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The Global Movement to the Cloud is at a Critical Juncture: Mike Rau, SVP, Enterprise Technical Strategy, F5

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In an in-depth conversation with Express Computer, Mike Rau, SVP, Enterprise Technical Strategy at F5, shares his expert perspectives on the global transition to cloud environments, emphasising the transformative trends, challenges, and solutions in this space. Rau discusses the critical importance of cloud adoption for organisations seeking competitive parity and enhanced operational capabilities, highlighting how F5’s suite of distributed cloud services is addressing visibility, control, and security challenges in modern application deployment. He elaborates on F5’s SaaS-based security solutions, the role of AI and telemetry in enhancing application reliability, and the specific strategies tailored for the rapidly digitalising Indian market. Additionally, Rau outlines F5’s priorities for the coming years, focusing on supporting Indian enterprises in their digital transformation journeys through advanced application delivery infrastructures.

As organisations, especially in the Indian market, transition to the cloud, how do you perceive the global evolution of cloud environments? What key trends are shaping this landscape?

The global movement to the cloud has reached a critical point where organisations that resisted the transition are realising they cannot match the robustness, reliability, performance, and security of cloud infrastructures on their own. Even those maintaining on-prem environments are increasingly integrating cloud services to leverage advanced technologies like machine learning and generative AI, which are difficult to replicate internally. This shift is making cloud adoption almost mandatory, driven by the need for competitive parity and enhanced operational capabilities.

What are the primary challenges businesses face when deploying applications in cloud-native environments, and how can these challenges be effectively tackled? How is F5 helping in this regard?

The main challenges include the visibility, control, and security of applications. As applications become more distributed across on-premise, edge, and multiple cloud providers, maintaining visibility of application components and their interactions becomes complex. Control over traffic flow and ensuring optimal performance are another significant challenge. Lastly, securing these distributed applications is crucial. F5 addresses these challenges through our distributed cloud services, which provide a platform to manage the visibility, control, and security of modern, distributed applications effectively.

Can you give an overview of F5’s suite of distributed cloud services, with a focus on its SaaS-based security and network solutions? How are these solutions addressing the evolving security needs of businesses?

F5’s distributed cloud services are all SaaS-based and focus on Web App and API Protection (WAAP). This includes Layer 3, 4, and 7 DDoS capabilities, Web App Firewall, API security, and bot prevention. Our services can be delivered from F5’s infrastructure or deployed within customers’ environments, offering a hybrid deployment model. This flexibility and our extensive experience in application security, bolstered by technologies from acquisitions like Shape Security for bot prevention and Volterra for API discovery, enable us to provide robust, effective security solutions.

How is F5 leveraging API testing and telemetry to enhance the reliability and security of cloud-native applications?

Through our acquisitions of WIB Security and Hayhack, we have enhanced our capabilities for continuous penetration testing of APIs and web apps, both before and after deployment. WIB’s technology allows us to perform code scanning to detect vulnerabilities before APIs are deployed, ensuring early detection and mitigation. Additionally, our continuous penetration testing and proactive defence mechanisms help close vulnerabilities in real-time, reducing the risk window significantly. Our goal is to provide a closed-loop system that detects, protects, and informs to ensure robust security

With the expansion of F5’s offerings to include AI-ready API security solutions, how do you envision this technology revolutionising security measures for businesses?

AI is most effective when powered by rich data, which we collect extensively through telemetry from user interactions and applications. By feeding this data into generative AI models, we can identify unique insights and anomalies, providing advanced security measures. Our competitive advantage lies in the depth and breadth of our data, which allows us to train AI models more effectively and generate actionable security insights, setting us apart in the industry.

How does F5 mitigate risks associated with the introduction of new APIs while streamlining security solutions for enterprises?

Our focus on API-specific code scanning through WIB’s technology helps identify vulnerabilities and expose sensitive data before deployment. By minimising false positives, we ensure that developers trust and act on the security insights provided. Additionally, our tools for continuous penetration testing and proactive defence mechanisms help secure APIs post-deployment, ensuring that vulnerabilities are addressed promptly and effectively.

Could you provide insights on the introduction of distributed cloud data fabric and AI assistance within F5’s portfolio? How are these innovations enhancing customer engagement and solution management?

Our AI data fabric acts as a data lake for telemetry, collecting insights from both our SaaS and non-SaaS products like Big IP and NGINX. The AI assistant leverages this data to provide enhanced interaction, allowing customers to query data and gain performance and security insights. By profiling applications and identifying behavioural patterns, we can detect anomalies and potential vulnerabilities, enhancing overall application security and performance

What strategies is F5 employing to cater to the specific needs and demands of the Indian market, given its rapid digitalisation trends?

India’s dynamic market, driven by innovations in digital payments and extensive mobile technology use, presents unique opportunities and challenges. We are focused on leveraging these innovations to develop solutions that meet the specific needs of Indian enterprises and government entities. Additionally, we recognise India as a significant talent pool for our development efforts in Hyderabad and Bangalore, contributing to our global technological advancements.

Beyond BFSI and fintech, which other industries do you see potential for F5 to revolutionise or add value to?

F5’s solutions are applicable across any industry driven by applications and APIs. While BFSI and government are key focus areas due to their regulatory requirements, our horizontal capabilities in application delivery and security make us relevant to various sectors globally, from retail to healthcare, where secure and efficient application delivery is critical.

What are your focus areas and priorities for the next couple of years, specifically for the Indian market?

Our primary focus is on helping customers build new application delivery infrastructures that offer better visibility, control, and security. We aim to work with industry partners like Red Hat to develop these new architectures, as traditional approaches are becoming inadequate. The goal is to support Indian enterprises in their digital transformation journeys, ensuring they can scale and secure their applications effectively.

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