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Transforming the customer experience with edge computing

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The COVID-19 pandemic has colored every facet of our lives over the past year. The way we do business is no exception.

As everything from shopping and dining to healthcare and business collaboration has gone digital, it’s essential for companies to deliver the streamlined and secure experience their customers expect. The fact is that today’s users simply have no tolerance for slow, clunky, or poorly performing applications. It’s no surprise, therefore, that enterprises are accelerating their adoption of edge computing, which enables new services and better performance by placing application logic as close as possible to the sources and users of data.

What does this mean for the people who increasingly rely on applications to help them navigate their lives?

The human face of the edge

I believe that edge computing is not just the next technological evolution—it’s a key enabler of essential human activities. In retail, for example, we know that the shopping app that searches inventory, enables purchases, suggests complementary items, and connects users to customer service is actually a collection of applications and microservices linked together through APIs. Real-time processing at the edge allows modern applications like these to respond almost instantaneously to user requests—and even predict behavior.

Edge computing has the potential to change the way we interact and do business in almost every aspect of our lives.

In manufacturing, for example, the edge can ensure an efficient global supply chain, which means that people get the goods or medicines they need when they need them. In the world of healthcare, edge computing can lead to better outcomes by making real-time in-hospital patient monitoring possible. Add predictive maintenance, smart city grids that respond automatically to changing conditions, and augmented reality applications and it’s clear that edge computing opens up a world of nearly limitless possibilities.

However, all these possibilities have ratcheted up customer expectations as well. If you can’t provide the experiences customers expect—or if you sacrifice security for performance—they’ll find a competitor that can.

Delivering on the potential of the edge, while ensuring that your customers and their data stay secure is a tall order. But are current edge platforms up to the task?

The problem with existing edge solutions

Today’s digital experiences are complex. Companies often must manually stitch together a combination of multiple networks, clouds, CDNs, and edges… a process that is both costly and labor-intensive. Plus, each of those platforms has a unique set of tools and services that must also be learned and managed.

Behind the curtain of that slick digital experience is a fragile state held together with bubble gum and duct tape. How do you move from that fragility to agility?

Some do it by sacrificing security for speed. But the distributed nature of applications and mixture of application architectures and deployment environments exposes new ways for attackers to exploit vulnerabilities, which makes application security even more critical. Because attacks can lead to breaches. And the result of those breaches? Loss of trust, customer abandonment, and long-term damage to the brand.

Current edge providers don’t address the needs we see with our customers because CDNs are just that: content delivery networks. They weren’t meant for applications, they weren’t designed to simplify management and operations across a multi-cloud landscape, and they don’t make security a top priority.

At F5, we knew there had to be a better way. That’s why we’re creating the first edge platform built for enterprises and service providers: we call it Edge 2.0.

Enabling transformative experiences for human lives

We want to enable app teams to build an application once, and then distribute it everywhere—without retooling it for each environment. Edge application security and delivery are integral parts of a digital pipeline and distribution process.

Here are the three pillars of the Edge 2.0 platform:

  • Security-first: In a world where applications are constantly under attack, security can’t be an add-on; it has to be built in. Edge 2.0 will deliver industry-leading application security and fraud solutions used by the world’s largest banks, service providers, and government organizations as an easily deployed SaaS-based offering.
  • App-driven: In Edge 2.0, the application is the hero. By providing a consistent and consolidated set of capabilities and policies, you can free developers to do what they do best: build great digital experiences that attract and retain customers.
  • Unlimited scale: Because business is global, Edge 2.0 offers software-defined services that can infinitely scale up or move around. You won’t need to be tied to a single platform or CDN, which creates much-needed flexibility and speeds time to market without sacrificing security.

The heightened pace of digital transformation is unlikely to slow—and I believe that edge computing will only become more critical in coming years. To better deliver on the promise of the edge, organizations need an open edge platform with the benefits of distributing applications close to end users, delivering best-in-class security, and offering true portability and unlimited scale.

We’re designing the Edge 2.0 platform to make it easier for businesses to create transformative experiences for human beings. By powering immersive and secure digital experiences, Edge 2.0 will enable better healthcare, safer supply chains, highly efficient cities, and—ultimately—happier, more fulfilling lives for people all over the world.

By François Locoh-Donou, President and CEO of F5

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