products-apm-icon-100There once was a time when organizations wouldn’t consider deploying critical applications in the cloud. It was too much of a business risk from both an access and an attack perspective—and for good reason, since 28 percent of enterprises have experienced more security breaches in the public cloud than with on-premises applications. This is changing, however. Over the last few years, cloud computing has emerged as a serious option for delivering enterprise applications quickly, efficiently, and securely. Today almost 70 percent of organizations are using some cloud technology. And that approach continues to grow. According to the latest Cisco Global Cloud Index report, global data center IP traffic will nearly triple over the next five years. Overall, data center IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25 percent from 2012 to 2017.

This growth is to support our on-demand, always connected lifestyle, where content and information must be accessible/available anytime, anywhere, and on any screen. Mobility is the new normal, and the cloud is the platform to deliver this content. No wonder enterprises are scrambling to add cloud components to their existing infrastructure to provide agility, flexibility, and secure access to support the overall business strategy. Applications that used to take months to launch now take minutes, and organizations can take advantage of innovations quickly. But most IT organizations want the cloud benefits without the risks. They want the economics and speed of the cloud without worrying about the security and integration challenges.

Use of the corporate network itself has become insecure, even with firewalls in place. Gone are the days of “trusted” and “untrusted,” as the internal network is now dangerous. It'll only get worse once all those IoT wearables hit the office. Even connecting to the corporate network via VPN can be risky due to the network challenges. Today, almost anything can pose a potential security risk, and unauthorized access is a top data security concern.

Going against the current trend, some organizations are now placing critical applications in the cloud and facing the challenge of providing secure user access. This authentication is typically handled by the application itself, so user credentials are often stored and managed in the cloud by the provider. Organizations, however, need to keep close control over user credentials, and for global organizations, the number of identity systems can be in the thousands, scattered across geographies, markets, brands, or acquisitions. It becomes a significant challenge for IT to properly authenticate the person (whether located inside or outside the corporate network) to a highly available identity provider (such as Active Directory) and then direct them to the proper resources. The goal is to allow access to corporate data from anywhere with the right device and credentials. Speed and productivity are key.

Authentication, authorization, and encryption help provide the fine-grained access, regardless of the user’s location and network. Employee access is treated the same whether the user is at a corporate office, at home, or connected to an open, unsecured Wi-Fi network at a bookstore. This eliminates the traditional VPN connection to the corporate network and also encrypts all connections to corporate information, even from the internal network.

In this scenario, an organization can deploy the BIG-IP platform, especially virtual editions, in both the primary and cloud data centers. BIG-IP intelligently manages all traffic across the servers. One pair of BIG-IP devices sits in front of the servers in the core network; another pair sits in front of the directory servers in the perimeter network. By managing traffic to and from both the primary and directory servers, the F5 devices ensure the availability and security of cloud resources—for both internal and external (federated) employees. In addition, directory services can stay put as the BIG-IP will simply query those to determine appropriate access.

While there are some skeptics, organizations like GE and Google are already transitioning their corporate applications to cloud deployments and more are following. As Jamie Miller, President & CEO at GE Transportation, says, 'Start Small, Start Now.'

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