone attempting this exam should have an understanding of how to disable resources for routine server maintenance or in the instance a server is having a critical issue. While the guide only covers this at a basic level the following resources should provide more than enough knowledge :
EUD and Front Panel
You will be expected to understand the basic process of running F5’s EUD (End User Diagnostic) on hardware that is suspected to have issues as well as understanding the warnings on the LCD front panel. The study guide does a serviceable job of this, but I will provide a few references :
F5 System Logs
You will be required to understand where the F5 logs warnings, errors, and information related not only to the F5 hardware, but also the various F5 software components. The study guide covers this in more than enough detail, but the following quick reference is useful for study.
This exam will breifly cover some failover concepts, such as traffic groups, and when to initiate a failover. The study guide does a poor job of covering this, however, the following articles along with the manual should give you all you need.
F5 Network Configuration
You be tasked with understanding the Network configuration on the F5 at a basic level. The most important concepts here are how interfaces, vlans, and trunks (Bonds) are handled by the F5. The study guide does an OK job here. The following references should get you up to speed :
Troubleshooting Network Issues
You will be expected to have a basic understanding of troubleshooting network issues utilizing tools such as ping, traceroute, telnet, dig, etc. You will also be expected to understand the basics of F5 self IP port lock downs and the requirements for access remote authentication servers. The guide is fairly good at this, but I have linked some additional references below.
F5 Support Tickets
You should be familiar with the F5 support process, ticket severity levels, F5 response commitments, and the items required to open a support case. The guide does a decent job covering all of this and I have included some additional references below.
Current Device Status
You will again cover the status symbols linked earlier as well as the dashboard. You will also need to understand the logs files covered earlier as well as some basic knowledge of Analytics from iApps and/or AVR.
Working with UCS Archives
You will be expected to understand the basics of working with UCS archives for backing up and restoring configurations. These archives contain the entire system configuration and working with them is a very important concept to understand. The study guide covers this fairly well so I will only include a few additional references.
The exam will not ask much of you regarding Big-IQ, but it will expect you to understand what the Big-IQ is and what it can do. At a high level this is F5’s automation platform and I have linked the main reference below.
Managing Software, License, Resource Provisioning, and Performing Upgrades
You should have some fundamental understanding around the software image management process, handling the license on the F5, provisioning the modules (Resource Provisioning), as well as performing code upgrades. The study guide covers this decently, but hands on experience is a must. I will also include some references.
Local User Management
F5 will expect you to understand how to manage the local user database mostly around creating accounts, changing their permissions, and ensuring the users have the correct level of access. The guide goes in depth on this process so I will only link the manual page for any additional resources.
Modifying Virtual Servers and Pools
The final topic in the guide revolves around modification of the existing objects. If you covered the topics above you should have a solid understanding of this process. This is another one of those areas that requires some hands on experience.
The F5 201 is a straight forward exam, but it does require some hands on experience with the F5 platform in order to pass the test. If you do not have any hands on experience, I would strongly recommend following the virtual labs. If you do not the desire or resources to afford a lab VE license (Usually $100) then you can always use the trial virtual edition with free, limited keys from F5.