Thursday, November 29, 2012

F5 Application Delivery Fundamentals Exam Study Guide

I am studying for the first of the new F5 certification exams, Application Delivery Fundamentals. Since there's no official published material to go with the blueprint, I figured I'd put together a list of links for fellow students to use to study for the exam. I'll organize them according to the blueprint, so you can skip sections you think you already know.  A lot of the links are from the F5 support and Devcentral pages, so if you don't already have accounts on those sites, you will need to set them up. 

Section 1 - OSI

The first section of the exam concentrates on some basic networking concepts, working up the OSI model from the bottom.  Most of this information is common knowledge in the networking industry, but I guarantee that you don't know all of it, especially when you get to the application layer protocols.  This is mostly a collection of Wikipedia articles, but with information this basic, Wiki is our friend.

This section is worth 33% of the total test score.
  • Objective 1.01 - Explain, compare and contrast the OSI layers 
OSI Model Wiki
Another OSI Model Overview

  • Objective 1.02 - Explain protocols and technologies specific to the data-link layer 
ARP on F5
MAC Address
Broadcast Domain
Link Aggregation Wiki
Big IP Link Aggregation
  • Objective 1.03 - Explain protocols and apply technologies specific to the network layer 
Routing on F5
TCP/IP Overview
IP Addressing & Subnetting
Routing Protocols
IP Packet Fragmentation
IP TTL (Time to Live)

  • Objective 1.04 - Explain the features and functionality of protocols and technologies specific to the transport layer 
TCP Functionality
TCP Connection Setup by Virtual Server Type
TCP Profile Settings (Tunables)
UDP Functionality
UDP Profile Settings (Tunables)

  • Objective 1.05 - Explain the features and functionality of protocols and technologies specific to the application layer
Application Layer Traffic Managment on F5
HTTP Functionality
HTTP Status Codes
HTTP Headers
F5 HTTP White Paper
DNS Functionality
DNS Record Types
SIP Functionality
F5 SIP White Paper
FTP Functionality
SMTP Functionality
HTTP Cookies
My Name is URL

Section 2 - F5 Solutions and Technology

In this section, we get into the actual F5 Solutions.  Most engineers taking this exam will be experienced with LTM and iRules, but little else.  Hopefully, the familiarity gained from the F5 datasheets and white papers shown below will help you to understand the breadth of the F5 offerings.  Prepare to take the first step into a larger world.

This section is also worth 33% of the total test score.

  • Objective 2.01 - Articulate the role of F5 products
Access Policy Manager (APM)
Application Security Manager (ASM)
Local Traffic Manager (LTM)
Global Traffic Manager (GTM)
Enterprise Manager (EM)
WAN Optimization Manager (WOM)
Web Accelerator
ARX File Virtualization
F5 White Papers
F5 Datasheets
  • Objective 2.02 - Explain the purpose, use and advantages of iRules  
iRule Wiki (Requires Devcentral Login)
  • Objective 2.03 - Explain the purpose, use and advantages of iApps
iApp Wiki (Requires Devcentral Login)
  • Objective 2.04 - Explain the purpose, use and advantages of iControl
iControl Wiki (Requires Devcentral Login)
  • Objective 2.05 - Explain the purpose of and use cases for full proxy and packet forwarding / packet based architectures
Full Proxy Architecture (Lori MacVittie rules!)
Packet-Based vs Full Proxy
Auto Last Hop
Virtual Server Types
  • Objective 2.06 - Explain the advantages and configurations of high availability (HA)
F5 HA Basics 
Config Sync
Big IP HA Features
VLAN Failsafe

Section 3 - Load Balancing Essentials

This section is a short one compared to the previous two.  It's worth 17% of the total test score.  If you're going after an F5 certification, you're probably already familiar with much of this material, so you probably won't have to study as much for this section.  It never hurts to brush up on the algorithms and persistence methods.
  • Objective 3.01 - Discuss the purpose of, use cases for, and key considerations related to load balancing
Load Balancing Wiki
Load Balancing 101
Load Balancing Algorithms (Devcentral)
More on Load Balancing Algorithms
Another Load Balancing Algorithm Article
Yet Another Load Balancing Algorithm Article

  • Objective 3.02 - Differentiate between a client and a server

Client / Server on Wiki - Yes, I'm surprised this is even a question.

Section 4 - Security

This section is weighted at 11% of the total test score, but it feels like it should be more.
  • Objective 4.01 - Compare and contrast positive and negative security models
Positive Security Model
Positive vs Negative Security
  • Objective 4.02 - Explain the purpose and cryptographic services

SSL Certificates (Devcentral)
Certificate Chains
Public-Key Cryptography
Symmetric vs Asymmetric Encryption
Client SSL Profiles
Server SSL Profiles
  • Objective 4.03 - Describe the purpose and advantages of authentication
F5 Authentication 101 
Single Sign On
Multi-factor Authentication
  • Objective 4.04 - Describe the purpose, advantages and use cases of IPsec and SSL VPN

Section 5 - Application Delivery Platforms
The final section is worth only 7% of the total test score.  The finish line is in sight!

  • Objective 5.01 - Describe the purpose, advantages, use cases, and challenges associated with hardware-based application delivery platforms and virtual machines
Virtualization Platforms
  • Objective 5.02 - Describe the purpose of the various types of advanced acceleration techniques.

Application Performance Optimization
TCP Optimization
Acceleration 101
Acceleration 102

So there you have it.  Everything you need to pass the F5 Application Delivery Fundamentals exam, and probably more.  If you use this study guide, please comment and let me know if it was helpful and how you did on the test.

Postscript.  - I just noticed something interesting about the exam blueprint.  If you add up the various sections (33 + 33 + 17 + 11 + 7), you get 101%.   F5... going above and beyond.  :-)