The esteemed pathological liar John Wagnon and I joined quite a group of F5ers in a three stop road trip through the heart of the Ohio River Valley. The always entertaining and wildly informative David Holmes joined us at all three stops, and we also had some great presentations from security architect Pez Zivic and vCMP product manager Dan Gilbert along the way. But enough about F5…these user groups all had customers presenting, sharing their deployment experiences and passing along all the good, bad, and ugly along the way. You might think we’d bristle at hearing the bad, but not at all. It’s always a good thing to learn from customers where the pain points are so we can lessen or eliminate them. Sometimes those solutions come from a different approach, sometimes in enhancements in future releases, but we can’t address them if we don’t hear about it. So bring it! We have thick skin, we can handle it.
Chatham House Rule was invoked at each event, which gave the customers the freedom to share some information they otherwise would remove from their public facing decks.
The first stop on the journey, Cincinnati did not disappoint. Maggiano’s Little Italy hosted, serving a nice array of food and providing a monster screen for presentations. David Holmes dove into some DDoS, provided some insights on recent SSL vulns and the potential for some Heartbleed rinse repeat action given the new efforts underway on the LibreSSL fork. Next, a customer presented on their introduction, deployment experience, and lessons learned with BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager and BIG-IP Application Security Manager products. My takeaways from his presentation:
"You went technical...you never go full technical!" Hysterical.
Over-communicate amongst the technical teams and business units.
Don't assume application owners know exactly how their application behaves on the wire.
Dan Gilbert, vCMP product manager with F5, dropped some great content (more on that below) on the group, as did F5 security solution architect Pez Zivic. John and I wrapped up the show sharing a little about how to get the most of DevCentral and the demystification of iRules.
A couple hours up the road from Cincinnati, we hit stop two in Columbus, OH, at a fancy little restaurant called J Liu. Again, the food was fantastic, but there was some curious near the salad bowl...was that a balsamic vinaigrette, or was that chocolate pudding? One brave tester confirmed it was the vinaigrette, but if you can keep all the contents on the utensil after turning it upside down...it's not a vinaigrette. But I digress. A customer kicked off his presentation on his journey from amateur to advocate on BIG-IP, particularly around their adoption of vCMP. My takeaways from his presentation
use the F5 Technology Centers! This customer did, and learned an incredible amount about their new BIG-IP gear during the process.
Take the time to understand the changes in default behaviors when adopting new products.
A repeated theme from Cincinnati: get tech/business units on board early.
tmsh enabled them to build out configurations quickly and cleanly
Dan followed the customer presentation with some great 11.5 functionality in vCMP that this customer has to look forward to, as well as some of the forthcoming roadmap. John and I presented again and the David Holmes wrapped up this show. I'm looking forward to getting a Secure Web Gateway lab built so I can try out some of David's recommendations on my kids mobile tech. At happy hour before driving further down the road to Pittsburgh, John and David spent a little time with Taffy the miniature horse. Yep, so that happened. I think it was so disturbing David Holmes had nightmares about it. You should ask him next time you see him.
Last stop on the road trip was in Pittsburgh, where we met with a large group of customers in the 1960 suite at PNC Park to share knowledge with each other, catch up on the great solutions people are cooking up with F5 products, and finally, catch the game between the Pirates and the Reds. Being a Cardinals fan, I had to rub a little salt in the divisional rivalry, so I opened my presentation with a self-reflective analysis of which Cards hat I should wear for the day, my 2011 World Series champs hat, or my 2013 NL champs hat (which the Cards earned by knocking the Pirates out of the playoffs along the way last year.) I went with the latter. Now that I had built strong bonds will all those Pirates fans..
The customer that presented discussed his team's experience with device cluster groups and traffic groups. They are still in the design selection phase, so it was neat to hear their insight into the different approaches one might take to deployment strategies. I need to spend more time digging into the device and traffic groups, it's an area I don't have much experience in beyond the basic HA technologies from my customer days. Anyway, Jack Fenimore updated the crew on all the new goodness in 11.5 across the product lines, and David Holmes again wowed the crowd with all his security goodness.
After the game, John and I jumped in my hoopty, a 2003 Honda Pilot, and headed for home. It's funny, we started east, and got more east at each stop, so the final and only trip west was a long one, made 2 hours longer thanks to the rush hour + baseball game ending traffic jam. That was not cool, but the road trip was a success, and I think I learned as much as any of the customers through these experiences.
If you have not taken the time in your neck of the woods to attend a user group meeting, then why not? It's an opportunity to share what you know, learn from others who are working through the same problems you're facing, and build relationships with fantastic people in your area.
Thanks again to Jack Fenimore and Maurice Gordon, the local FSEs in those markets, Kate Fetherston, the brains and organization around the events, and all the other F5ers that made these events a success.