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NGINX Conf 2019, Day 1: Bringing Your Apps to Life, from Code to Customer

NGINX Conf 2019 kicked off in Seattle this morning at a pivotal time for NGINX, F5, and our mutual customers. Leaders from the two companies shared their vision of how the world of applications is evolving today, and how the companies are coming together as one.

The theme of this year’s NGINX Conf is “Level Up”, and each of today’s speakers lent a unique perspective on what leveling up entails for applications, infrastructure, and teams. In the end, organizations need a way to bridge the divide between DevOps teams, NetOps teams, SecOps teams, and users, with an eye toward increasing the speed to market for the next generation of what I term “living apps“.

Day 1 was jam‑packed with keynotes and panel discussions featuring executives, analysts, and customers. From among the intriguing sessions, here are three key takeaways from Day 1:

Takeaway #1: We’re Moving Toward a World of “Living Apps”

I kicked off the morning with a look at the major technological shifts we’re seeing as enterprises shift infrastructure to the cloud and applications become foundational to our everyday life and work. In this digital world, user expectations are rising and patience is declining. No one is willing to tolerate bad online experiences anymore.

The digital world has always accelerated, and it continues to evolve. As I told NGINX Conf attendees, “At this point, we’re dependent on digital experiences. It’s time to evolve your architecture. It’s time to evolve your apps. It’s time to bring your apps to life.”

My vision for this evolution is what I call the living app, where an application can grow autonomously as traffic comes in, shrink as traffic subsides, heal itself when broken, and defend itself when it’s being attacked.

As we evolve toward this vision, blending the digital and the physical world, machines will increasingly interact directly with one another, taking humans out of the loop. Apps will work much like the Industry 4.0 model, where the system has sensors that feed into a control center that uses AI to spot trends or anomalies and formulate smart decisions. The decisions are fed back into the system for ever‑evolving operational effectiveness.

In order to accelerate this level of innovation, organizations need a central control point that ties it all together with end-to-end visibility. AI and machine learning are necessary to learn in real time from the application, to make smart decisions, and to continue to evolve. And to accomplish this, open source is the only way.

As I said in my keynote, “At that point the app should just take care of itself, informing you and letting you adjust policy. Society is evolving to this point where we make apps come to life.”

Takeaway #2: We’re Helping Enterprises Increase the Velocity from Code to Customer

In this new world of applications, a company’s apps can be its most valuable asset. For traditional ecommerce firms, just minutes of downtime can equate to millions of dollars in lost revenue. For today’s digital‑native companies in particular, applications can represent billions of dollars in valuation – much more than traditional physical assets. In this environment, getting from code to customer as fast as possible is a huge differentiator and crucial to innovating and delivering new customer experiences.

My colleague Kara Sprague, Executive Vice President and General Manager of F5’s Application Services business unit, discussed how the combined power of F5 and NGINX creates the industry’s most complete portfolio across the data plane. Sprague laid out the company’s vision of how its new end-to-end offering can create more visibility, velocity, and ultimately volume for a company’s application portfolio.

“There are at least eight technologies in the data plane between the code and the customer,” Kara said. “And often customers have a different vendor for each of the eight. We’re aiming to consolidate this at all points of the application lifecycle: develop, deploy, secure and govern, and operate. We want you to be able to get your code to your customers in less than one day, and scale that to thousands of apps in a year.”

To do that, she said, customers need to remove friction from the process in terms of both the technologies they use and the teams using them: DevOps, SecOps, NetOps, and every other stakeholder. To arrive at the goal of building living apps, organizations need to be able to:

  • Deliver customer experiences at web scale with speed and reliability, the way today’s digital native companies can.
  • Reduce cycle times to develop and deploy apps in a matter of days rather than months.
  • Scale the number of apps they can take through this cycle every year, increasing velocity and volume for their application assets.
  • Secure and govern the portfolio – meaning all of the apps, not a subset.
  • Do it all with full visibility along the path from code to customer.

Getting there with the highest possible velocity means everything has to work seamlessly together. That’s why F5 is working to bring the most comprehensive set of data path capabilities, with a commitment to open source and working with partners.

Takeaway #3: We’re Building New Capabilities Across the Entire Ecosystem

Later in the morning session, my colleague Sidney Rabsatt, Vice President of Product Management for F5’s NGINX business unit, took the stage to describe how F5 is making investments in the future of its product portfolio. Just as applications are evolving, so are the company’s offerings, with a specific focus on facilitating living applications for its customers.

In discussing how F5 and NGINX products complement one another, Sidney discussed F5’s strong security assets and how being able to apply them surgically represents a great opportunity for customers. He also emphasized selfNGINX service capabilities, which enable teams within an organization to work collaboratively and access the services they need in the platform. Automation is also an imperative, as is governance.

“These features are what we’re building into the NGINX Controller platform, and form the basis of the new capabilities we’re announcing,” he said. “We bringing a lot of cool tech to bear on the NGINX platform as a module, so folks can access some of the coolness. The first thing we’re doing is promoting analytics to first class in the portfolio, so how the application is working is front and center.”

New capabilities in NGINX Controller include easier configuration and synchronization of customer intelligence. F5 is also bolstering its partner ecosystem, for example teaming with Arm to reduce costs for customers running workloads in the cloud, and with NS1 for global server load balancing for websites and apps powered by NGINX. In the end, the focus on open source and working across the ecosystem is key to enabling all customers to build applications with the biggest possible breadth of choice.

“We’re relying on partners to expand and scale,” he said. “We don’t exist within a vacuum. How we integrate into the ecosystem is very important. We’re not about being proprietary and locked in. We want to build the right integrations, the right hooks into the environments our customers require.”

Tune in Tomorrow for More Great NGINX Conf Content

With Day 1 of NGINX Conf on the books, on Day 2 we turn the page to deep dives. Tune into our livestream at 8:30 AM PT for:

  • A discussion of our commitment to open source
  • An update on NGINX open source projects, including NGINX Unit, and the NGINX Ingress Controller for Kubernetes
  • A review of the new features in NGINX Plus R19, released last week
  • A demo of the new NGINX Controller Analytics module
  • A demo of our new developer portal for API management
  • A preview of where we’re going with our service mesh solution
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