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Lori MacVittie

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F5 and the Cloud

There’s apparently been a bit of confusion over what, exactly, F5 thinks of cloud computing as an organization

There’s apparently been a bit of confusion over what, exactly, F5 thinks of cloud computing as an organization based on a recent blog post. I thought I’ve been fairly clear on where F5 stands in terms of cloud computing but I may be suffering what’s known as the “curse of knowledge”, which means I am so deeply entrenched in F5’s view of cloud that I forget that other people don’t have the luxury of that knowledge.

So I’d like to take this opportunity to clear up any misconceptions that may be floating around and just set the record straight concerning F5 and cloud computing.


THE APPLICATION IS THE DATA CENTER’S CROWNING GLORY


Every data center – whether it’s hosted, whether it’s in the cloud, whether it’s SOA or legacy, whether it’s old or new – is really concerned with delivering applications. Whether those applications are for business use, personal use, communication, collaboration, custom, packaged, integrated, stand-alone, used by governments, individuals, corporations, or non-profits is relevant to F5 in that we have to support certain features and capabilities that are necessary to ensure those applications are delivered in a way that meets the unique needs of the organization and end-users.

F5 is, and has been since I’ve been involved (back before application delivery was even a term used in the industry), concerned with delivering applications. The technologies used to accomplish that goal have changed and evolved over the years but at the heart of all the technological innovations and changes have remained applications.

Where those applications are physically delivered from is not our decision. That’s up to the application owner to decide. Maybe it lives in a hosted data center, or on-premise, or of late in a cloud in a provider’s data center. It is the goal of F5 and its solutions to enable application owners to deploy the applications upon which their business relies in any environment, and using any model – cloud or traditional.

F5 recognizes that organizations are going to make choices for application deployment based on what’s best for their business, and understands that some organizations are going to adopt cloud computing with a passion and will depend on cloud vendors to ensure that applications residing in their clouds are secure, fast, and available. And to that end F5 has worked with a significant number of cloud vendors to build out implementations based on F5 technology that does just that.

F5 also recognizes that some organizations are going to build cloud environments in their own data centers, and continues to expand its application partnerships with leading innovators in virtualization and network infrastructure to ensure that those organizations can also architect a cloud computing model. We also recognize that there will continue to be “traditional” and “legacy” architectures out there, some of them in the same data centers where cloud models will be implemented, that will need those same features and technology to ensure that a heterogeneous environment is as operationally efficient as possible.

In fact, F5’s vision is one that recognizes the need to understand that location is just one more aspect of an application. That the location of the application and the user are relevant in the decisions regarding how best to secure, accelerate, and make available that application. We call it context-aware networking, and we are acutely aware that the “location” piece of context may be a cloud or a local data center and that it may change from one day to the next, or even one minute to the next.

F5 wants to ensure that no matter how or where an application is deployed that the process of deploying it is smooth and painless and that by using an F5 technology an organization is receiving real value above just making an application faster and more secure. That includes integration with the rest of the infrastructure ecosystem so that both cloud providers and enterprises can realize the benefits of not just an on-demand computing architecture, but the benefits of a dynamic, agile infrastructure that supports that architecture. Because an agile infrastructure powers an agile IT organization which directly affects the business, and makes it more able to react to the volatile world in which we all must work and compete on a daily basis.

Our CEO, John McAdam, in his keynote address at Interop did a wonderful job of expressing the intimate relationship between an agile IT organization and an agile business; in how operational efficiencies translate into real reductions in costs that allow businesses and IT innovate together rather than spending time and effort and money on maintenance and manual processes around the delivery of applications.

One of the ways to accomplish these goals is certainly through cloud computing, thus F5 is very much in support of cloud. The concept of dynamic, on-demand infrastructure and compute resources is so synergetic with F5’s vision and technology – both past and present – that we couldn’t not support cloud computing initiatives if we tried. An application delivery network is and has been for some time a dynamic, agile platform through which application are delivered and it is a perfect complement to today’s cloud computing models. F5 sees that there are real benefits in cloud computing including reductions in costs, and improvements in efficiencies both from a process and a technology point of view.

Tuesday Morning Keynotes @ Interop courtesy of InteropTV

REALITY, NOT HYPE


But like our CEO, we’re operational pragmatists. We recognize that some organizations aren’t going to move to a cloud model no matter where it is. We recognize that some organizations will adopt cloud computing but only on their terms and in their data centers. And we recognize that some organizations will whole-heartedly adopt cloud computing.

In a nutshell, F5 supports any architectural and business model with a goal of delivering applications. And we’re pretty sure that means just about every kind of architecture there is, because at the heart of every data center is at least one business critical application without which the organization could simply not function.

But we also know there are issues and problems to be solved with emerging models and we know that there are still existing problems with traditional architectures that need solutions. F5 is determined to help solve those problems that are within our realm of control and expertise no matter how an organization decides to deliver its application. And it is also our goal to educate the market and IT professionals on what those problems might be, and how they can be solved when there are solutions, so they can make the right choice for their organization. That’s my job; it’s why I’m out here every day, reading the Internet and writing blog posts: I hope to give you the information you need to make the decisions you need to make.

Our tagline is “IT Agility. Your way.” And if that way is cloud computing through a vendor, that’s great and of course we hope it’s with one of the many providers that’s using F5 technology. If that way is your own cloud in your own data center, then we hope that we’re helping you muddle through the problems and implement real solutions that will be beneficial now and in the future. And if that way is to stick with a more traditional architectural model, we’re ready to help you improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs there, too.

Our view of cloud computing is that it’s another weapon in your technological arsenal that you can use to deliver applications. We hope we’re a a part of that arsenal because we believe we can add real value to both IT and the business no matter where you decide your data center should reside.

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Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.