Archive for office 365

Your Applications Deserve iApps

Posted in f5, big-ip, cloud, saml, federation, saas, office 365 by psilva on June 21st, 2016

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F5iApps are user-customizable frameworks for deploying applications that enablesyou to ‘templatize’ sets of functionality on your F5 gear. You can automate theprocess of adding virtual servers or build a custom iApp to manage your iRulesinventory.

Applicationready templates were introduced in BIG-IP v10 and the goal was to provide awizard for the often deployed applications like Exchange, SharePoint, Citrix,Oracle, VMware and so forth. This allowed the abstraction some of theconfiguration details and reduced the human error when following the pages ofthe thick deployment guides for those applications. Application templates weregreat but there was no way to customize the template either during thedeployment or adjust it after.

Then came iApps®.

Introducedin TMOS v11, iApps is the current BIG-IP system framework for deployingservices-based, template-driven configurations on BIG-IP systems. iApps bundlesall of the configuration options for a particular application together.

Roughly athird of F5 customers use iApps and they are especially popular for morecomplex configurations, like Microsoft Exchange, for example, which requires upto 1200 mouse clicks to configure manually and only 50 mouse clicks toconfigure with the iApp. iApps are also often used to roll out similarconfigurations to multiple BIG-IP's. Some customers run hundreds of iApps, somerun none--the choice is yours.

Hereis one example of iApp customization and its evolution. When we released SAMLsupport in v11.3, many customers wanted to use BIG-IP APM as a SAML IdentityProvider (IdP) for Office365 but there are a few steps to configure that inBIG-IP. Configure Active Directory, then SAML, then the access policy and soforth. One of our very smart Security Architects, Michael Koyfman, wanted tomake that task simple, repeatable and accurate.

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He decidedto write an O365 iApp and posted it to DevCentral where there was immediateinterest from the community. From that, Product Development engineers rewroteit to follow their libraries and best practices and then moved to the supportedstatus.  You can now use this F5supported iApp template to configure the BIG-IP system as a SAML IdP toMicrosoft Office 365 applications, such as Exchange and SharePoint. Thistemplate configures the BIG-IP APM system as an IdP for Office 365 to performsingle sign-on (SSO) between the local Active Directory user accounts andOffice 365-based resources such as Microsoft Outlook Web App and MicrosoftSharePoint.

But we didn’tstop there.

Since it isthe same framework and easily extensible to add more services to an iApp, theytook it a step further. With the O365 iApp as the basis, the team then built a SaaS FederationiApp which allows you to configure BIG-IP APM as SAML IdP to 11 commonlyused SaaS applications including Salesforce, Concur, WebEx, O365 and others.Now, with a single iApp, you can federate your employees to many SaaSapplications easily, efficiently and securely. This iApp also went through abeta period on DevCentral and was recently released as a F5 supported iApp.

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UI configurations for the SaaS iApp

 

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Summary of configurations for the SaaSiApp

So if youneed quick and easy way to deploy your applications, look no further than F5iApps. You can use the F5 built iApps, you can customize F5 built iApps or youcan build your own iApps. Your applications, infrastructure and business willthank you.

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Application Availability Between Hybrid Data Centers

Reliable access to mission-critical applications is a key success factor for enterprises. For many organizations, moving applications from physical data centers to the cloud can increase resource capacity and ensure availability while reducing system management and IT infrastructure costs. Achieving this hybrid data center model the right way requires healthy resource pools and the means to distribute them. The F5 Application Availability Between Hybrid Data Centers solution provides core load-balancing, DNS and acceleration services that result in non-disruptive, seamless migration between private and public cloud environments.

Check out the new Reference Architecture today along with a new video!

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Collaborate in the Cloud

Posted in security, f5, big-ip, cloud computing, silva, exchange, data center, owa, office 365 by psilva on November 19th, 2014

Employee collaboration and access to communication tools are essential for workplace productivity. Organizations are increasing their use of Microsoft Office 365, a subscription-based service that provides hosted versions of familiar Microsoft applications. Most businesses choose Exchange Online as the first app in Office 365 they adopt.

