A lot of my work today is helping enterprises to develop and modernize their data strategy. Why? Because although it is clear to many of them that data is increasingly a key business asset, they are not data‑focused when it comes to their technology strategy.
The majority of enterprises I speak with still have a traditional approach to delivering technology – they still think about locations and hardware, and are not asking questions about how they want to use data. Because of this, they are potentially limiting their ability to exploit this asset and take advantage of the new opportunities it can present. If they want to fully realize the value of their data, they must start to take a data‑centric approach to IT strategy by developing a strategy focused specifically on data and not general IT services.
This represents an interesting shift in thinking for many organizations, but things are slowly beginning to change. Organizations are more freely talking about and beginning to understand the value of a data strategy.
Modernization Is Challenging
While I’ve spent the last two years having success with helping enterprises understand the criticality of a data strategy, it has got me thinking about what other areas of the business and types of technology might benefit from a change in focus and a modernized approach. The need to change our focus when it comes to technology is not, and should not be limited to, just about data, and we are starting to see this change across other parts of the technology stack.
For example, what about the teams who manage our enterprise applications? In many cases, they are under pressure to modernize them, pressure applied by enterprise leaders who are seeing the opportunity presented by a digitally focused business and the threats from competitors who have improved engagement with their customers by delivering applications and services at speed and scale. The cloud has changed how customers expect services to work and therefore how we must do digital business. Customers lack tolerance for slow and cumbersome solutions and we will lose them to competitors who offer a better online experience.
Changing applications is hard. As with enterprise data, it’s not always as easy as saying “yes, of course, we can just run it in the cloud”. Often we have large monolithic applications running wide swathes of our internal business and our interactions with customers. It’s not a trivial task to change them because they are integrated with so many other internal systems and processes. Even if we are not saddled with that kind of setup, we can find ourselves limited in other ways. While we may have developers presenting new applications at a quick pace, the need to comply with enterprise‑level controls restricts how quickly we can deploy them. Developers are left waiting for network and security teams to provide the “go ahead” before they can publish new or revised code, slowing the speed of innovation that many businesses desire.
For those wanting to change the way they think about their application stacks, this is a real problem. How do we take a more application‑centric view when we are still limited by legacy applications and approaches, especially when reality dictates that those legacy approaches must still be very much a part of our plans?
NGINX Aims to Bridge the App Modernization Gap
With that in mind, when my friends at Gestalt IT introduced me to NGINX, it caught my attention because NGINX has explicitly built its business on tackling this challenge, by developing a solution stack to help bridge the application modernization gap.
NGINX has built a platform that is designed to start tackling some of the questions I’ve raised above, looking to provide a bridge that enables traditional workflows and applications to be more scalable, high‑performance, and API‑driven. For many enterprises, being able to innovate in the way they need to requires making applications more modern, flexible, and able to provide the interfaces and experiences that customers demand, without massively disrupting the other parts of the business that rely on traditional application interfaces and integrations.
There are other interesting and important parallels between the NGINX approach to applications and the way I see the modernization of enterprise data platforms. To build a modern data platform, there are some key required elements: insight, scale, automation, and security. These elements are reflected in the NGINX approach, which has built its own modern application platform with NGINX Controller [now F5 NGINX Management Suite] to consolidate many of the streams of modern application development, bringing monitoring, security, troubleshooting, and workflow management across multiple locations and clouds into one flexible platform.
As with changing the approach to data, changing the approach to application development and deployment is only going to become more crucial to the enterprise. There is no point in developing data strategies that deliver scale, portability, flexibility, and new ways to ensure that we get value, if we are not developing our applications in the same way. We need our applications to incorporate those same characteristics if we are to successfully transform our approach to meet the modern demands of our business, our workforce, and our customers.
Over the next two articles in this three‑part series, I’m going to take a look in more detail at the NGINX approach. First I’ll discuss how to modernize the approach to application development and to remove some of the hindrances in both process and technology that we face. Then I’ll explore some NGINX use cases as well as look more specifically at NGINX’s technology and how its approach can help your enterprise bridge the modernization gap.
This blog is part of a series about APIs and other trends in app modernization, written especially for NetOps engineers by industry experts and published in collaboration with Gestalt IT. If you enjoyed this blog, check out the entire series.