How to integrate F5 BIG-IP VE with GNS3

I would like to start by saying Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays season to all. In between spending time with my family, decorating the Christmas three and opening presents, I did find some time to play around with my hobby and testing something in the lab.

Lately I wanted to get a feeling how F5 BIG-IP works, you know, just to get familiar with its interfaces, rules and being capable of setting up a basic LTM or APM. Far from me the idea of becoming an expert on the first touch, but it’s nice to discover new technologies.

Beside getting the F5 BIG-IP VE (Virtual Edition), running up VMware (ESXi, Player, Fusion or Workstation) and starting the virtual machine I also wanted to emulate some kind of real environment to test. So, I did build the below topology in GNS3:

F5 BIG-IP Simple setup

Some explanation:

  • Client WIN7 is a VM in VirtualBox and integrated in GNS3
  • WWW Servers are VMs in VirtualBox and integrated in GNS3
  • WIN2008 AD DC is a VM in VirtualBox and integrated in GNS3
  • Routers are emulated in GNS3
  • F5 BIG-IP VE is a VM in VMware Workstation and integrated as a Cloud in GNS3

GNS3 is version 1.2.1 which works perfect. Why VirtualBox and VMware Workstation? Usually I have no problem to have my VMs in VirtualBox, but I could not successfully import the F5 BIG-IP VE OVA image in VirtualBox. I had to download a trial version of VMware Workstation to install the OVA image.

If you want to know more about this F5 product, Ethan Banks has a great article about the BIG-IP VE. Please note that Ethan’s article is about getting a lab license for BIG-IP VE. I just went for the trial version. You can download the OVA image and get the license here:

Download the BIG-IP VE OVA image, get a trial license (valid for 90 days) and install it in VMware Workstation. It may work with other VMware products, but in this article I’m using only VMware Workstation.

The part that gave me some headache was the how to have a successfully network communication between VMware Workstation and GNS3.

Before GNS3 1.2.1, when I had to use a “cloud” to integrate VirtualBox VMs in GNS3, I was configuring a TAP interface and use Bridge mode for the VM NIC to the TAP interface. Then on the GNS3 Cloud, I was adding the TAP as a Generic Ethernet NIO on the NIO Ethernet. If you want to refresh more deeply the above information please read my article about How to integrate GNS3 with VirtualBox.

Unfortunately, in VMware Workstation, I cannot just bridge a VMnet interface to a TAP and use that specific VMnet in a VM. I just could not make it work.

To cut it short, here are the steps that I had to follow to have this working. I assume that you have VMware Workstation installed already. Another detail is that I’m using Ubuntu 14.04 to test the entire scenario.

1. Add two VMnet interfaces in VMware Workstation Virtual Network Editor

Use the image below to have an idea what I mean.

Virtual Network Editor

2. Configure the BIG-IP VE NIC as follow in VMware Workstation

I assume that you have the BIG-IP VE OVA imported in VMware Workstation


I had 4 NICs originally, but I only need three:

  • VMnet0 is bridge to my real LAN interface so I can manage the F5 BIG-IP VE over Web / CLI interfaces
  • VMnet11 – one “internal” interface facing LAN (server side)
  • VMnet22 – one “external” interface facing WAN (client side)

3. Configure two tap interfaces for F5 BIG-IP VE to be used in GNS3

11 – internal, 22 – external

*user = the non-root user which you use on Ubuntu host.

If you are having problems to find tunctl command please do the following:

Bring the interfaces up

4. Remove the IP addresses on both TAP and VMnet interfaces

5. Bridge the TAP and the VMnet interfaces

Bring the bridge interfaces up

5. Add the F5 BIG-IP VE to GNS3

If with GNS3 1.2.1 you can add the VirtualBox VMs directly, for the VMware Workstation (Player, Fusion, etc…) VMs you still need to you the Cloud part.

My GNS3 for F5 topology looks like this:

F5 topology in GNS3

And the GNS3 Cloud (representing the F5 BIG-IP VE) settings are the following:

F5 GNS3 Cloud settings

6. Connect the GNS3 Cloud interfaces to R1 and R2

Like shown in the image above, connect the TAP interface of the Cloud to the peer routers.

