Oliver Warrenwas Solutions Engineer @ Loadbalancer.org
You are not alone, this fear comes up a lot and it's usually the same old story...
The F5 load balancer is an awesome product, it deserves it's position as the market leader. But that dominance has led to a certain amount of arrogance.
We've had a lot of frustrated F5 customers talk to us recently about the pain they are suffering, the 3 common issues being:
"Help, I've just been told my F5 has gone End Of Life".
"Help, my F5 configuration is so complex I'm too scared to touch it"
"Help, I've had 6 critical security updates this year which cost me time and money".
How scary is it to migrate away from F5?
The F5 product is notoriously complex to manage - which is where they tie you in to expensive support contracts, by requiring their specialist technicians to have to maintain it for you. It also includes a number of surplus features which most organisations just don't need. Hence, many of Loadbalancer.org customers come to us looking for a clever not complex alternative, understandably worried about how to migrate safely away from a product they don't fully understand.
Loadbalancer.org can however make the process very simple. Send us your F5 configuration file and we can get it ready to import straight to your new Loadbalancer.org appliance, getting you up and running in no time.
We will help you get transferred to our appliance as smoothly as possible, including explaining some new terminology you may not be used to (e.g. Layer 2 nPath becomes DR mode (direct route) and iRules can be cumbersome). You can leverage our expertise every step of the way, to help you get everything transferred across.
Because of F5's complex iRules, sometimes we may need to spend a little more time converting these for you, but we have yet to have a set of iRules we've not managed to convert. So this is not something you'll ever need to worry about.
So. Hand in hand with a solid load balancing application and an industry leading support team, we can help you move away from F5 without fear.
Let's look at a typical business case for leaving F5
So I spoke to a guy yesterday (let's call him 'Steve'), who was somewhat exasperated.
He wasn't happy with his very expensive, very shiny F5 and wanted to explore alternatives. He wasn't using the majority of the product's features, but felt he'd overinvested in the product and so couldn't sever ties.
Steve's messed up situation:
Every time his F5 load balancer needed maintaining he had to bring in a qualified F5 Service Professional, because the product was so bloody complicated.
In fact, although F5 would support their own software they refused to help with the 30 applications running on the unit. And because each of those applications was critical to his business, every time Steve had an issue, he had to pay someone to help identify and fix it.
He was worried because his load balancer was nearing end-of-life and knew that F5's support for end-of-life products was about to get even more expensive.
Now each customer is different (and what works for one might not work for another) but, for Steve at least, migrating away from F5 would open up a whole new world of possibilities.
There are lots of good load balancing companies out there that do different things. I'm not here to sell you our product (yes really!), but I would encourage you to explore your options and do due diligence if you are thinking of switching.
Think outside the box...
For public internet facing applications - could you change to a SAAS provider like CloudFlare?
Change the whole application from on-site to cloud versions?
Could you simplify your applications, split them up by public/private/department or security needs?
Make sure the product is easy to set-up and use.
Make sure it's a long term and flexible solution.
Make sure there are no hidden costs.
Keep asking difficult questions.
Should you, like Steve, want to migrate to an alternative load balancing company here are a couple of things that might be worth bearing in mind:
Cheaper - get one that offers flexible licenses so you can choose between subscription or site license models.
Simpler - get one that's designed to be self-service and has a customer-obsessed tierless support team.
Better - get one that allows you to migrate across different platforms easily, quickly and without any financial penalty, as your needs change.
So how do I migrate?
Do your homework. Make sure the vendor you are migrating to is the right fit for your infrastructure. Can that vendor meet your needs? If you're not sure or can't find answers to your questions on our website, contact us! We're here to help. Comment below or contact us.
2.Implement and test our appliance
You can test our appliance with our 30 day free trial, which even entitles you to support - so you can set up a POC, worry free and make sure we are the right fit for you. Using the email mentioned above, you can get in contact with myself and my colleagues in the Solutions team and we'll be able to advise.
3.Turn the trial into a licensed application
If the trial meets your needs and you're happy, our 30 day free trial can be turned into a fully licensed appliance, removing the 30 day restriction. And away you go! Simples. We can also hand-hold you through your go live, if you wish.
If you're not happy with our appliance and we are not the right fit, that's ok!!! You may just need more time to test, in which case we'd be willing to extend the trial. But if not, we're always happy to assist when your circumstances change - and hopefully we gave you some advice that will help you with your project in the future, even if you decide not to work with us.
What about migration tools?
Typically migration tools can be very buggy and even incomplete, especially in the ever evolving world of IT, where one update could introduce new features, requiring the migration tool to need updating or breaking it completely.
This is why we always work through the process with you, holding your hand all the way. Helping you understand why or how to do something is key to any migration. It may also help you clear up a lot of dead pools and services you have still lying around. So not only will you have a new load balancer, but a cleaner config making maintenance much simpler (win!).
Should I migrate as soon as possible?
NO. We would recommend staying with your current load balancing vendor, until you've come up with a long term plan on how to proceed. If F5 is currently doing the job, great! Stay with F5, they are the market leaders after all because they offer bells and whistles functionality.
Moving away should never be on a whim. The process should be well thought out. As such we would even be happy to spend time setting up a proof of concept with you, making sure we are the best suited product for your deployment.
Some F5 configurations are HUGE and complex (bells and whistles again). So it is best to break the configuration down and migrate the extra large configs bit by bit, ensuring each application is most suitably deployed. This is also a great opportunity to review the existing way of load balancing and seeing if there is a more efficient way of load balancing a specific application. For example, having a separate load balancer for mission critical applications (if you'll require more than 6 load balancers, you may want to take advantage of our site license).
At the end of the day, migrating from F5 is absolutely possible and needn't be scary, but make sure you have a safe pair of hands to guide you through the process.