The Evolving Trends in Application Services: A 5-Year Review

Cindy Borovick Miniature
Cindy Borovick
Published January 15, 2019

We are thrilled to introduce The 2019 State of Application Services report! It has been five years since we introduced the first report in the industry on application services. We have followed the wave of change brought on by the application economy, the rise of multi-cloud architectures, and digital transformation. These industry shifts are the reason we have changed the name of our report from the previous The State of Application Delivery. Availability, security, and identity services have been unleashed from traditional data center networks to serve the global scale requirements of the entire ecosystem of IT professionals and a disaggregated multi-cloud application portfolio.

This year’s results highlight how the digital economy is changing everything for customers—notably the processes and systems they are using to deliver applications. And at a more personal level—the teams they are operating in and the skill sets they will need to thrive in the next decade. 

Some highlights of the changes we have witnessed these last five years include:

Application Services are Evolving with Today’s App-driven Digital Economy

On average, organizations report that they have 16 application services deployed today, up from 14 in 2017 and 11 in 2016. While we see a rise in the number of deployments—the top application services deployed have not changed. In 2015, the top four application services deployed were Network Firewall, Anti-Virus, Load Balancing, and SSL VPN. This year the top four are the same with only the small shift in ranking with load balancing moving to the fourth slot and SSL VPN moving to third.

While we see very little movement at the top, in some way applications services are like fashion. Some services are timeless, much like a network firewall is analogous to a new freshly ironed white shirt and a comfortable pair of jeans—always in style. However, applications services also need to enter the digital age—just like all those designer backpacks I see on the walk to work, custom created to organize our personal devices. Entering the digital age for application services are newly created services such as IoT gateways and ingress control; back in fashion application services include SDN gateways and API gateways. All of these application services are necessary to support the surge in containerized multi-cloud deployments.

In addition to introducing new application services, the industry is at the very beginning of a new wave application services deployments. On average, customers are only deploying two native cloud application services compared to 14 on-premises—this tells us we are on the precipice of an explosion of application services deployed across multi-cloud architectures.

Security Services Adoption Continues to Rise

Over the last five years, leading customers have realized that a combination of security services are needed to protect applications and data. Network firewalls alone are insufficient to protect against DDoS attacks which have risen in number, size, and duration. Neither are they able to adequately defend against the 30% of attacks that target the application. Thankfully, customers are increasing their deployments of a wealth of security services including:

  • DDoS Protection deployments are up to 67% from 53% in 2015
  • WAF Protection is now at 66% in 2019 – up from 56% in 2015
  • Anti-Fraud is a big winner rising to 69% this year – up from 41% in 2015

Increasing Influence of IT in Digital Transformation

In order to keep up with the rapid rate of change required for applications that are customer-centric and drive revenue, organizations are ramping up their use of technologies that provide deeper insights, deliver faster release cycles, and enable application portability. Five years ago, the industry was questioning the role of traditional IT organizations – today IT organizations are embracing cloud and investing in the skills and toolsets required for automation. They clearly have a seat at the digital table, with 42% of the respondents reporting that IT decides the location decisions of applications – up from 30% last year. As we look ahead, we know the rate of change will continue to increase. Nearly half (48%) of the respondents reported that digital transformation was requiring a need for faster release cycles –up 20 points from 28% in 2018.

Lori MacVittie and I could not have reached these insights without the thousands who have taken the time to tell us about their deployments and use of application services. For you we are sincerely thankful. As we look ahead, we envision a wealth of opportunities for application services and the applications they serve to weave into the very fabric of the digital economy.

For more, please join the conversation with @f5networks and/or the hashtag #AppServices.

To receive your own copy of our 2019 State of Application Services report, go to