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L7 Routing

L7 routing takes its name from layer 7 of the OSI Model, also called the application layer. [1] The F5 Agent for OpenStack Neutron passes L7 content switching policies and rules from OpenStack Neutron to a BIG-IP device. The BIG-IP device then processes the application data of request traffic as it passes through a virtual server and applies corresponding Local Traffic Manager (LTM) policies and rules to make routing decisions. You can use the OpenStack API to define the content conditions and the actions that they should trigger.


See the OpenStack Neutron LBaaS Layer 7 rules documentation for a full explanation of the L7 rules and L7 policies.

It is essential to understand these concepts before proceeding with this document.

Neutron LBaaSv2 API L7 Policies and Rules

In Neutron, an L7 Policy is a collection of L7 rules associated with a Listener; it may also have an association to a back-end pool. Policies describe actions that the load balancing software should take if all of the rules in the policy return “true” (or, in other words, they match).

OpenStack Policy/Rules versus BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager Policy/Rules

The Neutron L7 terminology does not directly align with the common vocabulary of BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager (LTM). Keep the following key differences in mind:

  • BIG-IP LTM policies also have a set of rules; in LTM, it is the rules, not the policies, that specify what action to take.
  • BIG-IP devices evaluate policies attached to a virtual server regardless of whether the associated rules are true.
  • BIG-IP LTM rules, not policies, have an ordinal.

The table below shows how the terms from each software domain correspond.

L7 policies/rules in OpenStack Neutron and BIG-IP LTM
Neutron LBaaS L7 term BIG-IP LTM equivalent
Policy Policy Rules (wrapper_policy)
Policy Action Rule Action
Policy Position Rule Ordinal
Rule Rule Conditions

The BIG-IP LTM policy has a name, description, set of rules, and a strategy defining how to evaluate the rules. OpenStack L7 policies in are similar to a collection BIG-IP LTM policy rules evaluated using the ‘First match’ strategy.

BIG-IP LTM rules have conditions, actions, and an ordinal. The F5 agent creates the LTM rules based on the OpenStack L7 policy and rule attributes.

Neutron LBaaSv2 API L7 rules to BIG-IP LTM policy mapping

The F5 agent maps a combination of L7Policy and L7Rule elements to TMOS traffic policies (and, in the case of specific L7Rule compare_types, iRules).

All L7 Rule types map directly to TMOS traffic policy match conditions:

L7 Rule Type TMOS Traffic Policy Match Condition
Hostname HTTP Host
Path HTTP URI + path
FileType HTTP URI + extension
Header HTTP Header
Cookie HTTP Cookie

The LBaaS L7 Rules requirement to “execute the first L7Policy that returns a match” directly maps to the TMOS “first-match” traffic policy execution strategy.

Four of the five L7Rule compare_type values map directly to TMOS traffic policy rule conditions:.

L7 Rule Compare Type L7 ‘–invert’ Specified TMOS Traffic Policy Rule Match Condition
STARTS_WITH No Begins with
STARTS_WITH Yes Does not begin with
ENDS_WITH No Ends with
ENDS_WITH Yes Does not end with
EQUAL_TO Yes Is not
CONTAINS No Contains
CONTAINS Yes Does not contain
REGEX X No direct mapping

All L7Policy actions map directly to TMOS traffic policy rule actions:

L7 Policy Action TMOS Traffic Policy Rule Action
Reject Reset traffic
RedirectToUrl Redirect
RedirectToPool Forward traffic to pool


  • The REGEX comparison type is not supported in this release.


L7 Routing doesn’t require any F5 agent configuration changes. Rather, you define L7 switching policies and rules when creating or updating a Neutron LBaaS listener.

The CLI example below from the OpenStack Neutron Wiki demonstrates how to define rules and policies using the OpenStack CLI. [2]

# Create a listener
neutron lbaas-create-listener listener1
# Create a pool
neutron lbaas-create-pool pool1
# Create a policy
neutron --policy policy1 lbaas-create-l7policy --name "policy1" --listener "listener1" --action redirect_to_pool --pool "pool1" --position 1
# Create a rule for this policy
# Once the below operation has completed, a new policy will exist on the device called 'wrapper_policy'.
# It will have a single rule called redirect_to_pool_1.
# A single condition and a single action will exist.
neutron lbaas-create-l7rule rule1 --rule-type path --compare-type contains --value "i_t" --policy policy1
# Create a second rule for the above policy
neutron lbaas-create-l7rule rule2 --rule-type cookie --compare-type ends_with --key "cky" --value "i" --invert --policy policy1

The F5 agent implements the above Neutron LBaaS policies and rules on the BIG-IP device as follows.

ltm policy wrapper_policy {
   controls { forwarding }
   last-modified 2016-12-05:09:19:05
   partition Project_9065d69e806a4b4894a47fed7484a006
   requires { http }
   rules {
       reject_1 {
           actions {
               0 {
           conditions {
               0 {
                   values { i_t }
               1 {
                   name cky
                   values { i }
           ordinal 1
   status legacy
   strategy /Common/first-match