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Reduce Risk and Simplify the Journey to the Cloud

Updated March 24, 2015

Introduction

Our world today is unquestionably dominated by applications, and with the Internet permeating nearly every part of the globe, even the smallest organizations can have customers in multiple countries. To maintain their competitive edge, growing organizations need to provide the best possible service to their customers, whether they’re delivering corporate websites, e-commerce sites, social media sites, SaaS applications, or any combination of these. Key to providing the best service is the ability to deliver applications as close to the user as possible while still keeping costs under control. But how does an organization accomplish that, especially a small- or medium-sized one?

One option is to build out more data centers around the world, but outfitting and running operations in multiple locations worldwide is a costly proposition; it’s simply not economically feasible for many organizations to do so.

An alternative is to implement a hybrid cloud architecture using subscription-based cloud services. A hybrid cloud environment—one that combines private data center resources with public cloud resources—can be a viable option for many organizations, but there are several factors to consider and challenges to overcome so that risk is minimized.

Assessing the Challenges

All applications require services—specifically, application and networking services—to ensure that the applications themselves are highly available, secure, and always performing to users’ expectations. These services include anything from acceleration and traffic management to security, access control, and advanced management. IT organizations typically rely on a unique combination of solutions (often from multiple vendors) to provide such services.

This is all well and good until the organization considers migrating or expanding to the cloud and discovers that the cloud provider’s solutions are completely different from its own. Suddenly, the organization is faced with the prospect of abandoning its services in favor of the cloud provider’s services, which are an unknown quantity in terms of features and functionality. The organization has no familiarity or experience with the cloud provider’s services, and no guarantee that the cloud provider’s services will meet existing deployment standards. What’s more, by moving to the cloud, the organization gives up fine-grained control of those services, forfeiting its ability to manage and customize services to meet its unique business requirements.

To complicate things further, service offerings vary greatly from one cloud provider to another. This difference is especially pronounced when comparing the services of cloud providers in different countries, where regulatory requirements differ widely. It’s difficult enough for an organization to deal with the new and unfamiliar services of a single cloud provider, much less several providers. As a result, the challenges of migrating services to a public cloud platform can seem quite daunting for organizations that are considering using cloud providers in multiple locations.

Recognizing What’s Needed for Success

To overcome these challenges and alleviate risk, organizations need a unified platform that enables them to deliver and manage applications in a consistent way across the entire environment—whether that includes private data centers, multiple public cloud providers, or any combination thereof. F5 BIG-IP is just such a platform, delivering a broad range of Software Defined Application Services (SDAS)—the services that all applications need, such as performance, mobility, availability, access and identity control, and security. These services are “software defined” because F5 provides the programmability that organizations need in order to enable automation and orchestration within the environment and respond quickly to changing business demands. What makes F5 unique is that SDAS is available across all BIG-IP platforms. BIG-IP virtual editions (VEs) have the same features, and functionality of physical BIG-IP systems—and the operating system is constant across all form factors.

Application and networking services should not only be easy to provision, they should also be easy to procure. F5 offers several deployment and purchasing methods, including utility (pay-as-you-go) and direct licensing models. This enables organizations to take the application and networking services they know and trust from their private data centers directly into the cloud. And because the BIG-IP platform supports multiple hypervisors, organizations have a wide range of public cloud providers to choose from.

Reaping the Benefits

All of this should be welcome news for IT organizations, who aren’t necessarily aware that they have options in the cloud when it comes to application delivery. Realizing they have choices and a high degree of control over the environment opens up a whole new world of possibilities for them. They can begin to see beyond the borders of their own data centers and consider the potential benefits of expanding to a hybrid cloud model.

Whatever the individual benefits might be, however, they must not introduce risk. Let’s take a closer look at how the F5 platform delivers on that promise.

Consistency

Because F5 enables organizations to take all of their existing services and policies into the cloud environment, they can now achieve consistency across a hybrid cloud architecture. This would be virtually impossible to achieve without the “portability” of services and the policies that define them. The bonus is that the application and networking services BIG-IP solutions deliver—things like optimization, acceleration, access control, DNS services, and SAML federation, to name a few—will operate exactly the same way in the cloud. Consequently, there’s no need for an organization to build unique policies and configurations specifically to support applications they’re hosting in the cloud.

With F5 solutions, application and network services are applied consistently across every deployment environment

Take, for example, an organization with a production environment, a pre-production environment, and a development and test environment. Networking professionals have already built specific policies and configurations for each application based on their particular needs. They have tested and proven each configuration; they’re confident that it’s the fastest, most secure, and most highly resilient configuration for a particular application. As a result, they can be confident that when they drop that same configuration onto a BIG-IP VE in the cloud, it will deliver consistent results as expected.

Constancy

Implementing an F5 solution in the cloud means that an organization never has to make compromises—in terms of functionality, availability, security, or scalability. There is no need for an organization to lower its expectations based on the quality or availability of services the cloud provider offers, no need to adopt services that don’t align with an organization’s corporate standards, and no need to devise work-arounds.

Familiarity

Ninety-six percent of Fortune 50 companies already use F5 in their data centers, so expanding operations to the cloud offers distinct advantages for them. Their learning curve effectively drops to zero because there are no new tools to learn, and no new configurations and policies to create. Even for organizations that are not using F5 on premises, the fact that F5 offers a consistent, unified platform and services can make the prospect of a hybrid cloud deployment model feasible for them to consider—and far easier for them to implement from the ground up.

Economic Feasibility

Cutting costs is seldom a primary motivator for organizations that are considering a hybrid cloud deployment model. However, there are definitely cost-saving benefits to be gained by moving to a hybrid cloud model. Given the ability to deploy fully functional virtual appliances in the cloud, organizations avoid the vast capital expense of building out data centers in multiple locations, as well as the expense of managing multiple physical facilities. F5’s technology “bundles” not only enable organizations to buy the functionality that’s right for their needs, they also provide the best value for organizations that want to deploy advanced functionality (such as advanced security services) across the hybrid cloud environment. And because BIG-IP is a unified application delivery platform, organizations are able to consolidate multiple services onto a single platform, which further strengthens the cost benefits, whether implemented on physical or virtual appliances.

Conclusion

Organizations are seeking innovative ways to stay competitive and expand their operations globally without comprising the quality of the applications they provide. Until recently, embracing a hybrid cloud deployment model was a costly and potentially risky proposition. It meant an organization had to entrust the delivery of its applications to the cloud provider’s services, which are an unknown quantity in terms of features and functionality. Organizations no longer have to make such compromises. By taking advantage of F5’s unified platform (which includes fully-functional virtual editions) and the latest utility and licensing models, organizations can take their existing services and policies directly to the cloud, significantly reducing the risk of any cloud-based deployment model.