|Traded as||NASDAQ: FFIV|
|Headquarters||Seattle, Washington, United States|
|Key people||John McAdam, CEO|
F5 Networks, Inc. is a multinational American company which specializes in Application Delivery Networking (ADN) technology that optimizes the delivery of network-based applications and the security, performance, availability of servers, data storage devices, and other network resources. F5 is headquartered in Seattle, Washington and has development, manufacturing, and sales/marketing offices worldwide. F5 originally manufactured and sold some of the industry's first load balancing products. In 2010 and 2011, F5 Networks was on Fortune's list of 100 Fastest-Growing Companies worldwide. The company was also rated one of the top ten best-performing stocks by S&P 500 in 2010.
F5 offers products in various segments of the application delivery controller market. According to Gartner, in 2010 F5 had "a continued market-leading position" in the Application Delivery Controller (ADC) market and the Advanced Platform Application Delivery Controller market. As of June 2011, Gartner cites the most significant competitors (in terms of market share) as Cisco Systems, Citrix Systems, and Radware. Other competitors include Zeus Technology, A10 Networks, Array Networks, Barracuda Networks, Brocade, ActivNetworks, Strangeloop Networks, Aptimize, and HAProxy technologies.
F5 Networks, originally named F5 Labs, was established in 1996. The company name was inspired by the 1996 movie, Twister, in which reference was made to the fastest and most powerful tornado on the Fujita Scale: F5.
F5's first product was a load balancer called BIG-IP. When a server went down or became overloaded, BIG-IP directed traffic away from that server to other servers that could handle the load. In June 1999, the company went public as F5 Networks and was listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange (NASDAQ: FFIV). As it was in 1999, corporate focus in 2013 remains on providing network intelligence that enables customers to respond quickly to change, streamline business processes, reduce costs, and provide differentiated offerings that help increase revenue.
Through internal development and acquisitions, F5 extended its reach beyond load balancing, producing a range of integrated products for Application Delivery Networking. These products seek to improve the delivery of web-based applications by attempting to make them run faster and more securely.
- uRoam (SSL VPN vendor) for USD $25 million in 2003
- Magnifire WebSystems (web application firewall) for USD $29 million in 2004
- Swan Labs (WAN acceleration and web acceleration) for USD $43 million in 2005.
- Acopia Networks (file virtualization) for USD $210 million in 2007
- DPI intellectual property from Crescendo Networks in 2011 (amount undisclosed) 
- Traffix Systems (Diameter protocol switching technology) in 2012 (amount undisclosed) 
- LineRate Systems in 2013
- Versafe in 2013
- Defense.Net in 2014
F5's BIG-IP product family comprises purpose-built hardware, modularized software, and virtualized solutions that run the F5 TMOS operating system. Depending on the appliance selected, one or more BIG-IP product modules can be added to a BIG-IP device to deliver multiple networking functions on a single, unified platform.
On the line of BIG-IP appliances released between 2008 and 2010, the hardware models used a single custom-fabricated system board. The previous platforms had two internal boards — a PC/server-type motherboard connected to a switchplane. Some models included hardware SSL acceleration for key exchanges and bulk encryption/decryption provided by Cavium Networks, and hardware compression assistance. The new hardware used Intel CPUs, but some previous models included AMD Opteron CPUs. Hardware models included a front LCD panel for configuration and monitoring and a separate service processor for out-of-band management.
The 2010 model line-up was, with approximate best-case throughput indicated:
|BIG-IP LTM Virtual Edition||10 Mbit/s, 200 Mbit/s or 1 Gbit/s|
|BIG-IP 1600||1 Gbit/s|
|BIG-IP 3600||2 Gbit/s|
|BIG-IP 3900||4 Gbit/s|
|BIG-IP 6900||6 Gbit/s|
|BIG-IP 8900||12 Gbit/s|
|BIG-IP 8950||20 Gbit/s|
|BIG-IP 11050||42 Gbit/s|
|Viprion 2400||Up to 160 Gbit/s L4 & Up to 72 Gbit/s L7. Per Blade Up to 40G L4 & Up to 20G L7|
|Viprion 4480||Up to 320 Gbit/s|
BIG-IP product modules
- Local Traffic Manager (LTM): Local load balancing based on a full-proxy architecture.
