Wednesday, September 27, 2006

f5 support site top-notch : web UI useful & friendly & easy.

After signing up for an, I was redirected to site. Therein I found documentations, release management information, release/patch/hotfixes downloads in a well-organized fashion. Most other tech support sites I visited before gave you the feeling of a dump-all-here repository with a thin cover of HTML. The F5 sites allows you to select a version, which has a short description of what this version is on a neatly tabulated fashion. MD5 is provided for downloads. The provided md5 checksums is way above par for commercial entities, even though PGP or GnuPG signature is more desirable and more secure. Three different downloading mechanism is provided: FTP/HTTP/HTTPS. Again, all  neatly tabulated and explained in plain English. It seems that this site itself had gone through a real OO modeling design & implementation, to ensure the UI be useful & friendly & easy. One cue to support this suspicion is a reference of 'choose a container' instead of saying "choose a version number'.
The F5 LTM/GTM software release scheme has recently been revamped and are well documented on their site. The scheme is pretty straightforward and makes an easy read for a professional systems engineer like me instead of software engineer. basically a x.y.z scheme with y being odd/even to distinguish a feature release versus a maintenance release. As I am writing this, I came to wonder whether this F5 scheme had been influenced by the odd/even version scheme of Linux kernel development. For instance, kernel 2.5 was unstable/cutting-edge while 2.4 was stable releases with maintenance fixes only). I will consider to recommend this scheme to our internal release team, such that our next release number will not be an 'ass-pull' - a quirky code invented by an obnoxious-wanna-be Yankee veteran and has been circulated around our office.
No wonder is the first and only site the F5 Big-IP SE (systems engineer) referred me to. It gave me warm & fuzzy feeling about F5 that all this releases and patches are manged so well, so consistent, and for free. This came in stark contrast with Citrix Netscaler SE. He made such a big deal of gaining access to newer builds and releases and didn't give me access until he agreed the feature I need to evaluate is not there in the bundle. Even then, he had to grab them somewhere and slap them into a FTP server in his own iBook (OS X), and gave me an one-time ad hoc account to download. One year or three years post-sales, I have no doubt that I can find bug fixes and new features with ease from F5. Needless to say, I don't have that confidence with Citrix Netscaler team. Hope they are merely temporary quirks produced by the Citrix acquisition.

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