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DevCentral Top5 02/03/2012

We're putting the band back together. And by band, I mean team. And by "putting back together" I mean we're all going to be in the same place, physically. This is a rarity for our remotely distributed team, but next week it is happening, and that is a great thing. It means planning, policies, preparation, prognostication and many other things that don't begin with the same letter. It also means that there will be some new, cool things to look forward to in what will likely be the near future, from a DevCentral perspective. Rarely do we get the whole team together to brainstorm and plan without something hawesome coming out of it. For that, I recommend you keep your eyes peeled the next few weeks. In the meantime, however, there is nowhere near a shortage of killer content on DevCentral just waiting for your perusal. So much so, in fact, I find myself again compelled to pick a few of my favorites and disseminate them to you in a format that takes the guess work out for those of you not neck deep in DC goodness, as I am. For the fun of it I'll pick only 5 topics this week, and here they are. Oh, and there might be some iRules involved. A lot of iRules. All over the place. Once you recover from your shocked state, given my lack of a propensity for sharing iRules topics, read on:

Transparent Web Bot Application Protection

Joe takes us out of the gates this week with an awesome new take on an old problem. Forms being abused by web bots is a story as old as ... well ... forms and web bots. It has been "solved" or worked around or just plain dealt with through gritted teeth for years. One of the most common, reliable ways of stopping bots from abusing the forms on your site is to implement captchas. Captchas, in case you haven't been on the web since 14.4 was blistering, have gotten pretty advanced these days, asking you to input multiple phrases, playing back audio to help you decipher them, etc. There are even some iRules on DevCentral to help you implement them seamlessly. Also? I hate them. I am not a captcha fan. They are annoying, time consuming, and just plain not fun. Necessary bits of not fun that I tolerate, certainly, but I, much like Joe it would seem, am not a fan. So, when Joe presents a solution to provide what is effectively a transparent captcha, meaning the user has no interaction but the functionality is very much similar to a traditional captcha, I sat up and took notice. I suggest you do the same, it's worth the read.

Introduction to iStats Part1: Overview

I'm kind of in the business of documenting iRules. Along with talking about them to anyone that will listen, or is in earshot, or is passing by, or sits next to me on the plane or ... well you get the idea. In addition to talking about them and writing them and working with the wicked smart folks in the depths of F5 to better them for future generations of iRulers, I document them a fair amount, as do my DC compatriots. That process is great and all, but every so often one of the software engineers will produce a chunk of documentation that allows an article to all but write itself. That is what happened here. One of our iRules engineers put together a simply outstanding document detailing what iStats are, how they work, how to use them, etc. and sent it off to the iRules experts. I couldn't help myself, so I wrote it up in more detail, with some more background, etc. and put it out on DevCentral for the masses to consume. iStats will change the way many people are using iRules. They will allow things that were previously impossible. iStats are cool, but you'll have to read the document to find out just how cool and why.

Populating Tables With CSV Data Via Sideband Connections

George is off in his own world these days. It's a world wherein awesome iRule ideas leap from the walls, complex code lays itself out at his feet, and outstanding Tech Tips come flowing out as the result. If you find where that place is, send me directions, would you? I have serious article envy. George continues making it absolutely rain wicked solutions with his newest installment of applications hawesomeness by way of the new super powers garnered to iRules in v11, namely Sideband Connections. In this example George shows off an iRule that will connect to an out of band server to look up CSV data pertinent to the connection before processing the client request, then cache that data as necessary within the BIG-IP. Yeah, if you're not impressed and thinking that's pretty darn cool, you're doing it wrong. That or I'm just bonkers for this stuff. Perhaps both. Seriously folks, go read this article right now. It's worth it. I'll be over re-mapping the keys on George's keyboard to slow him down a bit so he stops making me look bad.

Advanced Load Balancing for Developers. The Network Dev Tool.

Hitting near and dear to my heart, Don dusts off his Load Balancing for Developers series and dives straight into one of my favored topics: Business logic offloading to the network. He draws you the picture, first, of ZapnGo (a make believe company) and their growth, the struggles brought with it, and how they're working to address them. This is something that is very real to many businesses in a similar place as ZapnGo. Growth is fantastic but it brings along very real issues that need addressing, and doesn't always provide the extra cycles to deal with them. Offloading some of the functionality that might traditionally go into the back-end to the network layer can be an extremely effective way of saving cycles, both in man-hours and processing time. This is something that I've spoken with droves of people about over the years, and I love seeing it brought up in another light and hearing someone else's take on it. This is a good read and very well may give you some insight into how to solve some issues you're having, if you're in  a similar place as ZapnGo.

Enterprise Apps are Not Written for Speed

Another topic that will often times quickly lead to a soap-box being produced out of thin air and those perhaps unfortunate people near enough to be caught in the path of the diatribe that follows is performance vs. maintainability. Lori hits the nail on the head with her topic, and the ensuing discussion she presents in this blog post. The reality is, most developers building enterprise level applications are focused on reliability, maintainability, and functionality. Performance is a nice to have in a world of strict requirements. That's not even taking into account the real time killer - security. Back in the day when I was writing such apps and automation tools in an enterprise environment the concept of "performance" was relegated to "Does it work? Does it work twice? Awesome..." and that was about it. In a world of more and more web accessible or hosted apps, increasing numbers of mobile users, larger object counts and sizes, and a host of other performance degrading factors, now more than ever the ability to up the performance outside of the application is a valuable one. The network layer can help with that, if you let it, and Lori talks about how in this post.


There are five more picks from the past couple weeks of content surging through DevCentral. It shows no signs of stopping, so I guess I'll have to come back in a week or so to give you some more hints on where to look for the pieces that were my favorite. Until then, happy coding, configuring, networking or whatever else it is that you do when not cruising DevCentral.



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More Stories By Colin Walker

Coming from a *Nix Software Engineering background, Colin is no stranger to long hours of coding, testing and deployment. His personal experiences such as on-stage performance and the like have helped to foster the evangelist in him. These days he splits his time between coding, technical writing and evangalism. He can be found on the road to just about anywhere to preach the good word about ADCs, Application Aware networking, Network Side Scripting and geekery in general to anyone that will listen.

Colin currently helps manage and maintain DevCentral ( He is also a contributor in many ways, from Articles to Videos to numerous forum posts, to iRules coding and whatever else he can get his hands on that might benefit the community and allow it to continue to grow.

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