F5 Networks: Application Lifecycle Focus Is Giving Partners A 'Bigger Piece Of The Pie’

At its partner summit, F5 Networks told its channel that it will bring the technology and supply flexible consumption models while partners must focus on application lifecycle services.


F5 Networks is in the midst of a transition toward becoming a more software and cloud-focused firm alongside its customers, and partners that focus on application lifecycle can cash in on the digital transformation trend, according to F5 Networks President and CEO François Locoh-Donou.

Customers are constantly cycling through developing, deploying, operating and governing code, often across multiple cloud environments. It's a difficult process and the vast majority of customers doing it fast and at scale need help, Locoh-Donou said.

"Historically, we focused only on application delivery control, the private data center and one form of consumption -- private, proprietary hardware. We are expanding very significantly our role and our reach, and that creates opportunities for you and for us," Locoh-Donou told an audience of partners at the F5 Aspire Partner Summit on Thursday.

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[Related: F5 Networks CEO: Nginx Is ‘Absolutely Core' To F5's Strategy]

To help the channel address customer demand for application lifecycle services, Seattle-based F5 has rolled out a series of flexible consumption models, including an enterprise licensing agreement that has been "incredibly popular with customers," because it gives users a framework for adopting the F5 technology either on-premise or in the cloud, said Chad Whalen, executive vice president of global sales for F5. The company is also offering a subscription-based service that can be purchased and sold in one, two, or three-year intervals. F5 recently launched a metered, software-as-a-service option, which is offered through Amazon Web Services today.

GuidePoint Security, an F5 partner that serves both commercial and government customers, said that its clients appreciate the flexibility of subscription-based IT purchases that let them predict their costs.

"Rather than buying hardware year after year, subscriptions and ELAs give customers the flexibility to put licenses in the cloud and lets us bring the services that F5 provides to a larger customer base," said Jim Quarentillo, partner, federal accounts for GuidePoint Security.

Partner-led F5 does about 98 percent of its business through the channel today. With the acquisition of NGINX under its belt, F5's channel is now better equipped to help customers bridge the divide between classic architecture and next-generation architecture that includes microservices, said Tom Fountain, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for F5.

NGINX technology will address application lifecycle because it helps break down the separation between the NetOps team and the DevOps function, Fountain said. "With NGINX, we are trying to solve the need for agility from DevOps so they can quickly build applications, while still providing all the enterprise-grade reliability," he said.

DevOps teams need an integrated solution that makes security and other application services easy to consume, said Brian Ortbals, vice president of advanced technology for solution provider World Wide Technology (WWT), an F5 Networks partner.

"The alignment we’re seeing between the F5 and NGINX teams has been very impressive. The overall vision and strategy for integrations between the two products aligns very well with where our customers are headed. It's another quiver in the arrow for us," Ortbals said.

The NGINX acquisition is giving F5 partners access to a different buyer, said Ron Frederick, vice president of solutions architecture for Kudelski Security, Phoenix, Ariz.-based F5 partner.

"Often F5 is not seen to DevOps people as being friendly to their mission -- it's the old, slow, legacy way of doing things and NGINX is the new, hip way," Frederick said.

The acquisition is also giving F5 partners the ability to expand business within its existing customer footprint, said Tom Marsnik, vice president of engineering services for Kudelski Security.

"Our size of the pie just got bigger," said Colleen McMillan, F5 Networks’ global channels lead.