Application services: The heartbeat of today’s app driven world


18 January 2016
Marty Young of F5 Networks

Applications sit at the heart of today’s world. They power businesses, serve customers and drive revenue. Emerging technologies open up fresh opportunities but they also bring about new challenges and a lot more complexity. A recent study found that almost half of all Asia Pacific organisations now use up to 200 applications within their business.

When it comes to managing applications today, the span of control is shifting, forcing organisations to think about how applications can be deployed in a manner that is flexible and profitable. 

Just about every application utilises some form of an application service to address challenges with performance (ability for apps to react quickly when used), security (using apps in a secured manner), or availability (making apps always available). Ultimately, in order to experience a seamless experience between applications and end users, organisations find themselves having to deploy and manage multiple application services.

Why application services are generating so much buzz these days  

Application services comprise a suite of technology or services that enhances availability, security and acceleration for the application. An application service is not the application itself – it is a technology or service for the environment that an application is deployed on.

Application services can include a wide array of functions, from the traditional load balancing technologies that F5 first became known for, to the richer and advanced application delivery technologies. These include application security, mobility, availability, performance and access, as well as identity management.

Application services act as an intermediary that enable applications to perform the tasks that they simply cannot do or at least cannot do at scale. They communicate in both network and application protocols: the former allows them to be in the data path, while the latter provides them with the capabilities to focus on applications and their data. At a top line level – application services can be described as highly specialised application logic deployed on high performance, high capacity proxy platforms in the critical data path, within the network.

The application services market today

Application services are more important than ever due to the rising use of applications across the organisation. Organisations will also be looking for these application services to be customised to meet their individualised requirements. 

However, most organisations are at different stages of maturity in relation to their overall adoption of applications and application services and as such, tend to have different priorities when it comes to application delivery.

  • Application security is priority number one

With increasingly sophisticated security threats wreaking havoc for businesses of all sizes, it is not surprising that application security services have become a key focus. Of all application services, security is by far the most popular with enterprises, according to F5’s State of Application Delivery 2015 report. The most popular security applications services on the market are anti-virus and network firewall, with 72 per cent of organisations deploying these services.

This is followed by availability, identity and access, and then performance. The report found that the majority of organisations have already deployed services like SSL VPN, while identity federation, application access control and single sign-on are all earmarked for implementation over the coming year by around a quarter of organisations.

  • APAC yet to jump on cloud bandwagon

The Asia Pacific market currently lags behind the rest of the world in terms of cloud adoption within the context of the application services space. Just 11 per cent of security application services on average are deployed in the cloud, with the vast majority of organisations preferring to keep it on premise. Nevertheless, this is changing as organisations increasingly find the lure of cloud irresistible. In fact, 41 per cent of organisations envision up to 25 per cent of applications being moved to the cloud by 2016, while almost a quarter estimate it to be 25-50 per cent, according to same report.

While most Australian and Asia Pacific organisations are aware of the importance of application services, the industry can also expect to see application deployments expand beyond the data centre to include public, private and hybrid cloud models. While the complexity and diversity of application services is fast evolving, the success of these services will rely heavily on their ability to ensure the consistent, smooth and secure operation of applications for the enterprise.

Marty Young is a senior engineer at F5 Networks.