App-first stage of tech evolution is here: Parag Khurana, F5 Networks

"In 2018, we would see a lot more deliberate actions by companies to augment security of their applications," says Parag Khurana, Managing Director, India and SAARC at F5 Networks.

Apps have become an intrinsic part of most businesses today. F5 Networks firmly believes in the power of technology and its potential to offer better quality of lives to people across social spectrum. Parag Khurana, Managing Director, India and SAARC, F5 Networks talks on how modern businesses need to upscale and secure their IT infra in app-centric, mobile-first world. Edited Excerpts:

What will be the network fabric of Indian enterprises in terms of app complexity, heterogeneous nature, silos versus converged in 2018? Will it be very different than 2017?
As mobile phones become ubiquitous in India we will see more enterprises come online and offer their services through deployment of applications. With the applications getting delivered from data centres, private clouds, public clouds, SaaS platforms and more an integrated security strategy will become a necessary component of business more than ever. This does not mean that availability will be trumped. The size of India and the sheer scale at which business operate here will ensure that availability remains a business priority.

If one was to quantify, the five tools that will comprise network fabric of an Indian enterprise in 2018 will include network firewall, anti-virus, and spam mitigation, along with SSL VPN and load balancing. It is our view that even though security is a sensitive topic and boards are making every effort to bring it into mainstream consciousness, there is a lack of proactivity on this front. In 2018, we would see a lot more deliberate actions by companies to augment security of their applications. F5 study has found that security professionals are less confident of securing their data on a public cloud, as compared to the times when the apps are secured on premises. 2018 should change that scenario.

Apps are the new normal as they transform business models, operations, and engagements—with the advantages of speed, intelligence, and security key to shaping an organization's success.

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Parag Khurana, Managing Director India & SAARC, F5 Networks

Do you see key business needs and technology trends for modern businesses to have an infra with apps that are faster, smarter, and safer?
The essential requirement of any business is to minimize disruptions in its interaction with its customers. F5 is at the forefront of protecting businesses from downtime and accelerating the interactions of a business with its customers. Modern businesses today understand that the environment is mobile-first. The tools that they have hitherto relied upon are not capable of protecting their business from threats and do not contribute to enhancing efficiency.

Modern business need to rethink their approach of organizing their processes. We are now firmly in an Application-first stage of technology evolution. This informs our perspective and the trends that will compel modern business to invest in infrastructure. The focus for F5 is building visibility, context and control for our clients. F5 sits between users and applications and monitors all the traffic that passes in between; no matter where the user is or where the application is. This allows the business to manage and control every interaction, and additionally manage and direct encrypted traffic. 

Parag Khurana’s Bucket List for Indian CIOs in 2018

- Operate with an app-centric approach and build services with the balance of speed and security at the heart of their customer’s experience.

- CIOs need to move from traditional security architecture and shift to proactive measures.

- Establishing a security-first culture to safeguard a business from potential data and financial loss.

- To nurture talent and reduce the skills gap for qualified app developers.

- Apps are transforming business models, ops, and engagements - with speed, intelligence, and security key to shaping an organization's success.

As the networks become more complex, bandwidth-hungry and vulnerable to threats, what are the new-age demands of CIOs and datacenter mangers from technology vendors? 
The changing environment and the increasing use of application on personal devices have dramatically changed the demands of the CIOs. We feel that one demand on top of the CIOs mind will be building the Agile mind-set and making a continuous improvement in delivery of application services. 

CIOs would expect tech OEMs to make and offer services that are more readily consumed, available in the public cloud as it is on premise and in datacenter. Modern CIOs and IT leaders need a partner who is a trusted advisory to protect organization’s applications and securing its data.

At F5 Networks, we are focused to be a collaborative partner to our clients supporting them in overcoming challenges in server-load balancing and enhancing their access to and security of their applications. We believe that this will be accomplished through innovation using DevOps methodologies and strong NetOps domain knowledge. 

How different does F5 deliver cloud and security solutions for companies to embrace the application infrastructure without sacrificing speed and control? 
F5 is among the top-three most visible vendors from client shortlists for WAF. The large and scalable Big-IP platform portfolio allows F5's customers to bundle WAF with strong access management or load-balancing features, and to build clean architecture with single-pass decryption. These security solutions offer customization, SSL decryption mirroring to other security solutions, unified learning and policy building. 

With the help of support tools such as Chef, Ansible and Kubernetes we have already integrated F5 in to standard DevOps platforms. IRules scripting and the possibility it offers for accessing information or changing behavior for ASM is flexible. ASM offers decryption and extraction of files to send over ICAP connections.

5 key tools comprising the network fabric of Indian enterprise in 2018 include network firewall, anti-virus, spam mitigation, SSL VPN and load balancing.

In summary, what would be Parag’s key take ways or F5 recommendations for Indian CIOs in 2018 and beyond? 
CIOs must focus on building the right foundation, think about why they want to move apps, who needs access, what they want the users to do with them, and how are they are going to deliver them in a secure manner. In 2018, wiser companies will operate with an app-centric approach and build services with the balance of speed and security at the heart of their customer’s experience. With explosion in the use of apps in businesses and without a proper BYOD security policy in place a minor discrepancy can have a significant effect. This happens largely due to lack of cyber-awareness. CIOs need to move from traditional security architecture and shift to proactive measures.

Establish a security first culture to safeguard a business from potential data and financial loss. They should educate the employees on cybersecurity do’s and don’ts for working on confidential documents on a secured network or checking on the validity of an email from someone outside the organization. CIOs also need to nurture talent and reduce the skills gap for qualified app developers because shortage of app developers negatively impacts the security posture of an organization. And finally Apps have become the new normal. They are transforming business models, operations, and engagements—with the advantages of speed, intelligence, and security key to shaping an organization's success.