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Reflections on #NGINXConf 2019

It was a great privilege for me to fly to Seattle a couple of weeks ago and see colleagues, partners, customers, and community users coming together for NGINX Conf 2019: two jam‑packed days of keynotes and breakout sessions at the beautiful Sheraton Grand Seattle hotel. I joined NGINX in November 2018, and had heard about Conf since the start. Thankfully, I didn’t miss out on the fun this year, and even got interviewed about my excitement around the event! Now that it’s done for another year, I’m back in our EMEA offices in Cork, Ireland, and I’ve had some time to think about what I enjoyed the most.

Evolving Apps, Evolving Cultures

One of the major themes from this year’s Conf was the concept of applications as living organisms, as explained by Gus Robertson in his Day 1 keynote and blog. “My vision for this evolution is what I call the living app,” Gus noted, “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.” The concept was very well received, not only by attendees but also other speakers, who echoed Gus’ sentiments in their own presentations.

Digital evolution, however, does not just affect its own ecosystem, and this was proven very well at Conf. Several speakers, including Gus, highlighted our everyday dependence on the effective and reliable digital infrastructure of major brands, from Netflix to Domino’s, and how we only think about them when they fail our expectations. A great example of that is from our own Karthik Krishnaswamy, noting how easily a business can lose a customer in 3 seconds if its digital infrastructure falters.

Saving Lives, Literally

One of the most impactful and impressive talks took place on Day 2, when Aaron Mbuwa of DataposIT, a systems integrator based in Kenya and Uganda, described his team’s work with the Kenyan Ministry of Health and its National AIDS & STI Control Programme (NASCOP).

Aaron explained that by using NGINX as part of its digital architecture, his team helps ensure that doctors and other medical professionals can keep patients living with HIV updated about their health, cared for, and regularly treated. So in this case, by playing its role in an efficient digital platform and service, NGINX empowers others to literally save lives.

I don’t mean that statement to sound melodramatic, for there is a serious level of responsibility in such a realization. For me, personally, the human impact of the work we do at NGINX and F5 is what interests me most – ranging from helping you watch your new favorite show or order your favorite “cheat day” meal to enabling you to track your health status and live a normal life.

A Connected Ecosystem Through Apps

The phrase, “No man is an island,” may sound a little cliché, but the same can be said for a technology company. Sidney Rabsatt, Vice President of Product Management for NGINX at F5, made this point when he outlined our future plans and investments for NGINX, acknowledging our relationships with various new and long‑standing partners. A major new partner, of course, is F5, which announced various levels of investment, integration, and support for NGINX users on both the commercial and open source sides of the community.

“We’re relying on partners to expand and scale,” said Sidney as he took the stage for his keynote. “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.”

Examples of our work with partners include teaming up with Arm to reduce costs for customers running workloads in the cloud, and with NS1 for global server load balancing of websites and applications powered by NGINX Plus. Overall, the focus on open source and working across the digital ecosystem is crucial to enabling customers to build apps with a great range of options.

Leaving Seattle, I felt grateful to be present for so many great announcements and discussions about NGINX, F5, bridging the divide between DevOps and NetOps, and what that actually meant for both customers and open source users like. It made me very excited about the coming months at NGINX, and very proud to be part of the journey.

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