F5 Networks – 101 Application Delivery Fundamentals Exam

With my Cisco certification dreams put on temporary hold until next year due to Cisco’s exam overhaul, I’ve decided to focus by IT objectives elsewhere for the time being. F5-CA (F5-certified administrator) and CISSP have consequently taken the foreground on my agenda.

I’ve been incredibly impressed with the F5 platform since I started working more directly with it in the last month. They function as far more than simply a traffic balancer, or a high-availability perimeter, or a full Layer 7-based proxy, but can handle optimize traffic and front-end compression to speed up web delivery and even handle geolocation for DNS and other services.

While the price tag on a brand new cutting-edge unit can be a bit staggering, used prices on eBay are pretty tasty – including the VIPRION, the blade chassis for F5 that can easily aggregate and stack some incredible throughput potential.

OK, sales pitch aside, I was looking forward to getting some documented experience and cred on this platform.

The 101 exam is the first step towards F5-CA, and here’s what you’d need to know for it.

A Seeming Misconception

F5’s certification website offers an overview of which certification paths you can take with F5. What I want you to note is that the 101 exam is required for both the administrator path as well as the “salesman” path – this confused me slightly into thinking that this would be an easier, more entry-level test. This flew in the face of a few other reviews I’d read on the Internet that this was a fairly challenging test, and could not be taken lightly.

After my first attempt, and subsequent pass of this exam, I can say that it’s a pleasant mix of both for where I’m currently at in my career.

It’s also a testament to F5 that they require their sales team to be moderately technical in order to sell their products and describe the platform; I have a great deal of respect for organizations that do this, as I’ve had to work for multiple companies in the past that had non-technical sales staff in technical sales roles who attempted to sell products and infrastructure that we couldn’t support, etc.

While F5 provides a very clear, concise Study Guide as well as an exam objectives summary (I’ve attached the documents for the current exams, under TMOS 11.4, to this article), they don’t clearly define what level of depth they’ll go into in terms of how thoroughly the topics will be tested. As an indicator of how deep they go, roughly half of the 101 exam guide is on somewhat-deep knowledge of TCP/IP and how connections work. It was a very good read and review, even for a seasoned admin.

The passing score for the test is 69%, although when you complete your exam, your proctor will only tell you if you passed or failed – not what you scored. While this is always a little disconcerting, especially for future development, it’s the route they’ve opted to go to try and prevent cheating.

What To Expect On The Actual Test

The exam is a static 80 questions, and you can go backward and forward to adjust answers or re-visit questions you weren’t sure of. Time length for the test is a static 90 minutes. All questions are multiple choice, and some will present you with scenarios where you can pick an answer from a list.

The difficulty is a mix of tougher questions and easier ones. If, starting out, you encounter some harder problems, take a deep breathe and maintain your pace – things will likely pan out further on.

The study guides from F5 give a very even briefing and background on the subjects that are going to be on the exam. However, as others have attested with regards to these exams, the rest of the depth for the topics would need to be filled in by a combination of industry knowledge and hands-on experience with these platforms. 

I’d rank this test as targeted towards an entry-level engineer looking to work his way into the mid-tier. It coincides with CCNA on the general principles of:

  • You need to know protocol acronyms.
  • You need to know common port numbers and ranges.
  • You ABSOLUTELY have to be able to subnet.
  • You need to be able to explain a use-case scenario for everything.

Summary

I’m overall satisfied with this test. That being said, the 201 examination is going to be the next F5 milestone on the docket, and I’m going to have to invest more time (particularly in TCL and lab work) before I attempt it.

Caleb
Caleb Huggenberger is a 31 year-old systems engineer, old-school guitar and amplifier builder, and Eastern culture enthusiast. Outside of long work days, he enjoys electronics engineering, cast iron campfire cooking, and homesteading on his acreage in the Indiana countryside.

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