Network Big Iron f5 Acquires Software Network Vendor NGINX

I woke up last Tuesday (March 12, 2019) to find an interesting announcement in my inbox. NGINX, the software networking company, well known for its NGINX web server/load balancer, was being acquired by f5. f5 is best known for its network appliances which implement network security, load balancing, etc. in data centers.

The deal was described as creating a way to “bridge NetOps to DevOps.” That’s a good way to characterize the value of this acquisition. Networking has begun to evolve, or perhaps devolve, from the data center into the container cluster. Network services that used to be the domain of centralized network devices, especially appliances, may be found in small footprint software that runs in containers, often in a Kubernetes pod. It’s not that centralized network resources don’t have a place – you wouldn’t be able to manage the infrastructure that container clusters run on without them. Instead, both network appliances and containerized network resources, such as a service mesh, will be present in microservices architectures. By combining both types of network capabilities, f5 will be able to sell a spectrum of network appliances and software tailored toward different types of architectures. This includes the emerging microservices architectures that are quickly becoming mainstream. With NGINX, f5 will be well positioned to meet the network needs of today and of the future.

The one odd thing about this acquisition is that f5 already has an in-house project, Aspen Mesh, to commercialize very similar software. Aspen Mesh sells an Istio/Envoy distribution that extends the base features of the open source software. There is considerable overlap between Aspen Mesh and NGINX, at least in terms of capabilities. Both provide software to enable a service mesh and provide services to virtual networks. ” Sure, NGINX has market share (and brain share) but $670M is a lot of money when you already have something in hand.

NGINX and f5 say that they see the products as complementary and will allow f5 to build a continuum of offerings for different needs and scale. In this regard, I would agree with them. Aspen Mesh and NGINX are addressing the same problems but in different ways. By combining NGINX with the Aspen Mesh, f5 can cover more of the market.

Given the vendor support of Istio/Envoy in the market, it’s hard to imagine f5 just dropping Aspen Mesh. At present, f5 plans to operate NGINX separately but that doesn’t mean they won’t combine NGINX with Aspen Mesh in the future. Some form of coexistence is necessary for f5 to leverage all the investments in both brands.

The open source governance question may be a problem. There is nervousness within the NGINX community about its future. NGINX is based on its own open source project, one not controlled by any other vendors. The worry is that the NGINX community run into the same issues that the Java and MySQL communities did after they were acquired by Oracle which included changes to licensing and issues over what constituted the open source software versus the enterprise, hence proprietary software. f5 will have to reassure the NGINX community or risk a fork of the project or, worse, the community jumping ship to other projects. For Oracle, that led to MariaDB and a new rival to MySQL.

NGINX will give f5 both opportunity and technology to address emerging architectures that their current product lines will not. Aspen Mesh will still need time to grow before it can grab the brain share and revenue that NGINX already has. For a mainstream networking company like f5, this acquisition gets them into the game more quickly, generates revenue immediately, and does so in a manner that is closer to their norm. This makes a lot of sense.

Now that the first acquisition has happened, the big question will be “who are the next sellers and the next buyers?” I would predict that we will see more deals like this one. We will have to wait and see.

The View from KubeCon+CloudNativeCon – Containers and Kubernetes Become Enterprise Ready

In case there was any doubt about the direction containers and Kubernetes are going, KubeCon+CloudNativeCon 2018 in Seattle should have dispelled them. The path is clear – technology is maturing and keeps adding more features that make it conducive to mission-critical, enterprise applications. From the very first day, the talk was about service meshes and network functions, logging and traceability, and storage and serverless compute. These are couplets that define the next generation of management, visibility, and core capabilities of a modern distributed application. On top of that is emerging security projects such as SPIFFE & SPIRE, TUF, Falco, and Notary. Management, visibility, growth in core functionality, and security. All of these are critical to making container platforms enterprise ready.

“The future of containers and Kubernetes as the base of the new stack was on display at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon and it’s a bright one.

Tom Petrocelli, Research Fellow, Amalgam Insights”

If the scope of KubeCon+CloudNativeCon and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is any indication, the ecosystem is also growing. This year there were 8000 people at the conference – a sellout. The CNCF has grown to 300+ vendor members there are 46,000 contributors to its projects. That’s a lot of growth compared to just a few years ago. This many people don’t flock to sinking projects.

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Tom Petrocelli Publishes Groundbreaking Report Defining Serverless Computing

On December 10th, 2018, Tom Petrocelli published the Market Guide for Serverless Computing entitled “Serverless Computing Provides New Solutions to Modern Problems” in conjunction with KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2018.

This report was written in response to massive market confusion regarding the current definition of serverless computing and the categories of options that software, platform, and infrastructure architects can use to initiate serverless computing projects.

“Serverless can best be thought of as any computer system that abstracts the infrastructure for the developer, employs an event-driven model, and only consumes resources when needed.”

Tom Petrocelli, Research Fellow, Amalgam Insights

In this report, Petrocelli provides a definition of serverless computing, provides five key use cases for serverless computing, explores the economics of serverless computing, and provides 14 representative enterprise-grade solutions across open source projects, cloud services, and on-premises commercial products.

Amalgam Insights’ Market Guides provide an unbiased, third-party perspective for explaining new technology and service capabilities based on our decades of expert experience, briefings with leading technology vendors, and discussions with Early Adopter organizations.

