Bridging the Divide with F5 and NGINX

Kara Sprague Miniature
Kara Sprague
Published September 09, 2019

We’ve been getting a lot of interest in our recent acquisition of NGINX and our strategy moving forward as a combined company. What the acquisition really does is enable F5 to meet all of our customers where they are, no matter where that is along the spectrum from classic enterprises to web-scale digital natives.

Most companies around the world are on a digital transformation journey. They are automating manual activities to drive operational improvements. They are also looking to expand their digital presence to reach new customers or enable new experiences. The most sophisticated are using machine learning and artificial intelligence to enhance their core business processes and decision-making.

So, it’s no surprise that in recent years the amount of applications around the world has exploded. In 2018, IDC estimated there were ~700 million enterprise application workloads1 and that number is expected to grow fivefold by 2023.

But while apps have become the most valued asset of modern businesses, there is a tremendous gap among individual companies in their ability to develop, deploy, operate, secure, and govern their application portfolios. These steps form an application lifecycle—and completing one iteration of that lifecycle can consume months and sometimes years for a classic enterprise organization. Compare that to days or less for a digital native company like Google or Facebook.

There is also a wide range in the volume of new applications or application changes that companies can take on. A more traditional enterprise dealing with monolithic or three-tier applications may manage dozens of application lifecycles over the course of a year. In contrast, web-scale organizations manage hundreds or even thousands of application lifecycles over the same timeframe.

That’s a huge spectrum. In the application economy, rapid iteration IS your competitive advantage. Companies like Amazon, Lyft, Google, Facebook and Netflix have disrupted entire markets by leveraging rapid iteration of their application lifecycle, at scale.

But where does that leave everyone else? Today the lion’s share of organizations is somewhere in the “messy middle.” They’re not web-scale digital natives, but they do recognize that if they don’t transform, they likely won’t survive. These enterprises are, with varying degrees of urgency and aggressiveness, adding to or extending traditional monolithic and three-tier apps that already exist in their portfolio with microservices-based, cloud-native apps.

This situation creates a technology landscape that is anything but homogeneous. The enterprise IT environment is a lot like sedimentary rock—from the day they are established, companies invest in and accumulate technologies to enable the business. In most cases, there is not a solid business case for disrupting well-established, stable technologies with more modern approaches. There’s no better example of this dynamic than the continued presence of the mainframe in enterprise IT environments.

And applications developed using older technologies and practices are often running some of the most important parts of the business, because those were the areas the organization tech-enabled or automated first. The result is that most enterprises today are managing diverse portfolios that combine monolithic, three-tier, and microservices-based applications. They also manage a spectrum of underlying technologies that support those different application architectures.

With one foot firmly planted in traditional applications and the other reaching toward the future of cloud-native apps and modern DevOps practices, these organizations need solutions that both support their legacy while also enabling them to transform. How do you provide a set of solutions that bridge these two worlds?

This is what the F5 value proposition is all about, and the underlying principle behind our acquisition of NGINX. We offer solutions for companies to take their apps from code to customer, faster, safer, and at scale. We call these solutions multi-cloud application services:  packaged tools for application builders that facilitate development, deployment, operations, security, and governance in a multi-cloud architecture.

F5’s BIG-IP has a strong legacy of addressing enterprise applications and empowering IT operations teams. And in the application development and DevOps world, NGINX has the scale, performance, and footprint to meet those digital native players where they are—in fact the largest public clouds and many of the largest SaaS platforms in the world run on top of NGINX.

With NGINX, we’re not looking to simply integrate and go to market in the same way together. The fundamental inspiration behind the acquisition was the fact that there’s a ton of value we can deliver together as a combined portfolio. Jointly, we deliver solutions that span the entire application lifecycle, for monolithic, three-tier, and microservices-based apps:

  • In development – We offer a lightweight, polyglot application server (NGINX Unit), the world-leading web server (NGINX OSS and NGINX+), as well as an API gateway (NGINX OSS and NGINX+).
  • In deployment – We deliver multi-cloud traffic management and security capabilities (NGINX OSS, NGINX+, BIG-IP), along with templating, automation, and orchestration (F5 Automation Toolchain).
  • In operations – We provide centralized management, analytics, and visibility (NGINX Controller, BIG-IQ).
  • In governance and security – We are developing solutions to simplify policy management, offer a single view of risk, provide IT and business leaders insights into their application portfolio, and enable compliance reporting across the entire portfolio.

Recently, I have been meeting with dozens of customers from all over the world as part of our customer event, F5 Aspire. I’m seeing how the combination of F5 and NGINX is already powering cutting-edge web players, while at the same time accelerating the digital transformation of more classic enterprises. It’s clear that together we are giving customers an integrated platform and a unified customer experience for managing across the entire app spectrum, from code to customer, and giving companies what they need no matter where they are along their digital transformation journey.

To learn more, and hear directly from me and other F5 leaders, tune in tomorrow to the NGINX Conf 2019 livestream beginning at 8:40 AM PT.

1Defined as application functionality that is deployed directly on a bare metal server, a virtual machine, or in a container