F5 works to secure its future

Company evolves from from a legacy in applications delivery to applications services and cybersecurity

Tags: Application delivery controllerConferenceF5 NetworksUnited Arab Emirates
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F5 works to secure its future At the F5 Agility EMEA annual event, the company made a series of announcements that reflects the company’s renewed focus.
By  David Ndichu Published  July 19, 2017

F5 Networks future profile, as an applications services company and a serious player in cybersecurity, is coming together.

F5’s legacy is in applications delivery controllers (ADCs), and is still widely regarded as an ADC vendor. François Locoh-Donou, CEO, F5 Networks, says a change in mind-set, both within and without the company, is needed to reflect its current focus on software and services.

“The key differentiation for F5 Networks is our software, TMOS. If you ask our customers why they choose F5, it’s the flexibility and the programmability that the TMOS software technology offers them,” he says.

This software has typically been consumed on a hardware-based ADC, deployed in an on premise datacentre. However, customers now demand flexibility in how they consume services. “There needs to be a rethink on how applications services are delivered to adapt to the different deployment models customers demand. These delivery models could be as hardware in a datacentre; software in a datacentre, private cloud or public cloud; or software with hardware across multiple public and hybrid clouds.

“Customers are evolving and they want to consume the technology in different form factors, whether it’s hardware, software or cloud. We have be available when and where our customers want,” says Locoh-Donou.

At the F5 Agility EMEA annual event at the end of May in Barcelona, the company made a series of announcements that not only reflects company’s renewed focus, but should also help shape public perception of F5.

One was the availability of F5’s services in Google Cloud, adding to the company’s presence in Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure cloud platforms.

This development, the company says, is designed to provide consistent application services in multi-cloud environments.

The availability of F5 BIG-IP Virtual Edition (VE) in the Google Cloud means that organisations can now deploy F5 services in all major public clouds, explains Sangeeta Anand, SVP of product management and product marketing at F5. F5’s new ‘bring your own license’ offers caters for instances ranging from 25 Mbps to 5 Gbps, allowing customers greater choice, she adds.

“In Google Cloud, customers can deploy F5’s VE product across a number of multiple throughput forms of our VE products from 25 megabits upto 5GB throughput.  To enable customers on-board the services quickly and in an agile manner, we support the Google deployment templates as well,” Anand explains.

F5’s 2017 State of Application Delivery report shows that while more customers than ever are shifting to cloud infrastructures, many are consciously choosing to invest in multiple cloud technologies. Eighty percent of survey respondents report that they are committed to multi-cloud architectures, and 20 percent state that they will have over half their applications running in the public and/or private clouds this year.

An increasing portion of our personal and professional lives runs on applications. And this is a trend that will only increase. “I think applications will become more immersed into our lives as technologies like AI and automation continue to increase. The interface between applications and human beings will evolve and become omnipresent in our personal and corporate lives,” says CEO Locoh-Donou.

This growing use of applications augurs well for F5, an organisation built upon applications services.

“If you believe the world is going to have more applications, then you must believe that F5 is going to have a very good future,” says Locoh-Donou.

Cybersecurity

But it is cyber security that’s at the heart the F5 of the future.

That said, security has been an undeniable part of F5’s past, even though this aspect is not very well publicised. F5 BIG-IP Application Security Manager, a web application firewall, has been a feature in data centres for a decade and half, protecting web servers from malicious traffic.

“F5 has always been close to applications,” says Ryan Kearny, F5 Networks executive VP of product development and chief technology officer. “By default, we have thus been part of the security posture of our customers as we pulled functionalities from application server infrastructure forward and into our controllers.”

“We also used to load balance firewalls because firewalls were not fast and available enough. We slowly started pulling even core firewall functionalities forward into our devices because we could implement firewall security policies faster and more scalable than the firewalls themselves,” Kearny says.

Security is the fastest growing segment of F5 Network’s portfolio, says Locoh-Donou. F5 security solution offerings include modules that come attached to its ADC platform, but also purpose-built security tools, he adds.

At GITEX last year, F5 showcased its network protection solutions, including F5 DDoS Hybrid Defender, F5 SSL Orchestrator, and fraud prevention products F5 WebSafe and F5 MobileSafe.

The company also launched the Herculon security product range earlier this year, including the Herculon SSL Orchestrator that provides insight for the visibility gaps created by the growing use of encryption for application data, as well as the Herculon DDoS Hybrid Defender that delivers a multi-layered defence against DDoS attacks. The Herculon DDoS Hybrid Defender integrates hardware with offsite cloud scrubbing via F5 Silverline.

F5 addresses three components in security, explains Taj El Khayat, Gulf, Levant & North Africa Director, F5 Network. This include the ability to ensure the confidentiality of applications, the capability to ensure the integrity of applications and finally the ability to ensure availability of applications. “This is in making sure that we are walking the talk in our promise for ‘safer, smarter and more secure’.”

In DevOps, F5 can work with organisations and teams that are developing applications on the cloud to make sure they have the right toolsets to carry out their DevOps in a secure fashion, says El Khayat. “More importantly, we ensure that after the application is deployed, developers have the right access policy management to protect the integrity of the application against any potential DNS or DDoS attacks,” he adds.

Additionally, F5 offers organisations a database of known bad IP address to help protect them against any potential IP malware attacks. “Equally important, we have the ability to provide visibility to encrypted traffic to ensure that the encrypted traffic is not going to be malicious, and making sure we ensure the full protection in terms of how we orchestrate that visibility,” El Khayat explains.

F5 Networks is also highlighting its cloud-as-a-service offerings for both DDoS and web application firewalls. The Silverline WAF solution is a cloud-based express self-service or managed solution that protects web applications and data as well as enabling compliance. “Our managed and hosted solutions are in response to developments in enterprise security where DDoS and web application attacks continue to proliferate,” Locoh-Donou says.

“We created the cloud form factor because we want customers and partners to have an easier means of protecting themselves without the headache of having to putting up the infrastructure in their install base.  Our cloud offerings also provide a very cost effective means for them to be protected,” says El Khayat.

F5 has also launched a cloud-based application services platform called Silverline. Among Silverline services is a managed security services offering that will direct traffic from a customer’s data centre and move it one of F5’s data centres in case of a DDoS attack. Its technologies will scrub the traffic there to address DDoS, returning clean traffic back to a customer’s site, explains Locoh-Donou.

F5 Labs is a recently formed application threat intelligence service within the company. “We now have security researchers within the product development group constantly analysing the threat landscape and feeding that to our customers on how they can leverage our products and technologies to ensure that they address cyber threats,” says CTO Kearny.

F5 Labs operate out of five datacentres around the world. These facilities host many multi-vendor technologies providing regular reports and best practices and to customers, explains El Khayat.

“Our solutions in the security space are expanding both for on premises and cloud-based security offering,” Locoh-Donou says.

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