To download the report, which will be available at no cost throughout the duration of KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2018, please download at the following link: https://amalgaminsights.com/product/market-guide-serverless-computing-provides-new-solutions-to-modern-problems

Is IBM’s Acquisition of Red Hat the Biggest Acquihire of All Time?

Estimated Reading Time: 11 minutes

Internally, Amalgam Insights has been discussing why IBM chose to acquire Red Hat for $34 billion dollars fairly intensely. Our key questions included:

  • Why would IBM purchase Red Hat when they’re already partners?
  • Why purchase Red Hat when the code is Open Source?
  • Why did IBM offer a whopping $34 billion, $20 billion more than IBM currently has on hand?

As a starting point, we posit that IBM’s biggest challenge is not an inability to understand its business challenges, but a fundamental consulting mindset that starts with the top on down. By this, we mean that IBM is great at identifying and finding solutions on a project-specific basis. For instance, SoftLayer, Weather Company, Bluewolf, and Promontory Financial are all relatively recent acquisitions that made sense and were mostly applauded at the time. But even as IBM makes smart investments, IBM has either forgotten or not learned the modern rules for how to launch, develop, and maintain software businesses. At a time when software is eating everything, this is a fundamental problem that IBM needs to solve.

The real question for IBM is whether IBM can manage itself as a modern software company.

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Now Available: Infrastructure as Code: Managing Hybrid, Multi-cloud Infrastructure at Scale

Research Fellow Tom Petrocelli recently recorded an on-demand BrightTALK webinar on Infrastructure as Code (IaC): a key trend for any company seeking to manage infrastructure at scale.

Petrocelli has previously covered this topic in additional research including

This webinar is a short introduction designed for IT professionals who are exploring Infrastructure as Code especially focusing on SysOps, managers (from mid-level to C-Suite), and system architects. As modern IT systems become more diverse and complex, managing them, especially at scale can become very difficult. Infrastructure as Code presents a new way of thinking about infrastructure management that alleviates many of these challenges.

This webinar discusses:

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Google Grants $9 Million in Google Cloud Platform Credits to Kubernetes Project

Tom Petrocelli, Amalgam Insights Research Fellow
Kubernetes has, in the span of a few short years, become the de facto orchestration software for containers. As few as two years ago there were more than a half-dozen orchestration tools vying for the top spot and now there is only Kubernetes. Even the Linux Foundation’s other orchestrator project, CloudFoundry Diego, is starting to give way to Kubernetes. Part of the success of Kubernetes can be attributed to the support of Google. Kubernetes emerged out of Google and they have continued to bolster the project even as it fell under the auspices of the Linux Foundation’s CNCF.

On August 29, 2018, Google announced that it is giving $9M in Google Cloud Platform (GCP) credit to the CNCF Kubernetes project. This is being hailed by both Google and the CNCF as an announcement of major support. $9M is a lot of money, even if it is credits. However, let’s unpack this announcement a bit more and see what it really means.

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Microsoft Loves Linux and FOSS Because of Developers

Tom Petrocelli, Amalgam Insights Research Fellow
For much of the past 30 years, Microsoft was famous for its hostility toward Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). They reserved special disdain for Linux, the Unix-like operating system that first emerged in the 1990s. Linux arrived on the scene just as Microsoft was beginning to batter Unix with Windows NT. The Microsoft leadership at the time, especially Steve Ballmer, viewed Linux as an existential threat. They approached Linux with an “us versus them” mentality that was, at times, rabid.

It’s not news that times have changed and Microsoft with it. Instead of looking to destroy Linux and FOSS, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has embraced it.

Microsoft has begun to meld with the FOSS community, creating Linux-Windows combinations that were unthinkable in the Ballmer era.

In just the past few years Microsoft has:

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Cloud Vendors Race to Release Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment Tools

Development organization continue to feel increasing pressure to produce better code more quickly. To help accomplish that faster-better philosophy, a number of methodologies have emerged that that help organizations quickly merge individual code, test it, and deploy to production. While DevOps is actually a management methodology, it is predicated on an integrated pipeline that drives…

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What Wall Street is missing regarding Broadcom’s acquisition of CA Technologies: Cloud, Mainframes, & IoT

(Note: This blog contains significant contributions from long-time software executive and Research Fellow Tom Petrocelli) On July 11, Broadcom ($AVGO) announced an agreement to purchase CA for $18.9 billion. If this acquisition goes through, this will be the third largest software acquisition of all time behind only Microsoft’s $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn and Facebook’s…

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Tom Petrocelli Advises: Adopt Chaos Engineering to Preserve System Resilience

Today in CMSWire, Amalgam Insights Research Fellow Tom Petrocelli advises the developer community to support chaos engineering on CMSWire.

As it becomes increasingly important for organizations reliable IT infrastructure, traditional resilience testing methods fall short in tech ecosystems where root-cause troubleshooting is increasingly difficult to manage, control, and fix. Rather than focusing purely on the lineage of tracing catastrophic issues, Petrocelli advises testing abrupt failures that mimic real-world issues.

To learn more about the approach of chaos engineering to managing scale-out, highly distributed, and varied infrastructure environments, read Tom’s full thoughts on CMSWire.