This week saw 500 F5 customers, partners and staff descend on the Copenhagen Congress Centre for two days of informative key notes, breakout sessions and networking opportunities. This year, #F5Agility2014 marked another year of technological innovations in our space; the emergence of SDN, the ongoing business challenges around implementing new technologies within the context of constantly changing markets, and building on the conversations of previous years around networks, cloud and security.

Throughout the two day event, we’ve had a huge amount of information to digest, but here are my top ten learnings from the week:

  1. John McAdam highlighted the F5 vision: “Applications without constraints,” which set the tone for the sessions during Agility. Neil Rickard, Research Vice President Gartner, looked at the broader context, with “the accelerating pace of things we used to buy in boxes becoming cloud services,” opening up the discussion around IT infrastructure as a whole – from the datacentre to the application and everything in between
  2. DDoS protection is no longer just about on-premise solutions. John McAdam, President and CEO F5 Networks, outlined how the Versafe and Defense.Net acquisitions are building on the options available to customers, with off-premise and subscription models. Karl Triebes, F5 CTO, expanded on the advances in cyber security too – highlighting how F5 now has 67 different volumetric attacks accounted for when it comes to implementing a DDoS strategy
  3. Manny Rivelo, EVP, Service Provider and Security Solutions at F5, stated that “it’s an application world” and that “the internet of things is exploding all around us.” According to Manny, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of the applications – which could explain why organising and understanding applications became another recurring theme of the sessions
  4. There was a great deal of discussion this year around how the network and IT infrastructure is changing. Those who are successful will be able to manage applications which are on and off premise and ensure all applications receive the same level of security and reliability, wherever they are stored. As to be expected, SDN took a significant proportion of the discussion, with Karl Triebes neatly explaining how SDN is simply a case of having a holistic view, with policy based management of IT infrastructure. With centralised content to operationalise the network, this is something which most businesses should take initial steps towards this year
  5. Manny quoted the PwC 2014 CEO Study which revealed that “80% of CEOs believe that technology advancements will drive the transformation of business over the next five years. And yet, many aren’t preparing for this shift
  6. The changing way in which IT is procured was also a key theme from the event. F5’s Good, Better, Best model around perpetual licensing and subscriptions outlined how, from basic traffic management to firewalls, customers are looking for new solutions to their challenges – but often without the desire to own all the services they use. Bring your own license (BYOL) is something which I’m sure we’ll hear more of in the coming months
  7. Karl Triebes took on the subject of architecture. In fact, as he put it, “it’s all about the architecture.” As Karl went on to explain, businesses have an obligation to provide services to their customers and employees, regardless of the type of infrastructure. The premise of a “high-performance services fabric”, enabling businesses to run services, scale and make applications highly available, regardless of infrastructure, is a challenge which many of the event attendees are tackling right now
  8. Neil Rickard, Research Vice President at Gartner took to the stage to discuss “Cloud, SDN and the evolution of Enterprise Networking.” He highlighted how, through 2015, at least 50% of cloud deployments will suffer from performance issues due to the network. Neil highlighted how the biggest benefit of virtualisation and cloud computing is increased data centre agility….but that the biggest barrier to this agility is network provisioning time. The survival of IT is dependent on the ability to offer this agility, so ensuring the network will be crucial
  9. Neil also predicted that the industry as a whole is going to be forced to use more standards in the modern world. In order to prepare for this, he recommended that businesses need to think about different zones within the network, standardise and revisit all security procedures every 12 months. Above all though, Neil recommended that businesses map all significant applications, immediately, to understand performance needs, availability needs (particularly which applications are business critical) and where the users are. This will make the process far more straightforward should you need to move an application location e.g. to the cloud
  10. Context is still key. Whether ensuring reliability or protecting against cyber threats, understanding where information and applications are being accessed from, and who by, continues to provide the insights which businesses need in order to make informed decisions about technology. As a spokesperson for KLM discussed during a panel sessions with Dean Darwin, Senior Vice President Worldwide Marketing F5, “if there’s a weather problem or ash cloud situation, almost all of our traffic switches to mobile. And we need to be prepared for that.”

As Lizzie Cohen-Laloum, Senior Vice President EMEA Sales, stated when she opened the event, “Our industry never stands still – and that’s why we all love working in it.”

We hope you all enjoyed joining us at #F5Agility2014. Here’s to another successful year!