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The cloud era has arrived in a big way as businesses of all sizes are looking to increase their level of IT agility. But when it comes to cloud, one size certainly does not fit all. Businesses have a wide range of options, including the use of a private cloud and a wide range of public cloud providers. My research finds that 82% of businesses will operate a hybrid cloud environment in the next five years.
This is consistent with the findings of F5's State of Application Delivery in 2017 report, which the company released the results of last week at its annual EMEA Agility Conference in Barcelona. The study polled approximately 2,220 customers across the globe about their plans for the cloud and the challenges they face. Some interesting statistics from the survey that will affect a multi-cloud strategy are as follows:
- 80% are committed to multi-cloud architectures
- 20% will have more than half of their applications running in a public and/or private cloud this year
- 34% of organizations lack the skills necessary to secure the cloud
- 23% lack other skills specific to cloud
- Organizations will deploy an average of 14 application services necessary to optimize and secure cloud services, with the top five being network firewall, antivirus SSL VPN, load balancing and spam mitigation
Historically these application services would have been deployed with an on-premises application delivery controller (ADC). The shift to a multi-cloud strategy, however, means that applications will be deployed across multiple clouds environments, so the ADC in the data center can't deliver the necessary services to the different places they are needed. Having multiple clouds makes it difficult to manage application services, which can impact performance and create inconsistent security polices leading to compliance risks.
In late 2016, F5 outlined its vision of how application services could be delivered to enable a multi-cloud strategy. At its Agility summit, F5 unveiled a wide range of cloud products that can fulfill that vision. These include the following:
F5 public cloud options for multi-cloud strategy
- F5 BIG-IP Virtual Edition in the Google Cloud. F5 currently has Big-IP platforms that run in Amazon and Azure, so the addition of Google means that F5 cloud services run in all of the major public clouds. Customers can choose from services options they want to run in the cloud as they provision them through a "BYOL" (bring your own license) model where they can choose from offers ranging from 25 Mb to 5 Gb. Also available from the Google Cloud Launcher are the Good, Better and Best software bundles for Big-IP.
- Cloud platform templates. It can often take months to deploy services in the cloud and then tweak and tune it to optimize it. To simplify the implementation of F5 cloud services, the company has created a number of cloud platform templates for Amazon Web Services, Azure and Google. The solution-specific templates simplify and automate common public cloud uses cases.
- Integrated marketplace services. These are pre-packed F5 cloud services such as the web application firewall and Office 365 federated access that are deployable directly from the public cloud marketplace. These are available now for Azure, but it's my assumption they will offer similar services with AWS and Google in the near future.
F5 private cloud products
Similar to the public cloud platform templates, this package gets customers up and running quickly with pre-tested, certified F5 bundled products that simplify and automate OpenStack private clouds.
F5 products for new environments
- Containerized services. F5 offers a lightweight application proxy from the Docker store that gives customers flexibility in developing, testing and scaling apps that run in containers. As containers grow increasingly popular, I would expect to see F5 deliver more services that can run as a container service.
- Container connector. This enables the integration of capabilities into container management and orchestration systems including Kubernetes and Mesosphere Marathon.
- Application connector. Customers can use this to insert application services at the edge of a public cloud and securely connect it to the customer's interconnection point at a public cloud provider or data center. If AWS is being used, the application connector automatically discovers workloads for service insertion.
I think we're on the precipice of a major transition with the cloud as buyers are no longer thinking about the cloud for cost savings. Instead the cloud has become a key enabler of digital transformation. The transition to an effective multi-cloud strategy can be complicated, however, as businesses need to ensure the supporting application services can be deployed easily and cost effectively.
The F5 cloud products announced at its Agility event extend the company's widely deployed application services to public, private and hybrid cloud environments and lets customers use them when and where they need them, closing the cloud skills gap that is holding organizations back today.
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