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Saturday, May 27th, 2017

Secure Your Apps

Why cloud is thriving and app services have to keep up

One out of five respondents to a recent State of Application Delivery (SOAD) global customer survey by F5 Networks plan to have more than half of their applications in the cloud by 2017, and four out of five are adopting multi-cloud environments where they have the flexibility to choose the platform, data center location, and ecosystem that best meet their specific application requirements.

The 2017 SOAD report shows that the number of cloud-first organizations – those that consider cloud-based IT solutions first before making new IT investments – jumped to 47% globally, from just 33% in 2016. Asia-Pacific leads the regions in cloud-first strategies with 54% of respondents reporting a cloud-first preference, which is up from the 42% who reported a strong preference last year.

The growing importance of applications underpinning enterprise modernization and digital transformation initiatives has motivated enterprises to reap the operational benefits of the cloud. The number of organizations adopting cloud computing, even in the highly regulated financial services sector, is growing. In its outsourcing guidelines released last year, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, for instance, considers cloud services operated by service providers as a form of outsourcing that poses risks not distinct from those in other outsourcing arrangements.

Digital ‘fuel’

Still, how each organization’s cloud journeys may unfold depends heavily on robust application services that boost performance, maintain availability, bolster network and application security, and deliver the visibility to manage all IT assets. Emmanuel Bonnassie, senior vice president of Asia Pacific at F5 Networks, believes that “while applications are the engines that run today’s enterprises, application services are the fuel that keeps them on the road”.

These reasons may explain why the SOAD survey respondents have an average of 14 app services deployed today, up from 11 last year, and that number is expected to rise to 17 in the next 12 months.

The top 5 application services that organizations have deployed are network firewall, anti-virus, SSL VPN, load balancing and spam mitigation. The SOAD report also notes that about one-third of Asia-Pacific respondents grapple with implementing consistent security policies across multiple environments and more of them are concerned with application performance across hybrid cloud deployments than respondents in the Americas and EMEA, given the geographical distances in the region.

But their challenges do not end there. Jon Oltsik, senior principal analyst at ESG Research, believes that 2017 will be remembered as the year where “cybersecurity analytics and operations encounter a wave of unprecedented scale” as more and more workloads are moved to the cloud and the use of agile development, DevOps and cloud computing allow “workloads to be spun up, spun down and replaced on the fly as needs and whims dictate”. Somehow, security teams and app services must be able to keep up with the flux of activity.

Scale or sink

Oltsik’s observation puts into perspective the importance of app services associated with availability and security. While almost 6% more SOAD survey respondents said it is worse to deploy an app without security than without availability, one out of five respondents ranked load balancing – an app service associated with availability – as most important. As authors of the SOAD report noted, a failure to scale is as detrimental to a brand’s reputation as a security breach, and often it is just as costly in terms of lost revenue and customers.

Hence, the pressure to minimize such risks, reduce costs and increase scalability will only intensify as organizations deploy more critical apps across multiple clouds and data centers. Demand for security application services, including WAF, DNSSEC, and DDoS protection, will surge. The need for scalability will also drive a shift toward DevOps methodologies for operational efficiencies through automation and programmability.

“Business leaders across different sectors are increasingly cognizant of how powerful applications and data assets can be in the journey to achieving agility demanded from the shift to the digital economy,” says Mohan Veloo, CTO, Asia Pacific, F5 Networks. “However, the breakneck pace of innovation and adoption of connected devices, and an insatiable appetite for new technology introduces new problems in the form of increased attack vectors to the broader economy.

“More than ever, organizations need to rethink traditional security architectures, to focus on areas of greatest vulnerabilities – their applications and users.”

This is a QuestexAsia feature commissioned by F5 Networks Asia Pacific.