Light It Up: A Look at F5’s New Tools for Application-Centric Visibility

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Kara Sprague
Published May 12, 2020

As we host the F5 Agility conference this week, the name has never seemed so relevant. Our annual forum on the multi-cloud world comes at a time when digital experiences are the primary means by which many companies can engage with their customers and employees. Industries are transforming overnight in what is panning out to be a step-change acceleration in digital transformation initiatives and one of the most historic displays of agility the technology industry has ever seen.

The Agility event we’ve traditionally put on has been a time to come together with customers and colleagues, share learnings, and participate in hands-on sessions about building, deploying, securing, and optimizing applications in multi-cloud environments. We’re doing it virtually this time, but the gist is the same.

Shifting gears and doing something new is of course representative of what customers are going through all over the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies across all geographies and industries to suddenly and swiftly accelerate their digital transformation efforts.

But even if they were working at a normal pace, they would still have to overcome the significant challenges inherent to a multi-cloud world: infrastructure lock-in, complex compliance and security requirements, tool sprawl, and application-level visibility (e.g., how many apps they have, where those apps live, how to best protect them, how to optimize the end-user experience).

Today, we’re announcing a set of solutions to tackle those problems. These offerings are designed to integrate capabilities from across the application data path—the pathway through which application traffic flows to reach an end user. They give customers the visibility and control needed to deliver differentiated, high-performing and secure digital experiences in the multi-cloud world:

  • F5 Beacon is a SaaS solution for application-centric visibility and insights for application owners and IT operations leaders. Beacon aggregates data from capabilities across the F5 portfolio, including BIG-IP, NGINX, F5 Cloud Services, etc., as well as 3rd-party technologies to provide a granular end-to-end view of each application.

  • NGINX Controller 3.4, the latest release to the new NGINX Controller we announced in January, provides enhanced per-application analytics and expanded declarative APIs to help NGINX users spanning App Dev, DevOps and NetOps teams accelerate app changes and rollouts with collaborative workflows.

  • BIG-IQ 7.1 offers an application-centric view of health, security and performance for applications using BIG-IP application services. BIG-IQ 7.1 includes deep troubleshooting tools for NetOps, SecOps, App Dev, and DevOps teams. The key innovation in this release is support for brownfield applications, meaning it interprets existing configurations on your BIG-IP devices and translates those configurations into an application-centric view.

F5’s suite of visibility solutions provides the kind of real visibility across the application data path that customers need to deliver the best digital experiences possible for their end users. That’s what these tools are about.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve explored the customer challenges these tools address in depth.

On one hand, customers are dealing with technical silos created by the move to the multi-cloud, multi-platform environment. Companies are typically using eight or nine different services along their application data path, working with a wide mix of vendors and tools to perform different application delivery and security functions. This naturally fractures visibility, with performance data stuck in multiple locations where it must be accessed separately through non-integrated, niche tools.  

The same phenomenon also creates organizational silos due to the specialization required to manage and secure applications deployed on those multiple platforms and tools. These are human silos created by a proliferation of specialized teams who don’t always speak the same language.

These new offerings from F5 are designed to bridge those disconnects and provide a complete view with the broadest set of services across the entire application data path.

Through our organic efforts and the acquisition of NGINX, we have expanded the breadth of our application delivery services to address the needs of both traditional and modern applications. Shape Security’s anti-fraud and abuse protection solutions, combined with our market-leading application security services, gives us the most powerful application security capability available.

Our application services are unique because they run in any environment, so we’re able to abstract the application from the underlying infrastructure. Our application services can be deployed via SaaS, managed services, container-native, virtual machines, or purpose-built hardware. They are available on-prem and in all of the leading public clouds. So, this is what we mean when we say that F5 has the most comprehensive offering of application services and can deliver those services to every app, no matter where those apps are running or how the customers want to consume those services.​

With this portfolio of visibility solutions, customers can now collect and analyze application metrics no matter where the application or application services are deployed. They can connect to applications wherever they live, and scale analytics natively as they deploy into any workflow. At the same time, we can close unknown gaps in application visibility to expand and strengthen security and reliability—allowing our customers in turn to provide more reliability and security for their customers.

Application teams can gain new insights from apps and act on them easily. They can respond more quickly to emerging problems, and even detect them before they start. Customers get a practical way to manage multiple apps. They get new insights into how applications are working together.

All of these represent new ways to increase performance, scale, and security across currently siloed infrastructures and platforms.

We encourage you to read up on our new visibility solutions and watch our sessions at Agility to learn more. We’re excited to deliver a real manifestation of these capabilities to our customers this week—and we are just getting started.