The challenge with any SaaS application such as Office 365 is that user authentication is usually handled by the application itself, so user credentials are typically stored and managed in the cloud by the provider. The challenge for IT is to properly authenticate the employee (whether located inside or outside the corporate network) to a highly available identity provider (such as Active Directory).

Authentication without complexity

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Even though Office 365 runs in a Microsoft-hosted cloud environment, user authentication and authorization are often accomplished by federating on premises Active Directory with Office 365. Organizations subscribing to Office 365 may deploy Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS) on premises, which then authenticates users against Active Directory.

Deploying ADFS typically required organizations to deploy, manage, and maintain additional servers onsite, which can complicate or further clutter the infrastructure with more hardware. SAML (security assertion markup language) is often the enabler to identify and authenticate the user. It then directs the user to the appropriate Office 365 service location to access resources. SAML-enabled applications work by accepting user authentication from a trusted third party—an identity provider. In the case of Office 365, the BIG-IP platform acts as the identity provider.

For example, when a user requests his or her OWA email URL via a browser using Office 365, that user is redirected to a BIG-IP logon page to validate the request. The BIG-IP system authenticates the user on behalf of Office 365 and then grants access. The Office 365 environment will recognize the individual and provide their unique Office 365 OWA email environment. The BIG-IP platform provides a seamless experience for Office 365 users and with the federated identity that the BIG-IP platform enables, the IT team is able to extend SSO capabilities to other applications.

The benefit of using the BIG-IP platform to support Office 365 with SAML is that organizations can reduce the complexity and requirements of deploying ADFS. By default, when enabling Office 365, administrators need to authenticate those users in the cloud. If an IT administrator wants to use the corporate authentication mechanism, ADFS must be put into the corporate infrastructure. With the BIG-IP platform, organizations can support authentication to Office 365 and the ADFS requirement disappears, resulting in centralized access control with improved security.

Secure collaboration

Because email is a mission-critical application for most organizations, it is typically deployed on premises. Organizations using BIG-IP-enhanced Microsoft Exchange Server and Outlook can make it easier for people to collaborate regardless of their location. For example, if a company wanted to launch a product in Europe that had been successfully launched in the United States, it needs workers and contractors in both locations to be able to communicate and share information.

In the past, employees may have emailed plain-text files to each other as attachments or posted them online using a web-based file hosting service. This can create security concerns since potentially confidential information is leaving the organization and being stored on the Internet without any protection or encryption. There are also concerns about ease of use for employees and how the lack of an efficient collaboration tool negatively impacts productivity.

Internal and external availability 24/7

To solve these issues, many organizations move from the locally managed Exchange Server deployment to Microsoft Office 365. Office 365 makes it easier for employees to work together no matter where they are in the world. Employees connect to Office 365 using only a browser, and they don’t have to remember multiple usernames and passwords to access email, SharePoint, or other internal-only applications and file shares.

In this scenario, an organization would deploy the BIG-IP platform in both the primary and secondary data centers. BIG-IP LTM intelligently manages all traffic across the servers. One pair of BIG-IP devices sits in front of the servers in the core network; another pair sits in front of the directory servers in the perimeter network. By managing traffic to and from both the primary and directory servers, the F5 devices ensure availability of Office 365—for both internal and external (federated) users.

Ensuring global access

To provide for global application performance and disaster recovery, organizations should also deploy BIG-IP GTM devices in the perimeter network at each data center. BIG-IP GTM scales and secures the DNS infrastructure, provides high-speed DNS query responses, and also reroutes traffic when necessary to the most available application server. Should an organization’s primary data center ever fail, BIG-IP GTM would automatically reroute all traffic to the backup data center. BIG-IP GTM can also load balance the directory servers across data centers to provide cross-site resiliency.

The BIG-IP platform provides the federated identity services and application availability to allow organizations to make a quick migration to Office 365, ensuring users worldwide will always have reliable access to email, corporate applications, and data.

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