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Cloud Native and Open Source (without the Hassle)

Neeraj Poddar 缩略图
Neeraj Poddar
Published October 21, 2020
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It’s hard to find an enterprise company who hasn’t considered cloud native technologies to help meet user demands or to be more agile. So, what’s holding teams back from making that move, now? One of the reasons more organizations haven’t taken the leap is that many of the critical parts of the cloud native stack are open source offerings. While open source projects offer significant advantages and improved flexibility, the overall investment of taking up fast-moving open source projects on an ongoing basis with having little control over the project direction is often untenable for enterprises. Another reason for hesitation is that the current cloud native market is saturated, and certain to see meaningful consolidation in the coming years. The choices can be overwhelming—and the downside of making the wrong bet on a potentially soon-to-be-obsolete technology can outweigh the upside of the benefits.

In short, cloud native technology is driving tremendous innovation in networking and application delivery, but as with all nascent markets, there are significant hurdles to adoption. Additionally, the cost of running, maintaining and supporting open source projects is often overlooked in favor of the promise of speed and flexibility. F5 wants to help you navigate this transition and remove elements of hesitation and second-guessing, so you can get the speed and flexibility of open source without the uncertainty.

An Open Source First Approach

Infrastructure and cloud native applications are moving toward an Open API and open source first approach. Open source projects such as Kubernetes have been broadly adopted by the enterprise and show no signs of slowing down. With this in mind, many teams at F5 are focused on contributing to and leading open source projects, and building open APIs to enable F5 customers to get all the speed and flexibility of open source without having to manage the burden. We do that by taking the "chop wood, carry water" approach so our customers can focus on what's important to them, like creating business value with their applications, while benefiting from a vendor-neutral community-driven technology stack.

F5 helps customers be successful with open source in these critical ways:

  • Addressing critical issues and bugs that are important to the users – While end user companies often participate actively in providing feedback to the projects through GitHub or by asking questions on various forums, it’s often difficult to attract attention from community members in a large open source project. The same is true for taking an open issue from filing to a release in a timely manner. Realizing that enterprises require prompt communication about workarounds for critical bugs and schedule for fixes, our teams at F5 (including NGINX and Aspen Mesh) focus on addressing these concerns along with quick resolution of these issues in the open.
  • Adding valuable functionality and features requested by users – On any large open source project, adding even a small feature can take months given the consensus-building process needed around design documents, implementation choices, and code reviews. This can be a high cost/low reward situation for enterprises that don't have the influence to sway projects towards meeting their requirements. Since F5 team members are contributors and maintainers of various open source projects, we understand the landscape well and can help advocate customers’ needs and drive their requirements toward tangible outcomes.
  • Tailoring solutions for specific sectors – In the same vein, it's common for open source communities to lack expertise across different market verticals (such as telecom, healthcare, and financial services) that overlap with generic enterprise features but can have unique requirements. A vibrant and thriving open source project can serve various segments and mature to a better product with participation and contributions from different industries. F5’s broad expertise across industries is very useful in recognizing key opportunities and shaping the roadmap of open source projects for broad adoption across industries.
  • Protecting extensible technologies with speed and transparency – Security is another key concern for organizations adopting open source technologies, and policy requirements concerning production usage and data handling can be major roadblocks for wide adoption of these projects. While fixing bugs is obviously very important, security in open source projects is much more that that; It is also about creating a process for members and end users to responsibly report potential vulnerabilities and an early disclosure system where vendors and other invested organizations can get early notifications of upcoming security releases. Our team members at F5 have been at the forefront of responsibly managing vulnerabilities in key infrastructure products for decades. Leveraging our experience in open source communities to help drive best practices and establish response systems frees up your business to focus on tasks that add business value.

By design, Open Source projects move fast and rapidly add features that can be challenging for enterprise engineering teams to keep up with. This is a critical consideration with cloud native infrastructure projects as the upgrade and rollout cycles can be long for enterprises, and quite impactful to an organization’s developers and customers alike. F5 plays an important role by providing customers a predictable release and deprecation cycle for the open source projects we support. We take the lessons learned from our experiences in this space to create a better experience that meets the expectations of large mature organizations.

If you are on your open source journey or are just thinking about getting started, our team of experts at F5 is here to help you make the most of it.