In late June, I introduced the concept of Application Capital during a presentation at the GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit in Bellevue, Washington. During that event, I shared my views that applications, and the data they present, are the currency of the digital economy.
At the event, I noted that applications have become a primary vehicle through which businesses develop and deliver their goods and services, whether physical or digital in nature. As a company invests in digital transformation, modernizing its application portfolio and the infrastructure those applications rely on takes center stage.
What are digital leaders doing to optimize and secure their Application Capital?
Just as employees (your Human Capital, if you will) need basic services to thrive in an organization, so do applications—such as traffic management, bot protection, and access management. This ensures they deliver the greatest value over time while exposing the business to the least risk. With humans, too much structure is stifling, and too little leads to unproductive chaos. Similarly, for applications, it’s important to build a system (i.e., the underlying infrastructure, application development and management tools, and processes) that balances effective controls with innovative freedom.
“Application Services” are network and security services—sometimes referred to as Layer 4-7 services or even application delivery services. There is a large and growing variety of these services available today from many different vendors, covering availability, performance, security, identity and access management, to name a few.
In our view, application services emerged from the disaggregation of capabilities that formerly were integrated into devices such as Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) but are now software-defined, loosely coupled, and easily consumed. In essence, making it easier to attach an individual service to an application based on a specific need at a specific point in time.
One benefit of application services is that they enable IT to enforce consistent service quality across the entire application portfolio. This “consistent service quality” means that there is an additional layer of security, availability, and reliability that is enforced independently of whether the applications have such capabilities built-in or not. It’s critical in a time where much of the user experience is digital in nature, delivered via the cloud, and increasingly built by developer teams outside of the IT organization.
When made a core part of an enterprise-wide infrastructure, an application services provider like F5, can offer a level of assurance to the business that its application portfolio remains available, reliable, and secure.
Inside F5, we are committed to a simple ideal, “Every App, Anywhere.” What that means to you, the customer, is that wherever your applications need to go, our app services can follow.
When I first joined F5 late last year, I spent a lot of time listening to our customers. There were some difficult conversations—customers who loved F5 services and who trusted F5 not just with their applications but also with their very jobs wanted us to move faster with regard to new deployment models and services, and to commit to a future where software and cloud-based application services are—at a minimum—on equal footing with systems or hardware.
Our leadership teams received this message loud and clear, and we are seeing the fruits of related innovations. In the late 1990s, F5 pioneered the load balancer. In the mid-2000s, F5 led the industry in the pivot to Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs). Today, F5 is no longer just an ADC company… We are the leader in Multi-Cloud Application Services.
Sure, we believe there will be an enduring role for hardware and we will continue to build the biggest and fastest ADC and standalone security systems in the industry. We understand your data center and the apps that are housed there today. For many of our customers, those apps will remain housed there or in co-location facilities for many years to come. You told us that you rely on us and upholding that is paramount.
But we also heard that your application portfolio is extending rapidly into the cloud, and that you need us there, too. Here are some of the ways we're making good on those expectations:
In May, we launched BIG-IP Cloud Edition. This is the next version of both our BIG-IP Virtual Edition and our BIG-IQ management platform delivered on a per-application basis. You told us you wanted a much more consumable, easier-to-manage offering of Virtual Edition. You told us you wanted to see us cut the spin-up time for an application and reduce TCO per megabyte, while still offering the application services you trust. Cloud Edition does that. And soon we’ll be extending these offerings to Azure and Google Cloud to boot.
Soon, we will be introducing a new cloud-native application services platform, specifically designed for the apps your DevOps and AppDev teams care about most. You told us you wanted application services optimized for continuous integration and continuous deployment workflows. This new platform will help you deploy traffic management services simply and cost-effectively with the speed and automation expected for modern cloud environments.
And as your enterprise moves more and more workloads to the public cloud, we will continue in step with these advances. As an example, one of the company’s key focus areas is the delivery of F5 application services “as a service,” designed as a fully managed solution operated by F5 without requiring you to deploy or manage the software in any way.
When it comes to securing your apps whether in the cloud or on-prem, you’ve told us there can absolutely be situations when you need more help, particularly when upfront investments in IT infrastructure and support are prohibitive. Our cloud-based, fully managed Silverline security services reduce the burden on oversubscribed security teams by protecting against a wide range of application attacks.
We even back you up with a team of F5 Security experts who act as an extension to your staff, bringing years of experience in defeating some of the largest and most complex attacks in the world.
We never stop innovating at F5.
Just this week, our Service Provider Business Unit introduced new NFV solutions specific to the service provider industry. These two new offerings, the intelligent Gi LAN Firewall VNF service and the intelligent Gi LAN Traffic Management VNF service, make the transition to modern, software-based, virtualized networks easier for the service provider community.
And last, but by no means least, is our Service Mesh incubation, Aspen Mesh.
We understand that your teams are shifting more and more from monolithic to microservice architectures. And while container orchestration tools like Kubernetes have solved microservice build and deploy issues, many runtime challenges remain unsolved. F5’s fully supported service mesh makes it easy to manage the complexity of microservice architecture.
All these solutions—both those that are available today like Cloud Edition and Silverline, and the ones we’re working on, including cloud-native packaged software, our as-a-service offering, and Aspen Mesh—are real examples of the new direction we’re headed at F5.
I can’t wait to tell you more!