A common aspiration many organizations have in their journeys towards IT automation is building a self-service portal that empowers end-users to request and receive commonly needed IT services quickly through a self-service form. ServiceNow has become a near ubiquitous cornerstone for how many IT organizations operate and has established itself as a popular frontend interface and orchestrator for creating self-service workflows. This article will cover the high-level basics of creating a self-service catalog for building F5 BIG-IP configurations through integrating ServiceNow with F5 FAST.
A Quick Introduction to F5 Application Services Templates (FAST)
The benefit F5 FAST provides when integrating with ServiceNow is FAST greatly simplifies the ability to create a templatized set of F5 configurations such as VIPs, profiles, and WAF policies through a small list of predefined parameters. Additionally, as part of F5 FAST's feature set, a REST API for external consumption is provided making the integration with orchestration solutions like ServiceNow simple.
How ServiceNow works with F5 Application Services Templates (FAST)
To integrate F5 FAST with ServiceNow, a powerful feature within ServiceNow called Flow Designer is used. Flow Designer is a workflow management tool within ServiceNow capable of automating and orchestrating complex logical workflows without writing code.
The way Flow Designer orchestrates changes and queries other services and devices is through invoking Actions. Actions act as the building blocks of a Flow inside Flow Designer and provide ServiceNow the ability to perform an API call to F5 FAST using a unique REST Action. Through a single REST action, Flow Designer can supply the list of parameters required by an F5 FAST template to build out an F5 AS3 configuration. In addition to sending an API call to F5 FAST, actions can also be used to perform internal operations within ServiceNow, such as creating or closing changes and opening an incident when something goes wrong. Actions provide the logical steps that make ServiceNow a powerful orchestrator.
Building Self-Service with ServiceNow Service Catalogs
For a ServiceNow Flow and its Actions to get executed, it requires a trigger event and a list of parameters. In the case of a self-service form, the trigger and parameters come through the form of a ServiceNow Catalog Item. Catalog Items are highly customizable forms built inside ServiceNow, enabling users to request required services quickly.
When integrating ServiceNow with F5 FAST, the parameters inside the customizable Catalog Item should match the parameters required by the F5 FAST template. The parameters an end-user fills out inside the Catalog Item are ultimately passed from ServiceNow to the Flow and the Flow to F5 FAST. In addition to supplying parameters on a form, ServiceNow Catalog Items also have a high level of customizability in how the form is designed and data validation that may occur before the form is submitted. Combined with a Flow of Actions, ServiceNow Catalog Items provide a highly customizable end-user experience, making requesting IT services quick and easy.
Next Steps and Getting Started
To get started building your first ServiceNow and F5 FAST self-service form, sign up for a free ServiceNow Developer account at https://developer.servicenow.com