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.

Tom Petrocelli to Appear on DM Radio to Discuss Containers and Hybrid Cloud

On January 24, 2019 at 3 PM Eastern, Amalgam Insights’ DevOps and Open Source Research Fellow, Tom Petrocelli will be sharing his perspectives on the importance of containers in multi-cloud management on the DM Radio episode Contain Yourself? The Key to Hybrid Cloud

This episode will be hosted by Eric Kavanagh, CEO of The Bloor Group and Petrocelli will be accompanied by Samuel Holcman of the Pinnacle Business Group and Pakshi Rajan of Paxata.

Don’t miss this opportunity to get Tom Petrocelli’s guidance and wisdom on the current state of containers and cloud management!

Tom Petrocelli Introduces NoOps on InformationWeek

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In case you missed in, at re:invent Amazon launched a mind-numbing number of new services including managed Kubernetes service, more AWS Lambda extensions, Aurora Serverless, AWS Serverless Application Repository, and Amazon SageMaker.

Based on this, Amalgam Analyst Tom Petrocelli recently contributed a thought-provoking article on InformationWeek about how Amazon Web Services is working on killing off IT Ops and bringing in a new age of “NoOps.” For IT Ops, Winter is definitely coming.

Do you agree or disagree? Take a look at Tom’s POV and let us know what you think.

Click here to read Tom’s article: AWS Ignites Debate About the Death of IT Ops

What’s On Tap for 2018 from Tom Petrocelli

Tom Petrocelli, Amalgam Insights Research Fellow

As the year comes to a close, I have had the opportunity to reflect on what has transpired in 2017 and look ahead to 2018. Some of my recent thoughts on 2017 have been published in:

These articles provide a peek ahead at emerging 2018 trends.

In the two areas I cover, collaboration and DevOps/Developer Trends, I plan to continue to look at:
The continued transformation of the collaboration market. [Click to Tweet] I am expecting a “mass extinction event” of products in this space. That doesn’t mean the collaboration market will evaporate. Instead, I am looking for niche products that address specific collaboration segments to thrive while a handful of large collaboration players will consume the general market.
The emergence of NoOps, for No Operations, in the mid-market. [Click to Tweet] The Amazon push to serverless products is a bellwether of the upcoming move toward cloud vendor operations supplanting company IT sysops.
2018 will be the year of the container.[Click to Tweet] Containers have been growing in popularity over the past several years but 2018 will be the year when they become truly mass market. The growth in the ecosystem, especially the widespread availability of cloud Kubernetes services, will make containers more palatable to a wider market.
Integrated DevOps pipelines will make DevOps more efficient… if [Click to Tweet] we can get the politics out of IT.
Machine learning will continue to be integrated into developer tools [Click to Tweet] which, in turn, will make more complex coding and deployment jobs easier.

As you know, I joined Amalgam Insights in September. Amalgam Insights, or AI, is a full-service market analyst firm. I’d welcome the opportunity to learn more about what 2018 holds for you. Perhaps we can schedule a quick call in the next couple of weeks. Let me know what works best for you. As always, if I can provide any additional information about AI, I’d be happy to do so!

Thanks, and have a happy holiday season.

For more predictions on IT management at scale, check out Todd Maddox’s 5 Predictions That Will Transform Corporate Training.