- Global Traffic Manager (GTM): Global server load balancing using DNS.
- Link Controller: Inbound and outbound ISP load balancing.
- Application Security Manager (ASM): A web application firewall.
- WebAccelerator: An asymmetric or symmetric advanced caching solution for HTTP and HTTPS traffic.
- Edge Gateway: An SSL VPN.
- WAN Optimisation Module: A data centre symmetric WAN optimization solution.
- Access Policy Manager (APM): Provides access control and authentication for HTTP and HTTPS applications.
- Secure Web Gateway (SWG): URL filtering, malicious website blocking, safe corporate web browsing, Websense OEM
- Advanced Firewall Manager (AFM): On-premise DDoS protection, data centre firewall
- IP Intelligence (IPI): Blocking known bad IP addresses, prevention of phishing attacks and botnets
- WebSafe: Protects against sophisticated fraud threats, leveraging advanced encryption, client-less malware detection and session behavioral analysis capabilities
BIG-IP software development history
On September 7, 2004 F5 Networks released version 9.0 of the BIG-IP software in addition to a new collection of BIG-IP appliances on which customers could run said software. Version 9.0 was significantly different than the previous versions of BIG-IP. The significant changes include:
- Moved from BSD to Linux to handle sys management functions (disks, logging, bootup, console access, etc.)
- Creation of a Traffic Management Microkernel (TMM) to directly talk to the networking hardware and handle all network activities.
- Creation of the standard full-proxy mode, which fully terminates network connections at the BIG-IP and establishes new connections between the BIG-IP and the real servers. This allows for optimum TCP stacks on both sides as well as the complete ability to modify traffic in either direction.
On April 3, 2009, F5 Networks released version 10.0 of the BIG-IP software. BIG-IP v10 is a major release supporting the company goals of "Unified Application and Data Delivery Services". This is the company vision on how applications, servers, storage, and network resources are managed in an organization.
Version 10 of BIG-IP contained new features to reduce latency, remove congestion or other impediments. Application delivery is enhanced by features such as symmetric adaptive compression operates between any two BIG-IP appliances, providing the data reduction, optimization and acceleration found in WAN traffic optimization products.
BIG-IP software features
- iControl Application Programming Interface (API): an open API for management of the BIG-IP
- iRules: a TCL-based scripting language allowing arbitrary manipulation of traffic flowing through the BIG-IP, including real-time modification of said data.
The FirePass is an SSL VPN appliance and comes in the following models:
|Model||Recommended Concurrent Users|
|FirePass Virtual Edition||Up to 2000|
- Granular access control: grant users different sets of privileges based on who they are, what client they are on, and where they are coming from. When combined with an authentication server such as Active Directory or LDAP, the group memberships for the user can determine which resources they can access with fine-grained control.
- Access through firewalls: IPsec connections may be blocked by firewalls or proxy servers while port 443/TCP is almost always allowed.
- Endpoint security: the client can be checked for an active virus scanner, registry entries, personal firewall, etc., before being allowed access to the network.
- In addition to providing full network access like IPsec, the FirePass can provide access to only one server and port, and provide portal access to web sites and file shares, thus eliminating the need for any network access.
The ARX series is a series of file virtualisation appliances that use technology F5 acquired through its acquisition of Acopia Networks. The devices work as proxies for CIFS and NFS, enabling administrators to control where files physically reside based on policies for age, file type, etc. whilst presenting users with a single target.
Enterprise Manager is an F5 product that provides centralized management of multiple F5 BIG-IP devices. Enterprise Manager is available both as a physical and virtual appliance.
