Getting Started with BIG-IP Next: Creating Instances in Central Manager with the VMware vSphere Provider

You can create instances directly on F5 rSeries or VELOS hardware or on KVM or VMware hypervisors, and then onboard them in BIG-IP Next Central Manager (CM), some of which is already covered in other articles that we've released. In this article, we'll highlight the capability within CM to create the instances directly:

  1. Creating an instance template in a vCenter content library (must be licensed to work)
  2. Creating the VMware vSphere provider in Central Manager
  3. Creating the BIG-IP instance in Central Manager

The first two steps are necessary the first time, but only step three is required for future instances.

Note: There is an intermittent issue with creating instances with the provider prior to v20.2.1, so make sure to install or upgrade to that version of Central Manager and that the instances template in your resource library is also updated.

Creating an instance instance template in a vCenter content library

The steps here are very similar to the walkthrough I did with ESXi, but because it's done in vCenter this time and that there are a few additional steps, I recorded the process again. If you already have created a template for BIG-IP Next and have it listed in a content library, you can skip this section and move on to creating the provider.

Create the template

First, head to MyF5 and download version 20.2.1+ of BIG-IP Next instance Virtual Edition.

In the vSphere client, right click on the appropriate cluster, then select Deploy OVF Template

Select the image you just downloaded from MyF5 and click next.

Set the name, select a compute location for the virtual machine, then click next.

Now select a compute resource and then click next.

If your VMware environment is lab like mine, you might not have set up all the intermediate and root certificates properly (a colleague shared this article for details.) If that's the case, you can click ignore on the certificate not being trusted by the vSphere client and click next. For those that have properly prepared their environment, you shouldn't see this certificate trust issue at all, and can click next as well.

Now select storage and click next.

On the networks tab, select the network that would be appropriate for CM <-> instance management traffic communication. For me, that is VM Network. Then click next.

After reviewing the details, click finish.

After the VM is created, select it in the left-hand navigation, then select edit settings from the actions menu.

Here I dropped the cpu count to 2, the memory to 8GB, and added a second NIC with my vm_tagging network so I can tag all the other VLANs I might need. Click OK.

Note: Once creating an instance in Central Manager with the provider, it didn't seem to matter that I had customized the template, so the last two steps may not be necessary. I still prefer to be explicit even if I have to redo this within CM.

Create the content library

Click the hamburger menu in the top left in the vSphere client and select content libraries.

If you have a content library already that you want to add the template to, you can skip this step. Otherwise, click create.

Set your content library name and select the server. I only have the one so that was an easy choice!

I kept the defaults here, local content library and clicked next.

You may have requirements for security policies on imported OVF library items, but I don't in my lab so I opted out of that and clicked next.

Select the datastore and click next.

Review the content library settings and click finish.

Clone the template to the content library

Back in the vCenter inventory, right-click on the instance template and select clone and then clone as template to library.

Name the template (must be unique from the instance template you already created!) and select the destination, then click next.

Select the library you created (or already had created previously) and click next.

Now select the cluster and click next.

Note: If you have multiple clusters, make sure to uniquely name the resource pool in the one you will assign BIG-IP Next resources to. Otherwise you could face a provider conflict when Central Manager attempts to create the instance.

Select storage and click next.

Review details and click finish.

What your vCenter logs and you should get a completion message on creating the content library template.

Congratulations! All the prep work to get to Central Manger has been completed. Again, this process is a one-time (per instance version) requirement to prepare for what the provider will work with from Central Manager, and even with that, the content library steps aren't needed for future instance templates either. Onward!

Creating the VMware vSphere provider in Central Manager

Log in to Central Manager (make sure it is version 20.2.1+) and click on manage instances.

Now click on providers in the left-hand nagivation menu.

Click on start adding providers. If you already have another provider, click add on the upper-right menu next to the delete button.

Select VMware vSphere as the type, then name the provider, set the IP address or FQDN, and then click connect.

Enter your credentials and click submit.

A dialog might pop up with an authenticity warning. This is similarly related to the OVF import issue discussed earlier. A properly configured certificate chain on the vSphere server would eliminate this alert. If this is your lab, you can click accept here.

You should now see a configured provider in the listing.

And there we go! Central Manager is now in a state to create instances on your behalf.

Creating the BIG-IP instance in Central Manager

Login to Central Manager if you have not, then click on manage instances.

If you don't have any instances on your Central Manager, click start adding instances. Otherwise, click add in the upper-right section of the screen.

Since we are asking the provider to create an instance on our behalf, select create a new instance.

Review the list of what you'll need (and make it happen, Cap'n!) and then click next.

Set the instance hostname, an optional description, select the VE Standalone instance template and click start creating.

Select the provider created in the previous section and then click next.

On this screen, all the information should be provided in the dropdowns in alignment with the vSphere environment and template created in previous sections. My example is shown below. Notice that the cores and memory are still selectable even though I set those in the template I created.

I broke the screen capture into two images here. On the first, set your instance management IP and mask (there is a task to combine these fields in a future release), your gateway address, and your networks. I though the vSphere networks would populate for dropdown but they do not, so make sure you accurately account for them. My management interfaces for all VMs are in the VM Network, and then for this instance deployment I am using tagged vlans in one virtual NIC in the vm_tagging network.

Now further down the same screen, set your DNS and NTP servers, then click next.

Click on the VLANs tab under networking, then click create twice for your external and internal traffic interfaces and fill out the appropriate details. For me, that is vlans 30 and 40, respectively, in my vm_tagged network. Yours might look a little different here. Do not click next here. Instead, click IP Addresses.

Set the self IP address for each VLAN as appropriate, then click next.

Set the management username and password for the instance. This is how Central Manager will connect to the instance. Click next.

Review the details of the instance that the provider will create, then click deploy.

After several minutes, you should have a healthy looking instance in the my instances list. Congratulations!


Published Jul 01, 2024
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