It takes 10,000 hours of practice for one to become specialised in a discipline. That translates to several years of undergraduate and graduate study. This is also true if you want to become a Certified F5 Specialist.
Consider all the modules, that can be provisioned in a single BIG-IP device. You have LTM, ASM, APM, DNS (GTM) and so on. You also have several platforms to choose from: BIG-IP, VIPRION, Cloud, etc.
Take into account, all the different protocols (TCP, UDP, HTTP, HTTPS, SSL) and other network devices (Routers, Switches, Domain Controllers, Servers) an F5 device can integrate with.
The true is, that a highly talented network engineer cannot replace the value of a F5 subject matter expert (SME) when you need one.
How to become an F5 Specialist?
You may be wondering how to become an F5 Specialist? Although is a long track, if you are committed, you can do it!. First of all you need to have a good understating of:
- Unix/Linux: F5 devices are based on the CentOS Linux distribution.
- Networking: If you have a good Networking base, you are ahead on the game. If you are CCNA certified, better.
- Troubleshooting: A few years of troubleshooting Linux and Networking devices will certainly help.
- Security: This is even most important if you are going to work with security products like ASM, but it is always good to have a solid security base.
- Programming: This is not a requisite per se, I know a lot of F5 engineers who don’t really do programming. However, if you want to fully utilise the F5 capabilities using iRules (based on TCL programming language) then programming becomes essential.
After you have gotten some experience using F5 Products, then the next step is to start preparing for the certifications to validate your knowledge.
F5 Networks Certification Program Overview
The F5 Networks Certification program offers IT credentials that help prepare folks to develop, deploy and support the company’s products and solutions. The three certifications in F5’s program include the following items:
- F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA)
- F5 Certified Technology Specialist (F5-CTS)
- F5 Certified Solution Expert (F5-CSE)
To get started, F5 certification candidates need to register on the F5 Credential Management System (F5-CMS). Once registered, a study guide for the desired certification is made accessible through the company’s system, although study guides are also available outside of the F5-CMS, as you’ll learn later in this article. All F5 certification exams cost $135 and are available through Pearson VUE.
F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator (F5-CA)
An F5 Certified BIG-IP Administrator, can manage application delivery networks (ADNs) and perform routine management and troubleshooting of F5 Traffic Management Operating System (TMOS) devices. Two exams are required to achieve the F5-CA certification:
- Exam 101 – Application Delivery Fundamentals
- Exam 201 – TMOS Administration
These exams must be taken in numerical order, because the TMOS Administration exam takes the Application Delivery exam as a prerequisite. Before sitting for an exam, F5 suggests that candidates acquire a firm understanding of networking concepts and protocols, traffic management concepts and TMOS components, and how to work with virtual servers.
F5 Certified Technology Specialist (F5-CTS)
The F5 Certified Technology Specialist credentials come in four flavors, focusing on traffic management, DNS, security and access policies. The first LTM exams (Exam 301a) for DNS, ASM and APM Specialist credentials each takes Exam 201 – TMOS Administration as a prerequisite. The second LTM exam – LTM Specialist: Maintain and Troubleshoot (Exam 301b) – requires completion of the LTM Specialist: Architect, Setup, and Deploy Exam 301a beforehand. To earn the F5-CTS, candidates must pass one or two exams depending on the speciality track selected:
Local Traffic Manager (LTM): The LTM credential recognizes professionals who work with advanced F5 products, from design through implementation and maintenance and understand, how to integrate LTM into existing networks. Two exams are required:
- Exam 301a – BIG-IP LTM Specialist: Architect, Setup, and Deploy
- Exam 301b – BIG-IP LTM Specialist: Maintain and Troubleshoot
Domain Name Server (DNS): The DNS credential aims at application delivery architects and application delivery engineers who work with BIG-IP DNS. There is only one exam required to earn this credential:
- Exam 302 – BIG-IP DNS Specialist
Application Security Manager (ASM): An ASM designs, implements and maintains ASM to secure application delivery networks. Candidates should understand interactivity between ASM and web applications, troubleshooting techniques and integration method. Only one exam is required:
- Exam 303 – BIG-IP ASM Specialist
Access Policy Manager (APM): A professional with the APM credential handles application delivery network management and technologies that run on the F5 TMOS operating system.
Candidates should understand remote access, authentication and authorization, and how to install, maintain and upgrade APM. To get the APM credential, candidates must pass one exam:
- Exam 304 – BIG-IP APM Specialist
Anyone with the drive (and time) to finish all four CTS exams should seriously consider moving on to the pinnacle F5 certification: the F5 solution expert.
F5 Certified Solution Expert (F5-CSE)
The F5 Certified Solution Expert works with clients to identify security and technical business requirements, and then translates those requirements into solutions. Candidates must have solution design experience that encompasses all relevant aspects of LTM, DNS, ASM and APM, as well as other F5 technologies such as BIG-IQ modules, MobileSafe, IP Intelligence (IPI) and WebSafe.
To qualify as an F5-CSE, candidates must earn all of the previously mentioned F5 certifications, including the F5-CA, F5-CTS LTM, F5-CTS BIG-IP DNS, F5-CTS ASM and F5-CTS APM.
Once these prerequisites are completed, candidates need to pass one more exam:
- Exam 401 – F5 Certified Security Solution Expert