As I was flying to Orlando, FL. on Sunday for Gartner Symposium, I found myself fired up in anticipation of the new DevCentral site. Now, in addition to iControl, we'll be talking iRules at DevCentral. As with iControl, we're committed to providing you with resources and assistance to help you get the most out of this wicked technology.
After re-reading that last sentence, you're probably asking yourself, "did really he say wicked", as in extremely cool? Yeah - I did. For me, it seems to be one of the few (publicly appropriate...) terms I can use that harness the shear amplitude of iRules. I could offer a bunch of technical explanation about how iRules work. I could also delve into the commendable hard work our core engineers have done over the past two years developing iRules. Each of these would shed some light on WHY iRules are wicked... But, I'm just going to offer a couple of recent, real-world anecdotes to provide a sense of HOW wicked-cool they really are.
"Can You Double-Check?"
We were speaking with a very bright architect at a large company in New York. He had a challenge - he was using a specific IP protocol and wanted to inspect traffic flowing through BIG-IP. OK - no problem - our Universal Inspection Engine (UIE) can do that. But, his big need was to look for a specific tag and value in the traffic and based upon this value, he wanted to persist application requests to a specific pool of servers. Based upon much credible research, he hadn't yet found an enterprise-grade solution available to address it.
Hmm... While we were pretty confident we could solve this, we made the trip to see the much smarter guys in product development to confirm it. What happened next was pretty funny... I explained the scenario to the engineers. They cautiously stared at me with this nervous, "is this a trick question" look. After a few minutes, I began to understand why. "This is straight forward stuff - it's exactly what iRules were designed to do and this is a relatively basic iRule to write."  Cool.
We responded that we could do this without much trouble and the architect appeared nervous. It was clear his feeling was, "Can you double-check?". Apparently, despite looking far and wide, he could not find another option to solve this challenge - anywhere. The notion that we could do this - not to mention easily - was profound.
"Faster than Getting Through Security"
An early BIG-IP v9 customers has a very advanced CORBA infrastructure in which they have invested heavily. As with many enterprise architectures, the investment is such that it really is a crown jewel of their company - one their business relies upon every minute. But, as this architecture is used in wider e-business initiatives and tasked by increasing numbers of consumers, scaling gracefully represents serious challenges. But, coding scale into the application costs huge sums and threatens stability. Without going into too much complexity here, we were able to build an iRule that inspects their CORBA traffic and helps them manage application flows without the excessive rigidity of doing it in code. More than the fact that iRules CAN solve the challenge, the SPEED with which the iRule was deployed was more impressive (if not at least more humorous)...
Our field engineer visited the customer with the iRule ready to deploy. The security getting into the datacenter was understandably high. After waiting to be cleared and checked and approved, he proceeded to access the BIG-IP and configure the iRule. Within minutes, BIG-IP was doing (with iRules) what previously required tricky coding against a very brittle architecture. As the story goes, he was able to configure the iRule and solve the challenge in less time than it actually took him to get through security.
If only the duration of my flight from Seattle to Orlando had been shorter than my time getting through airport security.... ;-)
On a serious note, I DO believe this is revolutionary stuff we're only beginning to harness. iRules - along with iControl - will continue to change the way you look at - and deliver - all IP application flows. Use DevCentral to make iRules and iControl work for you. We've posted a bunch of tech resources already and we'll be posting even more in the coming weeks. You may want to plug some of our RSS feeds into your favorite reader as well to get updated when we add new articles, posts, and even downloads.
 And, drop me an email and let me know you're using these two technologies......