F5 Ups Application Security With Enhanced Distributed Cloud Services Platform, AI Assistant

F5’s Distributed Cloud Services platform, which includes updated capabilities from the company’s Shape Security purchase and NGINX Buy, also now includes new features from API security provider Wib, which F5 revealed it had acquired last week.

Multi-cloud application security and delivery specialist F5 is on a mission to make AI persistent throughout its entire portfolio and reduce multi-cloud application complexity, the company told CRN during its AppWorld 2024 event.

F5’s Distributed Cloud Services platform provides cloud-native, software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based application security and delivery services. This platform has now been injected with API code testing and telemetry analysis, according to Lisa Citron, vice president of F5’s Global Partner Ecosystem.

This will help customers, with the help of channel partners, keep their complex application environments protected and efficiently managed, said Citron (pictured).

“This is just a key enabler of how our customers are going to be able to safely apply AI through their code, and testing and telemetry analysis on Distributed Cloud Services. It’s a tremendous announcement for us. It’s going to make it ridiculously easy, which is a big theme for F5 and how our customers are able to secure their applications and API environments,” she told CRN.

[Related: F5 Transforms Volterra, Shape Security Buys Into Secure Edge Service, Distributed Cloud Platform]

Digital experiences are increasingly distributed, typically including a variety of data sources, models, and services across on-premises, cloud, and edge environments. These are connected by a large network of APIs. F5 is prioritizing the protection of these API connections and the data that runs through them, especially as enterprises deploy more AI-enabled services, according to the Seattle-based company.

“As the application and API security challenges that customers are facing [grew] wider, there’s absolutely been a need for one vendor to bring this all together. A lot of what we hear from customers and partners alike is that they’re dealing with trying to stitch many vendors together in order to solve a single problem,” Citron said.

Enterprises oftentimes use disparate tools to secure their APIs at build time and during runtime. With that in mind, Distributed Cloud Services now gives partners and end customers a full API security offering that combines capabilities API code analysis, testing, compliance analysis and threat surface assessment, the company said.

F5 also took to AppWorld 2024 to announce that it had acquired Israel-based API security provider Wib for an undisclosed sum. The company’s vulnerability detection and observability in application development processes is also now included in F5’s enhanced Distributed Cloud Platform.

The updates to the platform also include technology acquired via F5’s 2019 $1 billion Shape Security purchase, a company that specialized in application security, as well technology derived from F5’s NGINX purchase, a provider of open source, software-based application delivery, also completed in 2019.

The simplified management that F5 is introducing to its Distributed Cloud Services Platform is helping partners meet customers we’re they’re at with application management and security, said Lee Waskevich, vice president of security for solution provider giant and F5 partner ePlus.

“The ability now to take things like Distributed Cloud Services, Nginx, and Big IP, and be able to have a unified approach to how to how to manage these platforms together -- I think it’s critically important. As people want to think they’re going to live in one specific area, like a data center or one cloud, that’s not reality, so this is a bit unique,” Waskevich said.

Vendor consolidation, Waskevich added, is “huge” for ePlus.

“A lot of the conversations that we’re having with customers are not only about performance and security, but there’s a financial aspect to it … and resources are so scarce, [this can] help in terms of costs of training, and then also helping save in the amount of resources that you need because you don’t need that resident expert for every single piece of your environment,” he said.

AI-Powered App Security

F5 plans to release an AI assistant later this year that will change the way customers interact with and manage F5 solutions using a natural language interface, Citron said.

The forthcoming AI Assistant will be powered by the F5 AI Data Fabric and can be used to generate data visualizations, identify anomalies, query and generate policy configurations, and apply remediation steps. It will also provide recommendations to customers based on model training of entire product knowledge bases, F5 said.

The AI Assistant will be especially beneficial because users won’t have to think in terms of code, said ePlus’s Waskevich.

“You can think in terms of what you’re really trying to ask and hopefully, if implemented correctly, it’s able to provide you back the data that you look for,” he said. “The other thing that I like about the AI model is the fact that it’s able to suggest things that you may have overlooked or may not know to ask, so it’s able to provide back a more complete picture.”

This feature can help IT professionals, both partners and end customers alike, focus on more strategic IT tasks and address the skills gaps they may have in their environments, he added.