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By 31 May 2017 | Categories: feature articles

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Even as the recent F5 Networks Agility conference, held in Barcelona, was the stage for an illuminating discussion on the future, and how it is being shaped by apps, that wasn’t the only source of interesting insights to arise from the event.

Admittedly, we weren’t given access to the breakaway sessions, which we bound by confidentiality agreements with the company’s clients. However, more than making up for this was the fact that opportunities were plentiful to interview F5’s executives about agility, the Future of Apps report itself and the industry at large.

A prime example of this was an illuminating one on one with Ben Gibson, the chief marketing officer for F5 Networks. He began by noting that there has been a significant trend in the IT industry towards a marriage between technology and business impact. He elaborated that, more particularly, those who know technology (such as the chief information officer), have had to become better at connecting their understanding to business value, while taking something that is inherently complex and making it simple.

This shift, he explained, became more evident in the past five years, and was driven by two well known megatrends – mobility and cloud computing.

Where change began

Regarding the former, he pointed out that workers’ desire to bring their own device to work and use their own applications forced IT organisations to think differently in terms of how they provided connectivity and security.

Cloud computing meanwhile, which found its footing in the business environment, also fostered shadow IT, where suddenly a non-technical head of marketing was able deploy his or her own applications to perform campaign management, for example. “This meant they no longer needed to necessarily have to go through their IT department, even if they should have, as they were dealing with customer and company data, but it became for easy for them to go straight to a cloud or software as a service (SAS) provider and activate their own application,” he explained.

This then moved IT organisations – who used to be the only ones who understood and could implement technology - to the current landscape, where the same organisations have to instead help their customers connect technology to a business value. This, Gibson noted, is what agility is about.

But is it safe?

However, both shadow IT and the fact that technology is no longer managed from a centralised source raises another concern – security.

Gibson pointed out that when technology was centralised, it was far easier to secure, since much of it was under IT’s control. Now, with applications being moved to one or another type of cloud, along with the fact that security solutions themselves are largely spread out, the disaggregation of data creates greater complexity, and thus, only increases the challenge.

And yet, there is another factor exacerbating matters. “There has been a lot of focus on securing the endpoint device, and considerable focus on securing the network, via firewalls and things of that nature. But what about the application, which could be running over  different networks and on diverse devices?

I, and F5 believe, that the common denominator is the application and that needs to be the consistent unit for how we secure data. That has not received nearly as much focus in the industry to date,” he elaborated.

Looking ahead

This in itself is somewhat ironic, particularly as the application boom over the past few years has been exponential. “If you go to a financial institution, their application development groups are larger than the IT department. You can go industry by industry and that is increasingly the case,” he related.

Furthermore, the future of apps themselves looks bright, with app development set to increase. Gibson asserted that the next generation of the tech-focused workforce are turning their attention to software (application) development, rather than the traditional management of on-premise infrastructure that used to be the bastion of IT specialists.

In Part 2 of the interview, Gibson provides his views on IoT and where people fit into the current challenges, the role of collaboration moving forward, and relates what he believes is a secret of success for companies which want to thrive in the current era.

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