I’m running all applications (GNS3, VMware Workstation, VirtualBox) as non-root user. If you’re doing the same an error may occur in GNS3. Something like:

Server error [-3200] from x.x.x.x:8000: R1: unable to create TAP NIO

If this is the case, please run the following command on Ubuntu host:

This will help you setup the environment to test F5 BIG-IP VE in a lab environment totally virtualized. I’m not going to cover here how to configure the F5 BIG-IP VE. Maybe in one of my next articles.

If you encounter problems, please let me know in Comments.

GNS3 1.2.1 installation on Ubuntu 14.04

As mentioned in an earlier post GNS3 is moving ahead fast. Currently at version 1.2.1 the GNS3 is looking great. Compared with the version 1.0 Beta 1 which I had installed, the 1.2.1 is not only more stable, but it has the Menu more clean and compact. For example now there is only one Preferences menu where you can adjust all your settings.

During the installation of 1.0 Beta 1 I made some notes in Evernote and it prove to be very useful as the installation was pretty messy. With 1.2.1 I did the same thing, but the installation was very smooth. Still, I said that if I made those notes maybe I should share them for those interested in a quick installation. A more complete guide can be found on GNS3 Community.

1. Download GNS3 1.2.1

Head over to, create and account and download the bundle archive for Linux.

If you for some reason you don’t want to create an account, you may download each package individually from

The following lines will assume that you have the bundle archive.

2. Install Ubuntu 14.04 dependencies

3. Unzip the bundle archive

You should see 5 packages in GNS3-1.2.1 folder:

4. Install Dynamips

To check if the correct version is install:

You should see in the output 0.2.14

5. Install GNS3 Server

To check if the GNS3 Server is installed correctly:

If you see some output other than an error, than you’re fine.

6. Install GNS3 GUI

To test if the installation is working:

You should see a graphical interface of GNS3 launched.

At this moment you have a working GNS3 environment if you want only want to test Cisco hardware emulators. I strongly recommend to continue and install also the rest of the components. Who knows when you’ll need them

7. Install IOUyap (Optional, if you will use IOU images)

To test the installation:

If you encounter an error, please check the [Update 1] section at the bottom of this article.

8. Install VPCS (Optional, if you want to use VirtualPC)

For the third line, the 64 represent 64bit, as my Ubuntu 14.04 is build on 64bit.
The values can be:
– 32 or i386 for 32bit OS
– 64 or amd64 for 64bit OS

Please be sure to use the correct one for your OS.

To test the VPCS:

You should see a Virtual PC being launched. Leave the console with letter q.

9. Install VirtualBox (Optional, if you want to launch VMs)

Download the correct version for your system from The following lines will assume an Ubuntu 14.04 64bit OS.

You can also use the instructions at and go for an APT installation.The choice is yours.

10. Install Qemu (Optional, if you want to use qemu images)

11. Install IOU (Optional, if you want to use IOU images)

I’m not a legal matter expert, and the usage of IOU is sort of grey area. Because of this, I’m not going to cover this chapter.

You’re ready to go. Start the GNS3 GUI:

Some things to check before going live:

  • check in the menu Edit > Preferences to set your desired Paths (in General sections) and to check the paths for the binaries (dynamips, vpcs, iou, virtualbox…)
  • add the IOS, virtualbox vm, iou images
  • in case of Cisco hardware emulators don’t forget to find the IdlePC value (when you add the IOS image or later with the start of your first router with a certain image) otherwise your CPUs will cry.

If something does not work as described or you need help please let me know in Comments.

[Update 1]

If you get the following error during installation of iouyap:

Try to install the iniparser as follows:


and finally iouyap

Thanks to mweisel @ for this update!

vCSA Web Management Network error

A few days ago I installed two additional NICs in my server that handle the virtual machine for vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA).

After the NICs installation, the Management web interface for vCSA was showing some strange error (see image below).


vCenter Server Appliance


vCenter Server Appliance

I added two images to show you that the error is almost the same and not browser related.

Next I went online and tried to find a way to fix this issue. Among other stuff I also updated the vCSA, but unfortunately nothing helped.

