Gitex Global 2022: F5 aims to bring better digital world to life


F5 is a multi-cloud application services and security company committed to bringing a better digital world to life. The company partners with the world’s largest, most advanced organisations to optimise and secure every app and API anywhere. This includes on-premises, the cloud and at the edge.

F5’s participation in Gitex Global, which ended in Dubai on Friday, included showcasing the scale and impact of our Distributed Cloud Services platform. A major expansion of its application security and delivery portfolio, F5 Distributed Cloud Services delivers security, multi-cloud networking, and edge-based computing solutions on a unified software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform. The platform also encompasses F5 Distributed Cloud WAAP (Web Application and API Protection), which augments multiple security capabilities across F5 technologies in a single SaaS offering.

F5 also launched ‘A Force For’ campaign in the Middle East, emphasising how cybersecurity impacts individuals in all walks of life.

Khaleej Times spoke with Mohammed Abukhater, regional vice-president for the Middle East, Africa and Turkey markets, on the sidelines of the biggest technology event in the region. Edited excerpts from the interview:

What are the major cybersecurity trends in the Middle East?

As organisations enhance digital services for users and pursue a wider breadth of infrastructure models to improve performance and reduce costs, application service environments have become more complex. Research from F5’s 2022 State of Application Strategy Report reveals that as many as 88 per cent of organisations operate both legacy and modern application architectures. Around 70 per cent also operate in multiple clouds, which expands the threat surface area as companies are forced to deploy separate, and often inconsistent, security controls across different environments. Besides, 78 per cent of organisations are currently focused on application programming interface (API) security measures.

How do your solutions help organisations to enhance their cybersecurity?

Nearly all organisations find themselves at the epicentre of two significant trends: The evolution of applications as the centre of their customers’ digital lives and the escalation of threats against them. At F5, we’ve transformed both our business and portfolio to meet these challenges. F5 Distributed Cloud Services is central to this shift, offering a new approach to app security with SaaS-based solutions that are centrally managed but can be deployed anywhere the app needs to be. This maximises business impact and delivers a superior customer experience.

What message would you like to give to the customers visiting the show and why should they meet you?

Businesses across the world are ramping up their abilities to provide fast, seamless digital experiences.

We’re now seeing that organisations are starting to anticipate greater automation as IT and operational technology convergence. In addition, they are embracing the promise of artificial intelligence (AI) to adapt to conditions that change faster than ever. At the heart of all this are applications, and their safe deployment across multiple clouds. Today, organisations have the freedom to choose the ideal deployment and consumption model for each app security and delivery technology, depending on priorities and what they want to achieve.

What other messages or research did you expound at the show?

IT decision-makers in the UAE are doubling down on their digital transformation efforts, according to new research by market insight specialists YouGov..

Commissioned by F5 ahead of Gitex, the findings highlight encouraging progress and awareness for emerging technologies set to underpin the nations’ future transformation plans.

Driven by consumer demand and expanding app portfolios, most decision-makers ranked 5G top of their trends chart (62%), followed by multi-cloud networking (42%). The integration of IT systems with operational technology (OT) claimed third place (38%). Thirty-six per cent also flagged the importance of Web Application and API protection (WAAP) services, which encompass WAF, DDoS protection, bot management, and API protection, and 34% are keeping an eye on AIOps platforms (combining big data and machine learning functionality to support all primary IT operations functions).

Digital transformation gains customer-centric teeth

The focus of all respondents’ digital transformation missions centred on customer-centricity and operational efficiencies.

Moreover, 44 per cent are employing AI and machine learning to automate and optimize business processes for efficiency and/or effectiveness (e.g., fixing workflow bottlenecks in customer service). Around 44 per cent are also automating business processes by integrating applications (e.g., multi-channel communications between chat and website, a seamless experience between mobile app and desktop for a digital banking or e-health solution).

In other future-seeking moves, 40 per cent are using AI and machine learning to augment operations and 36 per cent are employing APIs to create new or participate in third-party ecosystems (e.g., open banking or social media logins).

In terms of specific digital transformation benefits, 46 per cent hailed employee productivity improvements (improved collaboration and decision-making), followed by increased revenue (42%), operational IT efficiency (40%) and new business/market penetration opportunities (38%). Ap

YouGov noted both growth and increased distribution of app portfolios; 31 per cent of respondents work for organizations with between 100 and 500 applications in play. Around 19 per cent juggled portfolios of between 500 and 1000 apps.

Zooming in further, application services are increasingly deployed in a variety of different environments, with a high percentage of organisations using a mix of models. While 44 per cent use public cloud, 40 per cent leverage managed services and 36 per cent use on-premises solutions. The popularity of edge (32%), co-location (27%) and Software-as-a-Service (22%) deployments further underline a shift towards app heterogeneity.

Notably, half of all UAE decision-makers are now deploying modern apps (mobile, cloud-native and microservices).

How to navigate multi clouds?

Around 71 per cent of UAE respondents indicated that cloud services spend was up in the past year. In related projections, 36 per cent expect more than 50 per cent of their app portfolio to be hosted in the cloud within the next three years.

The most prominent emerging strategic cloud trends over the next three years include Security-as-a-Service (34%), SaaS (31%) and private cloud services (31%).

When asked about app deployment challenges across multiple clouds, 36 per cent said they struggled to manage the complexity of management tools and APIs. In addition, 35 per cent highlighted the difficulty in applying consistent security policies across all apps. Other enduring headaches include complying with regulations (32%), migrating apps between clouds/data centers (32%), and gaining visibility into application health (31%).

Security also remains a perennial challenge, with 84 per cent reporting that they would benefit from additional cybersecurity expertise in their organisation. Skill gaps were flagged for network security (24%), multi-cloud (21%) and public cloud (20%).