BIG-IQ is an emerging control plane for BIG-IP devices. F5 describes BIG-IQ as an intelligent framework for managing BIG-IP devices and application services, irrespective of their form factors (hardware, software or cloud) or deployment model (on-premises, private/public cloud or hybrid). BIG-IQ supports integration with other ecosystem participants such as public cloud providers, and orchestration engines through cloud connectors and through a comprehensive set of open RESTful APIs. Complementing the orchestration capability of BIG-IQ is a multi-tenant approach to management. This allows organizations to move closer to IT as a Service without concern that it might affect the stability or security of the services fabric.
Three BIG-IQ modules are currently available:
- BIG-IQ Device: Manages physical and virtual BIG-IP devices including device deployment and provisioning, license management, and inventory and monitoring as well as device configuration backup and restore.
- BIG-IQ Cloud: Provides dynamic provisioning of devices in VMware, Amazon and OpenStack-based cloud environments.
- BIG-IQ Security: Provides a single point of management for F5 BIG-IP Advanced Firewall Manager (AFM) and F5 BIG-IP Application Security Manager (ASM) solutions.
Additional BIG-IQ modules have been described but not formally announced.
LineRate is a high-performance, software-based ADC. It has a highly optimized network stack that provides performance significantly higher than other software products on the market (including open source). It can be deployed on bare-metal x86 hardware or in virtual machine environments, including Amazon Web Services, VMWare, and KVM.
A significant advantage of the LineRate product is the Node.JS scripting engine. When a script is created for a Virtual Server, it sits in the data path and can add very custom logic to one's application. There are several demonstration use-cases of scripting provided by F5 on the LineRate web site. They include:
- Production Web Traffic Replication
- Web Traffic Steering
- Custom Content Filtering
- Stronger Security in Software: SSL Offload via ECC and PFS
- "F5 NETWORKS INC 2013 Annual Report Form (10-K)" (XBRL). United States Securities and Exchange Commission. November 22, 2013.
- "F5 NETWORKS INC 2014 Q2 Quarterly Report Form (10-Q)" (XBRL). United States Securities and Exchange Commission. May 8, 2014.
- "100 Fastest-growing companies". CNN. Retrieved 2010-08-27.
- "Magic Quadrant for Application Delivery Controllers". Retrieved 2010-08-27.[dead link]
- "F5 Networks Form 10-K". Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- "Quick Takes: F5 lassos uRoam". Retrieved 2010-08-27.
- John Leyden (July 1, 2004). "F5 snaps up MagniFire". The Register. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
- "F5 to acquire Swan Labs". Retrieved 2010-08-27.
- "F5 Networks Completes Acquisition of Acopia Networks". Retrieved 2010-08-17.
- "F5 Acquires Intellectual Property Assets of Crescendo Networks". Retrieved 2 May 2012.
- "F5 Networks Acquires Traffix Systems". Retrieved 2 May 2012.
- "F5 Networks Acquires LineRate Systems". Retrieved 11 Feb 2013.
- "F5 Networks Acquires Versafe to Help Customers Protect Against Online Fraud". Retrieved 2 Nov 2013.
- "F5 Networks Acquires Defense.Net". Retrieved 5 Aug 2014.
- Steven Iveson (2013-04-20). "What the Heck Is F5 Networks’ TMOS?". packetpushers.net. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- Ryan Kearny; Steve Graves (2008-12-14). "No operating system is an island". embedded.com. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- "BIG-IP Hardware Data Sheet". October 28, 2010. Archived from the original on December 3, 2010. Retrieved July 17, 2013.
- "Press Release". Retrieved 2012-05-02.
- "Manual Chapter: Understanding Core System Services". f5.com. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- "Overview of BIG-IP Traffic Management Microkernel (TMM) CPU and RAM usage". f5.com. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- "FirePass Data Sheet". Retrieved 2010-08-17.
- Sean Michael Kerner (2013-04-25). "F5 Gears up for BIG-IQ". enterprisenetworkingplanet.com. Retrieved 2013-12-15.