Finally after a lot of research I found the trouble to be caused not by the VMware code, but something in SUSE Linux OS (on which vCSA is built on). Apparently I had to manually add the new NICs configuration in SUSE:

Add the follwing lines:

Then add a symbolic link in the right place:

You need this configuration for each one of your NICs. Of course you need to adapt the configuration for your NICs (eth1, eth2…)

It looks better now:

vCenter Server Appliance

There may be an easier way to fix this problem, but for me, the above solution worked just fine. If you encounter this error and fix it in another way, please feel free to let me know.

[Cisco Live] SDN controller interview

The original name of this video is “SDN controller DEMO”. I think the “demo” word there is a bit inappropriate used, as actually is more like a Cisco marketing video than demo. Don’t be so surprised, you know how Cisco promote their products.

Just my 2 cents about the SDN/OpenFlow trend that is coming up these days. I don’t mind innovation, I’m glad if and when I can get in contact with new technologies, but what disturb me is that in a lot of presentations that I’ve seen until now, SDN is presented like the magic wand that does everything with point and click.
No knowledge needed, no network understanding, no effort to see where or how the packets travel through network, you just have to point and click, slice the network however you want, plug the toy and you’re ready to go. If this is all true, then someone please explain to me with I’m busting my…head to learn and really understand what’s actually going on in the network. I really hope this kind of presentations implies that this is a new product that needs to be promoted and if they make it sound too complex, nobody will buy it.

Disclaimer: This video is not mine and I don’t claim any rights on it. My thanks go to Jimmy Ray Purse, TechWiseTV, Networking 101 Show, Cisco and last but not least to YouTube for hosting it and let us embed this video.

How to connect Vyatta to Cisco using VirtualBox and GNS3

Vyatta is  a software-based, open-source, network operating system that is portable to standard x86 hardware as well as common virtualization and cloud computing platforms. By deploying Vyatta, users benefit from a flexible enterprise-class routing and security feature set capable of scaling from DSL to 20Gbps performance at a fraction of the cost of proprietary solutions.”

Shortly, you take this piece of software, install it on a x86 machine (any decent PC with quality network card will do) and have yourself a network device capable to support dynamic routing protocol, policy routing, QoS and many more features. The best part (at least for guys like me) is that Vyatta is offering a free package that you can download on their website. This free version is without the commercial support, but you can find plenty support in the Vyatta community.

Why I would be interested in Vyatta when I can have Cisco devices and can emulate Cisco IOS with GNS3? I don’t have an evolved response to this question, but
mainly because I was bored and wanted to try something new, but still related to Cisco. I arrived to the conclusion that I should test how Cisco can interact with 3rd party devices. I choose Vyatta as 3rd party device, because it is a turn key network solution. Of course, you can take all the included software in Vyatta and build your own box based on whatever Linux distribution you want, but why to do this if you have a free solution which already works?

I plan to test more about Vyatta and Cisco integration, but for today,  I want show you how to install Vyatta and connect it with GNS3. First you need to download the image from Vyatta and build yourself a working box. You can download the Live CD image which allow you to boot from it and then install, or an image for your virtualization system (VMware of Citrix).

1. Create a Virtual Machine where to install Vyatta system

From my test environment I chose to create a Virtual Machine using VirtualBox with the following settings:

Minimum settings are Memory 512MB and Storage 2GB. The rest of the settings are optional, but if you would like to test some network stuff, then I recommend at leas 1 Network Adapter. I have 2 in this image, because one will be connected to the virtual network cloud (tap0 inteface) and the other one to the physical network, so I can access remotely this system.

2. Install Vyatta system

Download your copy of Vyatta, add the ISO image to the IDE Secondary Master (CD/DVD) and boot your virtual machine. It should read the image and boot until to arrive to a Linux style prompt that ask for username and password (vyatta / vyatta by default).

Login and install Vyatta from LiveCD. You can also work directly from LiveCD, but then the changes will not be permanent. The persistent installation can be image-based or system-based:

– Image-based install. The simplest, most flexible, and most powerful way to install a Vyatta system is using a binary system image. With this method, you can install multiple versions of the Vyatta system as images and switch between the images simply and easily. You install the image from a LiveCD, reboot your system and it runs the image.

