The world today feels in many ways so different from the one that existed a little more than a year ago. The pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, including the way we work, how we learn, and the ways we connect with each other. That's why it's striking to me that the results of our 7th annual State of Application Strategy report, announced today, show not so much a sea change as a dramatic acceleration of the digital transformation initiatives that were already in motion well before COVID-19 swept across the globe.
It's also remarkable how closely the results from the report align with F5's vision of adaptive applications where apps are equipped with capabilities that enable them to adapt based on their environment—freeing enterprises to focus on delivering extraordinary digital experiences that inspire their customers, keep them safe, and increase loyalty. Based on the findings of this year's report, let's look at how companies all over the world are working to enable adaptive applications in 2021.
To better deliver the digital experiences customers expect, 77% of respondents reported that they are modernizing their applications. This process of modernization is necessary when legacy systems can't adapt quickly enough to always-changing business conditions. Most respondents this year use APIs as the connective tissue between traditional and modern application components. As modernization efforts continue, more organizations than ever—87%—are managing application portfolios that span modern and traditional application architectures.
Along with these modernization efforts, organizations are also expanding the definition of multi-cloud to encompass edge deployments. Supporting modular application components that reside in containers across multiple cloud and edge locations can improve scalability, decrease latency, and enhance the customer experience. More than three-quarters (76%) of respondents are already using, or have plans to use, the edge to capture benefits related to application deployment, performance, and data availability.
Results from the 2021 report show that accelerating growth in cloud and SaaS deployments is driving the need to take a multi-cloud approach to security. The percentage of applications deployed in the cloud and at the edge continues to expand, while the number of SaaS applications that organizations use is also growing. SaaS security makes sense for organizations because of enhanced AI and ML capabilities in anomaly detection, fraud prevention, and bot management that can be challenging—and expensive—to deploy and manage in on-premises data centers. Plus, being able to unify security policies across environments is more and more critical with the distributed nature of applications and users.
Given the need for adaptive security to combat increasingly sophisticated attackers and cybercriminals, it's no wonder that using SaaS security solutions has become the top strategic trend for a majority of respondents.
With organizations all over the world engaged in an accelerated process of digital transformation, it's clear that automation is a fundamental component of success. Unfortunately, while most enterprises say they have the tools they need, nearly half of respondents to the 2021 survey report that the integration of those tools across a variety of vendors and environments is a real challenge. The good news is that just over 50% of organizations say that they now provision and manage infrastructure—including platforms, container systems, and services—through declarative or scripted definitions. Treating infrastructure as code in this way eliminates the labor of manual configuration and the management of traditional configuration tools while simplifying the entire process.
Organizations that use this strategy are twice as likely to deploy more frequently, even when already using automation; four times more likely to have fully automated application pipelines; and twice as likely to have more than half of their application portfolios deployed using fully automated pipelines. Based on the learnings from this year's report, we expect more organizations to adopt an infrastructure-as-code approach to increase the security, consistency, and speed of getting applications from their developers to their customers.
Automation also comes into play when considering the relationship of application telemetry data and the actionable insights derived from that data. Respondents to the survey drew a sharp distinction between the two. Three-quarters consider telemetry about application security and delivery important for meeting business outcomes. However, almost all enterprises (95%) report that they are missing insights from their existing monitoring and analytics solutions.
With businesses and their workforces increasingly dispersed, delivering faster, more interconnected, more entertaining, and more supportive user experiences requires not just more telemetry, but a way to turn that data into actionable insights. Organizations that can analyze sophisticated, real-time application data will be better positioned to adapt to changing conditions across platforms, defend against evolving threats, and deliver the digital experiences their customers demand.
In an unprecedented year, organizations have responded to the challenges of the pandemic by accelerating their digital transformation projects. The result is that we've seen years of progress toward a future that looks increasingly distributed, data-driven, and application centric.
To thrive in that future, enterprises must ensure those applications—which are increasingly the face of the company—can better adapt to constantly changing conditions and environments. This year’s report offers important insight into the playbook organizations are executing as they seek to continually improve and scale their digital customer experiences. By modernizing their applications; extending to the cloud and the edge; implementing world-class, end-to-end application security; automating infrastructure provisioning and management; and mining application telemetry for insights, these organizations are accelerating toward F5’s vision of adaptive applications—and taking another leap forward into the digital future.
Get the whole story in the 2021 State of Application Strategy report right here.