Deploying F5 Virtual Edition for vSphere

During the rebuild of my home lab, I was bound and determined to do things as close to a production deployment as possible. This includes the introduction of a load balancer into my lab. I will preface this post with ‘I have no clue how to operate a load balancer at all’. That has never stopped me from trying to accomplish something and it certainly won’t now. There were some trials and tribulations when attempting to set this up so I wanted to talk about what I experienced during my deployment.

I’m going to be using the F5 BIG-IP-LTM Virtual Edition trial load balancer. I’m going to start off by using it to load balance my Platform Services Controllers (PSC) for my vCenter deployment at my primary site. VMware was gracious enough to include how to setup high availability of the PSC’s in this document. However the part that’s lacking is how to properly deploy the F5 and get it to the point where you can actually use it for load balancing the PSC’s.   I couldn’t find a definitive source of step-by-step to deploy the F5, so I thought I’d just do it myself.

Information:

  • vwilmo.local – 192.168.0.111 – Deploy to Host
  • vwilmo.local – 192.168.1.4 – Primary Node
  • vwilmo.local – 192.168.1.5 – Secondary Node
  • vwilmo.local – 192.168.1.6 – Virtual IP address of the HA pair

All entries have forward and reverse DNS entries.

Download the BIG-IP LTM VE 11.3 from here. You’ll need to create an account and login to download the trial. Generate license keys. You should be able to generate 4 keys of 90 days each for the trial.

The file you’re looking to download is – BIGIP-11.3.0.39.0-scsi.ova

Once downloaded you simply need to run through the deployment of the OVA.

  • Open the vSphere Client and connect to one of your hosts. Since we do not have vCenter setup because we’re trying to configure HA PSC prior to installing vCenter, you’re just going to have to pick one host to deploy this on
  • Select File > Deploy OVF Template
  • Browse for the BIGIP-11.3.0.39.0-scsi.ova file you downloaded

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  • Verify that the details are what they say they are. You may notice an invalid publisher certificate. This is OK

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  •  Accept the EULA

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  • Name the appliance

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  • Select the datastore to store it on

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  • Select provisioning type

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  • Map networks – You have to be careful here. What happened to me was putting the Management and the Internal interfaces of the appliance on the same VM Network and VLAN. This creates an issue when you put in a Self-IP for the appliance during configuration. Select two DIFFERENT networks for both Management and Internal. The others are inconsequential to us right now. This is an internal-only load balancer and I’m not doing an HA configuration of the F5.

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  •  Confirm and Finish deployment.

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Now that the F5 is deployed, we’ll go ahead and boot it up and run through the initial configuration for getting into the management interface.

The default login for the appliance is ‘root’ and ‘default’

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Once you’re logged in, then type the word ‘config’ to take you through setting up the Management interface

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You can either input your own IP address, or let the appliance pull from DHCP.

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We can now browse back to the IP address of the appliance via HTTPS. The user and password here to login is ‘admin’ and ‘admin’.

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We can now go ahead and start the initial configuration of the appliance from the GUI. The first thing we need to do is Activate a license

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Copy and Paste one of the license keys you received from F5 into the ‘Base Key’ field. Check the interface to make sure that it has access to the Internet to activate the key.

At this point I don’t mess around with configuring any other sections using the wizards. I go through the regular interfaces to finish it up. The next thing we need to make sure that this thing will actually load balance is to configure the VLANs, Self-IPs, and network interfaces. You do this in the ‘Network’ tab to start.

Select VLAN > VLAN List > and click on the ‘+’

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Fill in the information for the ‘Internal’ network you selected alternatively to the ‘Management’ network. These should be on different networks. This was the only way I could get this to work properly. Select the 1.1 interface, as that corresponds to the ‘Internal’ NIC of the VM.

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Select Self IP > and click on the ‘+’.  This is the part, coupled with having the 1.1 Internal interface on the same network as the PSC’s where I screwed up.  I never did this step.

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Make sure to select the VLAN name you created when you configured the previous setting. This is the IP that the load balancer will use to direct traffic to this network.

Now that those are configured, I finish up the configuration by adding in DNS and NTP settings to ensure proper time and resolution states for the appliance.

Select System > Configuration > Device > NTP/DNS

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That’s the basic configuration necessary to use the F5 for load balancing. In the next post I’ll go through how to setup the PSC in HA and use the F5 to facilitate load balancing for the deployment.

When I attempted to load balance the PSC’s with the F5 with the following perfect storm:

  • Both Management and Internal NICs on the same VLAN
  • No Self-IP for VLAN2 because you can’t add another IP on the same VLAN if it matches the VLAN the management interface is on.

As soon as I made those changes, I was able to get the PSC’s to use the F5 properly.  Hopefully my pain is your gain.  Good luck.

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