F5’s Path to a Multi-Purpose Application Analytics Platform

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Published May 26, 2020

Today, enterprises in every industry sector are on a digital transformation journey.

At F5, we support hundreds of thousands of customers across the world, in industries ranging from financial services, healthcare, retail, and media to service providers and governments. A recurring theme in conversations with CIOs is how to leverage digital technologies to either define new, disruptive services, or to improve productivity with existing services they offer. Customer research shows that 4 out 5 CIOs are directly involved in or are leading digital transformation for their businesses.

​These efforts produce applications that drive new digital capabilities to deliver a better user experience and greater business agility.

The Role of Application Services

To deliver these digital capabilities to users, many things need to happen between the application logic and the user. For example:

  • How to Scale the application as usage increases
  • How to Protect the application from attacks
  • How to Maintain the availability of the application per end-user expectations

These are elements that are typically not included in the functional requirements of an application and were not addressed when the application was built. Ideally, these requirements would be met by application services seamlessly inserted into the code-to-customer path. In today’s business world, the situation is not that simple.

Application services turn digital capabilities into user experineces

Our customer research shows that 69% of organizations use 10 or more application services stitched together from multiple vendors to deliver an application from code-to-customer. Each may be managed with distinct tools and dashboards. This creates siloed teams and high operational complexity.

The result is limited visibility and inconsistent application security across the application delivery chain. Data flowing through these discrete platforms cannot be leveraged in a unified fastion, leaving organizations with no holistic view of the business impacts.

For digital enterprises, this data is inarguably the most relevant source for the richest insights to the business. It has emerged as a new kind of data upon which AI-Assisted businesses are built.

This leads us to the observation that a unified platform for insights and automation of application services is fundamentally needed by our customers to simplify application operational complexity, to gain business insights, and to protect user experience end-to-end.

F5 is Uniquely Positioned to Deliver Application Insights and Automation

F5 application services through BIG-IP products and NGINX software support more 400 million application workloads in the world.

We can help customers collect a rich set of business telemetries through these application services, be that application latency, stage information in an online purchase, or the location information for end uses. The business-related telemetry information that F5 collects, combined with our proven AI-powered analytics engine from Shape, can help customers discover insights about the target applications and business transactions.

BIG-IP and NGINX application services, on the other hand, can translate these insights into application configuration policies to automate application delivery. With this unique combination, F5 is best positioned to help customer deliver application insights and automation.

We believe application insights and automation will not be accomplished through one product, but by multiple complementary tools helping customers in different scenarios.

Hence, in 2019, we launched F5 Beacon, to provide application visibility and insights. In 2020, we launched NGINX Controller 3.0 to enable application automation. With Beacon, NGINX Controller, and other F5 tools, we are helping customer diagnose their applications, discover insights, and deliver application automation.

With our recent Shape acquisition, we are setting the bar higher. We are marching towards a multi-purpose application analytics platform.

A Multi-Purpose Application Analytics Platform

Such a platform can not only support application insights and automation and AIOps, it can also support AI-enabled security and fraud protection, end-to-end digital experience management, as well as AI-enabled business services.

uav platform

For example, telemetry data about browser signature, customer credentials, etc. can help identify a request to a retailer’s website that is actually generated by a BOT, not a human. Hence it helps to capture a fraudulent transaction.  

In 2020 we introduced a new solution, Shape Recognize, on the Shape platform. Shape Recognize uses AI-based risk assessment of telemetry from the user and the application, and combines it with a deep understanding of the business flow. The analysis is done with aggregated and anonymized data without using personal information. Live A/B test results by a top five US retail customer indicated a 2% overall lift in revenue—this is a company with over $20 billion annual revenue and more than 60% of its revenue comes from its online website. 

And this is only one usage example. Shape Recognize can combine many other telemetry signals with AI-powered analytics to improve other aspects of customer’s business solutions.

We are developing this comprehensive application analytics platform leveraging telemetry from F5’s rich set of application services and Shape’s AI-powered analytics. We believe this application analytics platform can help our customers solving business challenges in AIOps, security and fraud protection, digital experience, and even creating new AI-based business services.

F5’s Architecture Vision

Today, F5 offers the most comprehensive application services along the code to customer path. We scale and protect our customer’s mission critical business services.

For the future, we are doubling down on application telemetries and analytics, to help our customers discover insights about their applications, business flows, and user experiences. As we build out our cloud analytics capabilities, we further leverage ML/AI to help our customers to improve their business services.

Multi-cloud application services

At F5, we believe this architecture vision that combines the distributed application services, end-to-end telemetry, and cloud-based analytics, will help digital enterprise in every sector. As digital transformation moves your business into AI-Assisted over time, we are excited to be part of your journey.