This blog is a joint collaboration between Ravi Balakrishnan (Cisco) and Patrick Campbell (F5)



A lot of people struggle with the best way to demo a product, especially in our world of digital marketing.

This is true whether you’re a prospective user or represent your company’s produced product or service.  After the investment in creating an offering which (we hope!!) addressed a need, a gap or provides differentiated uses, if there’s isn’t awareness outside of the organization, it’s really ended up being a sink hole.  The obvious answer – let us demonstrate the capability to you….let us help you understand the value….let us show you how to continue on the road to your success.  Reality is, it simply isn’t that easy.  You’ve hit in the sink hole!

When the F5 team had more than 3900 users of a “hands on” lab jointly created with Cisco, we declared victory.  Our goal was 2000, so nearly doubling that target seemed like one for the win column. But was it really?  Had we achieved our goal of making our integration more understandable, given actual benefit to our customers?

The answer wasn’t obvious if we really succeeded or could we have done better by making our collaboration with Cisco, more accessible? If we used more of a ‘crawl à walk à run’ approach, wouldn’t that appeal to a broader constituency of users and prospects?  We’d fallen for a common trap responsible for preventing a good outcome from a demo, by assuming too much ‘pre-existing’ knowledge.

Cisco ACI with F5 ServiceCenter Lab

The number of users per month of our joint “hands on” lab (found on Cisco’s dCloud) continues to grow steadily.  It requires base knowledge of F5’s BIG-IP and of Cisco’s ACI. Don’t misread us here, the virtual lab does remove significant impediments to exploring the technologies, benefits and initial use cases we’d built our integration, the F5 ACI ServiceCenter, to deliver.   There aren’t any near the same on prem resource (infrastructure and applications) needs if you were setting up your own non-production environment.  You have access to your own ‘sand box’ and it certainly reduces setup time. You can emulate your environment but it takes time….something which is certainly precious.

It always takes time.

So we came up with an alternative first, or threshold, step – a simulator.


This all started on a joint customer call organized by our field sales team.  The scheduling had become challenging, so we were planning to do a F5 ACI ServiceCenter demo…. but without the technical F5 teammate – alone. Our plan was straightforward. We’d run our most current existing demo.  Some of us were less technical, so we had some challenges.  We had often done introductions for this same demo on customer calls before, but never sat in the pilot’s seat. You can guess the outcome. It wasn’t that great.  The audience was a mix of business, operations and technical people.  The goal was missed.  It took 2 follow up sessions to get back on track in showing how we could support our joint customer’s objectives. So, this was the genesis of our evolutionary demo approach.

F5 has created a simplified video demo of our hands on lab – Simulator F5 ACI ServiceCenter.  While dynamic, it’s design principles are to be easily consumed, logically sequenced and still clearly illustrate how to achieve the benefits of our joint solution.

Overview of Cisco ACI with F5 ServiceCenter Lab v2 - Screenshot

Admittedly, an initial step in a typical customer journey, but arguably a missing first step to broader awareness, trial and adoption.  The lesson: create an easier starting point to allow effective prospective user research to be accomplished quickly.  There are logical progress points from there, with the hands-on labs, etc.

How does F5 ACI Service Center Work - Screenshot of demo schematic

Test Drive

Try it and let us know what you think.  Did we reach our goal?  Then ask yourself, should you do something like this too?

When you’re driving, don’t you steer around holes in the road and avoid sinkholes? Similarly, getting the best understanding possible of deployment options is certainly the key to navigating successful technology deployments. So spending the time and visualizing, in advance, the benefits of our rich integration between BIG-IP and ACI collaboration is the latest positive evolution we can bring you.



  1. Explore the F5 Simulator Hub
  2. F5 ACI ServiceCenter lab on Cisco’s dCloud
  3. Download the F5 ACI ServiceCenter app and more than 1000 others (free)



Ravi Balakrishnan

Senior Product Marketing Manager

Datacenter Solutions