At the command prompt type:


– Disk-based install. Installation from a LiveCD onto a persistent device such as a hard disk partition. However, unlike an image-based install, a disk-based install uses a traditional layout of files on the disk. Additional system images may be added at a later time to a system created using a disk-based install.

At the command prompt type:


To be honest, in the test environment, it doesn’t make much of a difference if you use the image or system installation. I used image as it’s the simplest one, as Vyatta recommend.

3. Connect Vyatta with GNS3

Then you need a system with GNS3 installed. I’m using the same system on which VirtualBox is installed.  The scenario for today is pretty straightforward, as I just want to demonstrate how to connect Vyatta to a Cisco device (well, an emulated one in my case):

If you don’t know how to achieve the connection above in GNS3, please read this tutorial about connection of GNS3 to VirtualBox Machines. I that post I used an Ubuntu system, instead of Vyatta, but the principle is the same.

4. Basic network configuration of Vyatta system

If you work more with Cisco, like I do, then you’ll find the configuration mode a little bit different that Cisco’s standard IOS CLI. If you work with Juniper, than this might look familliar as the configuration commands and the config files look pretty much like the Juniper ones.

By default no remote access is enabled, so you’ll have to access this device over console. In VirtualBox case, you’ll have a tab there with Console. If you access it, you’ll be able to login  to Vyatta system and configure it.

4.a) Check the config file to have an idea about what you have already configured by default:

@vyatta:~$ show configuration

and you’ll see something like this:

Please ignore the user “yotis”. This is not in the default config, but I have changed something there to secure my Vyatta installation. Now you know how the config look.

4.b) Enter the configuration mode:

@vyatta:~$ configure
[email protected]#

4.c) Configure the external interface (the one bridged to your physical network).

We want to do this to be able to remote access Vyatta device. Depending of your own IP address subnet, you’ll need to customize the command below to meet your requirements:

set interfaces ethernet eth0 address

Now, you might wonder, how in the name of God I suppose to know that command. The answer is read the documentation, or do what I did. Press key TAB at the command prompt to check your options. All configuration command start with set and then press TAB key:

@vyatta# set
cluster             firewall            load-balancing      protocols           service             vpn
content-inspection  interfaces          policy              qos-policy          system              zone-policy

we are interested in interfaces here, so:

@vyatta# set interfaces
adsl             bridge           loopback         openvpn          serial           wireless
bonding          ethernet         multilink        pseudo-ethernet  tunnel           wirelessmodem

And then ethernet, interface name, address keyword and the IP address. In the middle of a command keyword, if you press TAB key it will autocomplete the word, exactly like in Cisco CLI.

It’s preety simple. If you get stuck somewhere, get back to documentation or ask in the comments here.

4.d) Add a default gateway if you want to be able to access your system from anywhere (optional)

@vyatta# set protocols static route next-hop

4.e) Configure the second interface (LAN)

Configure the second interface (bridged to tap0, in my case). This one will be connected to your Cisco router in GNS3. You’ll need to have the same IP subnet on both ends (Vyatta and Cisco), but I believe you already know this. Follow the same steps like in 4.c)

4.f) Commit your changes

No matter what configuration you set, it will not become active until you commit:

@vyatta# commit

4.f) Save your configuration

@vyatta# save
Saving configuration to ‘/opt/vyatta/etc/config/config.boot’…

Almost done. You have configured Vyatta basic network system. Now configure the Cisco router in GNS3. I believe you know how to do that.

5. Test connection between Vyatta and Cisco router

I have on Vyatta eth1 adapter and on Cisco router

@vyatta:~$ ping
PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=255 time=3.73 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=255 time=1.90 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=255 time=5.23 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=255 time=4.43 ms
— ping statistics —
4 packets transmitted, 4 received, 0% packet loss, time 3012ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 1.905/3.826/5.230/1.230 ms

This is it for today. In  next posts I will go a little bit deeper in the Vyatta configuration and establish some IGP and BGP connection to see how Cisco behave under different scenarios.