F5 moves beyond load balancing, into security

F5 officials say the company's application focus gives it an opportunity to shake up the security market.
F5 ANZ managing director Kurt Hansen addresses the F5 Agility Forum.

F5 ANZ managing director Kurt Hansen addresses the F5 Agility Forum.

F5 plans to bear down on the security and cloud markets in Australia and New Zealand, F5 officials said at the F5 Agility Forum on the Sunshine Coast. The company is steadily building partnerships to go beyond the load balancing and application delivery services that it’s known for.

F5 faces a “stigma” of being known as “the load balancing guys,” said F5 APAC solution architect, Adrian Noblett. The company should be called the “application proxy guys,” he said. “While load balancing is a function of what the application proxy does, application proxy is the secret sauce that has made us so successful.”

Security is a major recent focus for F5, which now includes firewall capabilities inside all its equipment, said F5’s managing director for the region, Kurt Hansen. Lonely Planet is a customer that added F5 firewalls in a recent IT refresh.

“It’s a market that’s two or three times larger than the traditional application delivery market that we’re playing in,” Hansen said. “There are some competitors in that market that are a bit stale. Customers are coming to F5 for security answers and saying, 'If you can [solve them], I don’t need to buy a new firewall.'"

Two or three years ago, customers bought F5 equipment mainly for application delivery purposes, “but then the security thing would come along and that would be the thing that would actually drive that decision quicker,” Hansen said. F5’s bank customers are especially focused on security, he said.

F5 is not “saying we’re going to be the panacea to all things security” or that “we’re going to replace every firewall,” Hansen said. F5 isn’t “the best marketing company,” with only eight marketing staff across the Asia-Pacific region. But with its equipment sitting between the user and the application, the “security market has come to us,” he said.

In addition to the security focus, F5 is now targeting mid-market businesses, recently creating a “commercial market team” for that purpose, he said.

F5 has also "invested a lot in focusing on the cloud players" because it has "seen a lot more of these applications being deployed by cloud,” Hansen said. A major opportunity is the “interrelation between the cloud providers and some of the enterprise customers like banks," he said. “Some of them are outsourcing, so we’re finding that working at both ends of that equation.”

The NBN will create more potential customers for F5, Hansen said. “We see the NBN as something that’s going to enable more consumerisation of IT and therefore there’s going to be greater demand for the things that we do.”

F5 has seen strong revenue growth in recent years, Hansen said. The company counts 12 of 13 banks and all the telcos in Australia and New Zealand as customers, and is also doing well in the public sector market, he said.

“We’ve developed a really strong telco business down here” and are investing significantly in that space," Hansen said. “We’ve got opportunities in the six mobile carriers in Australia and New Zealand,” contributing to the “core fundamentals of the 4G LTE rollout."

Meanwhile, F5 is spending more time with partners and overseeing an “aggressive” accreditation program, Hansen said. “We know that we can’t continue to grow unless we invest in our partners."

F5 has signed White Hat as a security partner and is seeking more security partnerships in the local market, he said. “We’re in the process of evaluating some of those new partners,” he said.

The partnerships are important, said Noblett, because F5 has no ambition to be “everything to all people—the jack of all trades but the master of nothing."

Adam Bender attended F5 Agility Forum as a guest of F5.

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags: New Zealand, f5, load balancing, Australia, customers, banks, Partnerships, telcos, NBN, application proxy, Cloud, security
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