F5 releases its latest State of Applications Services report

F5 Networks today unveiled the results of its 2019 State of Application Services (SOAS) report. Now in its fifth year, the only global report of its kind reveals a fast-changing application landscape trending towards automation, cloud-centricity, as well as an increased receptivity to digitally-driven business innovation. It also highlights the most up-to-date operational and security challenges associated with these shifts.

Kara Sprague, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Application Services Business Unit at F5

“Applications are now the most valuable asset in the modern enterprise, defining a new era of Application Capital,” said Kara Sprague, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Application Services Business Unit at F5. “This year’s report explores the approaches companies are taking on their digital transformation journeys and how they are optimising the people, processes and systems used to develop, deploy, and deliver applications for competitive advantage and business impact.”

The race for digital transformation
According to the SOAS report, EMEA organisations are aggressively pursuing digital transformation as a significant strategic driver. As many as 75% of surveyed respondents are embracing the transition, compared to 68% of companies in other regions.

Furthermore, EMEA organisations are more likely to enable applications for mobile clients (40% versus 36% in other regions). 41% also said that the impetus to leverage digital transformation is prompting the exploration of new application architectures such as containerisation and microservices.

Elsewhere, EMEA demonstrates a strong focus on IT optimisation, with nearly three in four (72%) seeking to realise this benefit compared to 69% in other regions. Other key digital transformation enhancements include business process optimisation (58%) and improved employee productivity (53%).

At a high level, the top trends set to exert strategic impact on EMEA organisations in the next two to five years include public cloud deployment (48% of respondents), software-defined networking (47%) and real-time threat analytics (43%). Interestingly, EMEA differs from Americas and Asia Pacific in that Big Data analytics (41%) didn’t make it into the top three priorities list.  This is potentially due to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and associated data mining hesitancy.

 DevOps to the fore
 Across the region, 62% believe a digital first mindset is altering the way applications are developed. The trend drops to 51% in other parts of the world. Consequently, 46% of EMEA businesses reported positive changes in terms of how apps are delivered to production environments, including operational improvements such as more frequent releases

The SOAS report concludes that the need for speed and greater innovation is prompting a worldwide trend for DevOps to transition from early adopter strategic differentiators to become influential business operation contributors.

Indicative of this step change is the fact that 63% of EMEA firms are now are implementing automation and orchestration wherever possible in their IT systems and processes. This is slightly ahead of the rest of the world where 61% are doing the same.

The SOAS report goes on to note that internal silos are starting to break down and cross-functional teams are poised to drive more innovation. Automating and orchestrating development and deployment pipelines is vital an organisation’s ability to keep pace with the rapid rate of change required by external-facing applications.

EMEA’s most popular automation tools hail from Cisco (52%), VMware (53%), OpenStack (33%) and a mix of open source solutions (27%). At the same time, DevOps favourites such as Jenkins (21%) and GitHub Enterprise (16%) are rising in popularity.

When it comes to overall automation and orchestration, EMEA is dominated by Python Scripts (59% of respondents), Ansible (52%), Puppet (27%) and GitHub Enterprise (27%).

Multi-cloud strategy and security
45% of EMEA respondents currently evaluate cloud decisions based on the environment best suited for each application, which is a trend that is expected to grow and add further momentum to widespread multi-cloud adoption.

Overall, 42% of EMEA firms said they used two to six cloud providers (dipping below a 53% share in other regions). 11% used seven to ten providers, and 4% 11 to 20. More than a quarter (28%) of all organisations in EMEA avoid cloud in any form excepting SaaS.

Security concerns appear to be the main obstacle for organisations currently without plans to deliver apps in the public cloud. The biggest multi-cloud challenge identified in EMEA was dealing with existing and emerging threats (40%), followed by regulation compliance (31%), and applying consistent security policies across all company applications (30%).

In general, EMEA respondents remain wary about their ability to protect applications off-premises. More than a third (35%) indicated “low confidence” to withstand an application layer attack in all three off-premises scenarios: SaaS applications, public cloud, and colocation data centers. Once again, EMEA’s stricter regulation regimes and attention to consumer privacy are likely to inform existing public cloud reluctance in this instance.

The future of application services
The most commonly deployed application services in EMEA are network firewalls (89%), identity and access management via SSL VPN (87%), anti-virus (87%), IPS/IDS security (76%), and identity and access management using application access controls (74%).

While EMEA syncs with global attitudes to security services criticality – rating it “the worst thing you could deploy an app without” – the region is more focused on availability (25%) than other regions (20%). It is also comparatively less concerned about performance and mobility.

Looking ahead, the top planned application services deployments for EMEA businesses are focused on IoT gateways (38%), DNSSEC (34%), HTTP/2 gateways (32%), SDN gateways (30%) and service meshes (29%). The SOAS report suggests that the first-time inclusion of service meshes demonstrates how technology choices are increasingly driven by a growing appetite for modern application architectures, cloud environments, and containers.

“The multi-cloud has evolved from an experiment to a comprehensive strategy for innovation. In what is now a flourishing application economy, app services have emerged as a key contributor to digital transformation and business success,” said Vincent Lavergne, RVP Systems Engineering, F5 Networks.

“As digital transformation continues to change the landscape, deploying consistent application services enables organisations to keep pace with both competitors and relentless technological development. By maintaining uniform policies, security, and availability across entire application portfolios, businesses markedly enhance their ability thrive and meet increasingly complex customer needs.”