Edge computing on the rise as containerization expands

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New research from F5 shows that edge computing is evolving fast to help enterprises to support modular application components residing in containers across multiple cloud and edge locations

According to the 7th annual State of Application Strategy Report (SOAS)1, 76% of globally surveyed organizations are already using – or have plans to use – the edge to capture benefits related to application deployment, performance, and data availability. 39% of respondents reported that edge computing would be strategic in the coming years.

The edge—which is different for each industry and business function—enables new services and better performance by placing applications as close as possible to the sources and users of data,” said Mohammed Abukhater, F5’s VP of Sales for the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, speaking at a media event in Dubai this week.

“What we’re seeing today is that the edge is evolving to meet the need of enterprises to support modular application components that reside in containers across multiple cloud and edge locations. Containers enable faster, more efficient, more consistent deployment, and placing them at the edge can improve scalability and the customer experience, among other benefits.”

F5’s SOAS analysis shows that burgeoning interest in the edge is already being reflected in organisations’ decision-making when seeking application security and delivery technologies. As in previous years’ SOAS reports, the ease of use and reduction in total cost of ownership were the first and second most-desired characteristics when evaluating a purchase. This year, however, multi-cloud availability shot up the list from eighth in 2020 to third place, reiterating a growing demand for increasingly distributed applications.

Applications management across on-premises, cloud data centers and the edge

The SOAS report found that 87% of organizations operate both modern and traditional architectures.

COVID-19 is seen as one of the main reasons for this year’s growth in the number of architectures.  According to nearly half of survey respondents, the pandemic also accelerated their organizations’ movement to the cloud and to SaaS. The trend was already underway, but it jumped forward when workloads were redistributed away from on-premises data centers to address a suddenly remote workforce and digital-first economy. Application deployments in the cloud (both IaaS and SaaS) are accelerating, while the pace of on-premises deployments slowed.

SOAS concludes that the pandemic-fueled interest in the cloud is unlikely to be reversed: looking forward, more than three-quarters of organizations plan to maintain current deployment levels across public clouds, colocation, and SaaS.

Meanwhile, on-premises deployments will continue, with slightly more than half of organizations expecting to maintain their current levels. But, even as 27% of respondents have repatriated or plan to repatriate applications from the public cloud, the platform has proven viable. Workloads will flow between cloud and on-premises data centers as it makes sense for the organization.

Application security and delivery technology solutions on the move

More than 70% of organizations now host application security and delivery technology in on-premises data centers. With cloud deployments increasing‚ more than two- thirds of respondents also host application security and delivery technology in the cloud, which is almost at parity with on-premises deployments. According to the SOAS report, the two are not mutually exclusive, since the average organization uses two hosting locations.

As part of architectural shift, 15% of organizations are now hosting application security and delivery technology at the edge, whereas 56% of respondents identified the secure access service edge (SASE) as a key strategic trend.

“Our increasingly distributed reality has made the edge a new imperative,” said Samir Sahil, Cloud Services and Volterra specialist at F5.  “In a sense, the edge is just the next step outward in an expanding universe of distributed applications, with benefits—and drawbacks— aligned with those of multi-cloud strategies. As a result, application security and delivery technology that’s easy to use and works across architectures is more crucial than ever—not only to make the lives of IT teams easier but because without such support, other efforts to improve performance, including a move to the edge, can’t yield optimal returns.”

Edge Use Cases

Additional SOAS analysis noted that data analytics represents a key edge use case, enabling the insights required for digital transformation initiatives.

Another emerging use case for the edge is the distribution of modern workers. More than a third of surveyed respondents (42%) will support a fully remote workforce for the foreseeable future. Only 15% plan to require all employees to return to the office. With remote work becoming the norm, businesses face increased pressure to provide secure, fast remote access to all applications—including any that may have been less accessible in the pandemic’s first year.

Currently, the most common edge use cases in play for organizations are improving application performance (43%) and collecting data or enabling analytics (42%). Other key priorities are real-time computing, analysis, and processing (34%), rearchitecting global networks (31%) and IoT deployments (30%).

F5 and Volterra

F5’s ability to harness the power of the edge was significantly bolstered in January this year by the acquisition of Volterra, which offers the first universal edge-as-a-service platform.

With the addition of Volterra’s technology, F5 is creating an edge platform built for enterprises and service providers that will be security-first and app-driven with unlimited scale.

“Current edge approaches were not designed with enterprises in mind,” said Ankur Singla, founder of Volterra, speaking after the acquisition was finalized.  “When Volterra was founded, we knew the edge would need to be delivered with the scale of public clouds, but with management and security integrated with the data centers where so many enterprise apps still live. Given F5’s leadership in Adaptive Applications and their vast enterprise customer base, I could not imagine a better partner to empower customers’ business transformation through modern apps.”

Volterra’s unique multi-cloud technology solves key edge and security problems and has allowed it to quickly gain more than fifty enterprise customers, including three of the top fifteen global telcos.

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