19-Jan-2017 03:00 - edited 30-Nov-2022 10:32
tl;dr - BIG-IP is a collection of hardware platforms and software solutions providing services focused on security, reliability, and performance.
F5's BIG-IP is a family of products covering software and hardware designed around application availability, access control, and security solutions. That's right, the BIG-IP name is interchangeable between F5's software and hardware application delivery controller and security products. This is different from BIG-IQ, a suite of management and orchestration tools, and F5 Silverline, F5's SaaS platform. When people refer to BIG-IP this can mean a single software module in BIG-IP's software family or it could mean a hardware chassis sitting in your datacenter. This can sometimes cause a lot of confusion when people say they have question about "BIG-IP" but we'll break it down here to reduce the confusion.
BIG-IP software products are licensed modules that run on top of F5's Traffic Management Operation System® (TMOS). This custom operating system is an event driven operating system designed specifically to inspect network and application traffic and make real-time decisions based on the configurations you provide. The BIG-IP software can run on hardware or can run in virtualized environments. Virtualized systems provide BIG-IP software functionality where hardware implementations are unavailable, including public clouds and various managed infrastructures where rack space is a critical commodity.
BIG-IP hardware offers several types of purpose-built custom solutions, all designed in-house by our fantastic engineers; no white boxes here. BIG-IP hardware is offered via series releases, each offering improvements for performance and features determined by customer requirements. These may include increased port capacity, traffic throughput, CPU performance, FPGA feature functionality for hardware-based scalability, and virtualization capabilities. There are two primary variations of BIG-IP hardware, single chassis design, or VIPRION modular designs. Each offer unique advantages for internal and collocated infrastructures. Updates in processor architecture, FPGA, and interface performance gains are common so we recommend referring to F5's hardware page for more information.
"There are two primary variations of BIG-IP hardware, single chassis design, or VIPRION modular designs."
I don't think VIPRION is considered to be in the BIG-IP hardware family. However, iSeries is branded as BIG-IP hardware.
There are 3 categories of hardware F5 offers, iSeries, standard series, and VIPRION. iSeries refers to the new hardware utilizing customizable FPGA architecture, the standard series is the traditional chassis we've always offered, and VIPRION was the product name used to define our modular chassis and blade hardware. They're all part of F5's hardware offering.
It's a marketing and product management naming decision over any technical requirements.
After many years of explaining what BIG-IP is to folks I put together a comprehensive article here - What is BIG-IP?