Kara S prague - Executive Vice President - General Manager- BIG-IP - F5 - techxmedia

Extending adaptive applications to the edge

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Kara Sprague, Executive Vice President and General Manager, BIG-IP at F5

I’ve discussed in the past the many ways applications are transforming our lives. Through the pandemic, apps have become the primary way many of us shop, bank, work, and connect with friends and family. It has become clear of late, however, that COVID has done more than increase our reliance on these digital services—it has also accelerated the digitization of what were previously physical experiences. Experiences from seeing a doctor, to purchasing a new home, to going to work on a manufacturing floor all once required a physical presence, and are now increasingly and irreversibly becoming digital.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in April of last year that the world had experienced two years of digital transformation in two months. It has been another nine months since then, and the pace of digitization has only increased. And the one thing all these digital experiences have in common? They are delivered though apps.

This shift, though, is creating challenges for enterprises. Delivering and securing applications involves navigating across a combination of local and wide area networks, public clouds, CDNs, and other edge infrastructure. Most companies today are manually stitching together application logic and delivery and security technologies across these environments on an app-by-app basis. This approach creates new attack surfaces, opens the door to new threats, and creates incredible operational complexity.

First-generation edge solutions (what F5 refers to as ‘Edge 1.0’) were CDNs built to provide low-latency performance benefits for large content form factors such as videos, so they could be cached physically closer to the end user. In an evolution to ‘Edge 1.5,’ CDNs then added edge compute to host more dynamic content, and were ‘SaaS-ified,’ and tossed in some ‘good enough’ security. Both Edge 1.0 and Edge 1.5 offerings are closed edge solutions, with capacity limited to their own physical infrastructure, and create yet another node or hop in the application delivery pathway.

Enterprises are forced to adapt their applications to each edge vendor. They don’t address the needs we see with our customers because they are content-driven, don’t make security efficacy a top priority, and weren’t designed to simplify management and operations across a heterogenous multi-cloud landscape. The customers I talk to are ready to move beyond these closed edge offerings with their commodity security that only exacerbate their complexity challenges.

One of the most exciting aspects of Edge 2.0 is how it will advance our vision for adaptive apps. We see a world in which applications naturally adapt based on their environment—growing, shrinking, defending, and healing themselves—so organizations can focus on their core business, increase revenue, improve operations, and deliver compelling new experiences for their customers. Edge 2.0 will enable this in several important ways:

  • Automate redundant processes: Edge 2.0 will be built on a universal ‘build once, deploy globally’ app delivery platform that automates app distribution across data center, cloud, and edge. This means no more manual integration across modern and traditional apps in multi-cloud environments. 
  • Deliver world-class, end-to-end security: Customers will be able to use F5’s industry-leading application security and fraud solutions across all environments. These are the same solutions that are today the primary line of defense for the majority of the largest banks, service providers, and government organizations, across any environment, including at the edge, in a SaaS-based form factor.
  • Increase agility in your app portfolio: Volterra is built using industry-standard containers and APIs, so customers’ digital experiences can be brought to market and adapt to changing conditions much more quickly and seamlessly. 
  • Harness application insights: Customers will get a truly end-to-end view of app performance and security with Edge 2.0. This rich telemetry is captured by the F5 platform and analyzed and exposed through our visibility and orchestration offerings to make applications and application portfolios smarter, more insightful, and more adaptive.  
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