Applications sit at the heart of today’s world. They power businesses, serve customers and drive revenue. Emerging technologies open up fresh opportunities but they also bring about new challenges and a lot more complexity. A recent study by F5 found that almost half of all Asia Pacific organisations now use up to 200 applications within their business.
When it comes to managing applications today, the span of control is shifting, forcing organisations to think about how applications can be deployed in a manner that is flexible and profitable.
Just about every application utilises some form of an application service to address challenges with performance (ability for apps to react quickly when used), security (using apps in a secured manner), or availability (making apps always available). Ultimately, in order to experience a seamless experience between applications and end users, organisations find themselves having to deploy and manage multiple application services.
In today’s fast-moving, on-demand culture, users expect their applications to always work – and work fast – on any device. If organisations fail to meet these expectations, it has never been easier for customers to find alternatives. At the same time, the pace of global innovation is also consistently accelerating with faster release cycles, the emergence of DevOps, as well as the move toward continuous delivery. For IT departments or organisations to stay connected to their customers, they must meet user expectations with responsive, omni-channel applications that deliver new features seamlessly.
Application services comprise a suite of technology or services that enhances availability, security and acceleration for the application. An application service is not the application itself – it is a technology or service for the environment that an application is deployed on.
Application services can include a wide array of functions, from the traditional load balancing technologies that F5 first became known for, to the richer and advanced application delivery technologies. These include application security, mobility, availability, performance and access, as well as identity management – technologies that F5 has evolved to become an expert in.
Application services act as an intermediary that enable applications to perform the tasks that they simply cannot do or at least cannot do at scale. They communicate in both network and application protocols: the former allows them to be in the data path, while the latter provides them with the capabilities to focus on applications and their data. At a top line level – application services can be described as highly specialised application logic deployed on high performance, high capacity proxy platforms in the critical data path, within the network.
Application services are more important than ever due to the rising use of applications across the organisation. Moreover, businesses are increasingly looking to ‘build’ rather than buy off-the-shelf applications. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020, 75 per cent of application purchases supporting digital business will be built, and not bought.1 Further to that, organisations will also be looking for customised application services to meet their individualised requirements.
However, most organisations are at different stages of maturity in relation to their overall adoption of applications and application services and as such, have tend to have different priorities when it comes to application delivery. According to F5’s ‘The State of Application Delivery in APAC 2015’ report, amongst organisations using application services in the Asia Pacific region, security services are a top priority, followed by identity and access, and performance of a service.
In addition, the report found that the majority of organisations have already deployed services like SSL VPN, while identity federation, application access control and single sign-on are all earmarked for implementation over the coming year by around a quarter of organisations.