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Delivering End-to-End Application Visibility

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One of the reasons people love the Domino’s Pizza app is the visibility it provides into your order. You can track the entire process, when they’re preparing it, when it’s in the oven, in a box, in the car. The next thing you know, a steaming hot pizza is at your front door.

And yet while we can create such visibility into the pizza delivery lifecycle, companies of all shapes and sizes cannot attain the same level of transparency and visibility for their most valuable asset—applications.  

So, what’s going on? Recently we invited some of our customers to join us for in-depth geek-out sessions at our headquarters in Seattle to talk about their challenges and what F5 has in store over the coming years. The goal was to get a better understanding of the issues customers are facing across industries, and how we can design solutions to meet them head on.

One thing became abundantly clear: The pressure to transform digitally has become universal, spanning countries, regions, and industries. For example:

  • A Nordic mining company becoming reliant on analytics to drive efficiencies in operations.
  • An EMEA public sector organization moving to deliver traditionally offline capabilities and services as a digital managed service.
  • N.A.-based automakers innovating on their in-car experience to compete with the likes of Tesla.

While aspiring to digitally transform, most of these customers said they are straddling old world and new world—classic monolithic and three-tier architectures alongside cloud-native architectures. We like to call this the “messy middle” and it’s the reality for most companies today.

Unsurprisingly, managing this mix of old and new is a significant challenge. At their core, these struggles are the classic tales of silos leading to a lack of visibility.

One stark reality that was again reaffirmed in our customer conversations is that most organizations cannot tell you what’s going on with their apps at any given time. They don’t know how many apps they have, let alone where those apps live and who has access to them. Even for the most important applications, organizations rarely have consistent visibility into how those apps are performing (e.g., availability, end-user latency), or where to look when something goes wrong.

One of the big challenges to attaining that kind of visibility is that there are typically seven to nine pieces of technology sitting along the data path between the application code and the end customer.

For most companies, each of these pieces of technology comes from a different vendor. That means seven to nine potential silos of information that must be managed or orchestrated to gain end-to-end visibility into a single application. And those vendors and their functions are often managed by two or three different operations teams in the organization, creating more communications challenges.

While many of our customers said they’re looking to the public cloud to ease some of these pressures, those more advanced in their cloud journeys reported some harsh realities:

  • Many companies say that their code-to-customer pathway is different for on-premises apps than it is for apps in the cloud. They’ve stood up entirely different operational models for each, depending on the application—in addition to vendor-based silos.

  • While some companies have managed to fully migrate to public cloud, the majority are still in the process of determining which apps they lift and move, which get re-architected and which apps to leave behind and eventually replace with modern solutions. Such ambitious public cloud plans often come with a necessary reduction in on-premises investment, creating real performance and security considerations for still-critical legacy apps.

  • Many companies aspire to move to multiple clouds, while balancing both cloud-native services as well as solutions from third-party software vendors. They are now grappling with ballooning operating costs and risk because they need to hire or train specific architects, cloud management, visibility, and operational people with expertise in each cloud environment—silos within silos without anything to provide visibility or consistency from one point to the next.

Most vendors along the code-to-customer pathway are proposing to solve these types of issues with a vertically integrated approach which delivers the application services as part of an integrated infrastructure environment. But this has the disadvantage of coupling app services to the infrastructure. It may be easier for development teams to take advantage of in the short term, but it introduces new operational silos and compounds visibility challenges in the long term, in addition to creating lock-in.

Whatever your strategy is, the trick is to figure out how to deploy and manage applications in a consistent way across all your different infrastructure silos. The best way to do this—and to get visibility into your code-to-customer pathways for all your applications—is to leverage a consistent set of multi-cloud application services.

This consistency, and the visibility it enables, also helps bridge the divide between the operational silos (e.g., NetOps, SecOps, DevOps) that need to collaborate to keep apps high-performing and secure.

The power of this approach is why we are so excited about the combination of F5 and NGINX. We’re building out a complete portfolio of flexible, best-of-breed offerings across the code-to-customer pathway that’s platform-agnostic, consistent, and partner ecosystem friendly. What we mean by this last point is that we will provide visibility and insights even for non-F5 data path elements (e.g., cloud-native services), as long as those technologies provide telemetry. We heard from our customers that they want the flexibility to adopt the best data path elements for their applications, and so F5 and NGINX are committed to enabling an open ecosystem.

Our value proposition is simple: We power applications from development through their entire lifecycle, so you can deliver differentiated, high-performing, and secure digital experiences.

We want you to be able to get your code to your customers at the speed your business requires, and to scale that to thousands of apps each year, all while maintaining complete visibility and manageability each step of the way.

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