Web Server Load Balancing with NGINX Plus

Today, at our annual NGINX Conf user event, we’re announcing exciting new NGINX open source and commercial solutions. They represent our most significant update to the NGINX Application Platform since last year’s NGINX Conf.

This year’s updates are different, though – not only because of specific new features and functions, but because we’re now supported by the breadth and depth of F5. Collectively, these updates represent a bold extension to our vision.

But first, let’s explain why these updates are needed in today’s fast‑paced, digital era.

Three Waves of Digital Transformation

Organizations are at a digital tipping point. The pressure to grow revenues, compete on a global scale, and keep costs in check requires a digital‑first approach. But the evolution to a digital business doesn’t happen overnight. Digital transformation is a journey.

We see three waves to the digital journey:

  • Wave 1: Consumers go digital. Individuals have adopted mobile, social, and cloud. The iPhone accelerated this trend and now digital behavior is the default consumer behavior. With it comes increased expectations and reduced patience.
  • Wave 2: Enterprises go digital. Forward‑looking companies have responded to the shift in consumer behavior and adopted cloud, software‑defined, and microservices architectures. 2020 will mark the year digital business crosses the chasm and goes mainstream.
  • Wave 3: Industries go digital. Now entire industries are responding, adopting technologies like IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) to transform markets. This phenomenon, coined Industry 4.0, is just starting and will take a decade or more to unfold.

There are many consequences to these trends. The world’s largest companies are now tech companies. The technology supplier market has seen open source and cloud become integral. And new threats and risks have emerged, with data privacy and breaches now part of our daily vocabulary.

So how do you keep pace?

We believe companies need to rethink their approach to applications. Applications need to be thought of as living organisms. Let me explain.

Thinking of Applications as Living Organisms

Most companies are in Wave 2. Their customers have gone mobile and expect digital services, and that in turn puts pressure on the company to deliver an experience as smooth and high‑quality as those from Netflix, Facebook, or Airbnb. But most traditional enterprises struggle to create application architectures that support dynamic digital experiences.

To overcome this hurdle, companies first need to put applications at the heart of the business agenda. Applications have evolved from guiding a company’s tech strategy to becoming the core of the overall business strategy. Second, companies need to create applications that can better respond to ever‑changing customer requirements. In part that means adopting agile development methodologies, implementing CI/CD pipelines, and adopting a DevOps culture. But the other part is architecting the application infrastructure to be “alive.”

Applications That Sense, Think, and Respond

Complex organisms adapt to their environments. They grow and mature. They adapt and evolve. They react and heal.

A “living application” does the same. The terms might be different – deploy, scale, and secure – but the concepts are the same. The difference from organisms? Apps don’t do these things automatically. They must be supported by a complex chain of tooling, orchestration, and operations to respond organically to their environment.

What if your apps didn’t need all that external support, but instead were built to behave like living organisms, able to:

  • Sense. Telemetry and control points throughout the application data plane collect real‑time insights.
  • Think. A central control plane processes the sensory telemetry to gain insights and adjust policies.
  • Respond. The control plane sends instructions to the data plane that adjust traffic handling, security, and performance.

For example, suppose there is an anomalous spike in traffic. An intelligent control point in your CDN senses the anomaly in real time and reports it to the control plane. The control plane analyzes the behavior and recognizes it as a DDoS attack. The control plane then sends an updated policy to the WAF to block the attack, applies global rate limits across a distributed cluster of load balancers, and ensures only authenticated traffic gets through the API gateways. The attack is mitigated in seconds.

Not all traffic spikes are due to attacks, however. In another scenario, the control plane recognizes the spike as legitimate user traffic correlated with A/B testing the marketing team is doing for a new offering on your ecommerce site. The control plane sends API calls to your CI/CD pipeline to spin up additional microservices to process the orders, adjusts Kubernetes Ingress routes to these microservices, and spins up additional instances of CDN caches to smooth out user performance. The website experience is flawless. The launch is a success.

An intelligent app recognizes the difference between the two traffic spikes and reacts appropriately, like a living organism. But is that possible? At NGINX, we think so.

New Versions of NGINX Open Source, Commercial Products, and Partner Solutions Help You Deliver Living Apps

The concept of a living app is one I’ve talked about for a few years now. It’s been part of the vision feeding our roadmap. Today, we take a big step forward to transforming the vision into reality. We are excited to announce major updates to the NGINX Application Platform:

  • New innovations in NGINX open source projects. F5 is committed to accelerating the development of NGINX open source technologies. Open source is a critical component of modern application and DevOps tool chains. At Conf, NGINX is showing off:

    • Upcoming HTTP/3 capabilities in NGINX Open Source
    • Enhanced proxying and network capabilities in the NGINX Unit application server
  • New versions of products in the NGINX Application Platform. NGINX is announcing four new versions of products that build atop NGINX open source, all designed to further consolidate as many as thirteen discrete tools into a single, programmable software platform:

    • Improved security and clustering capabilities in NGINX Plus
    • New developer portal and API importing in the NGINX Controller API Management Module
    • Better analytics and configuration management in the NGINX Controller Load Balancing Module
    • Custom resource definitions in NGINX Ingress Controller
  • New ecosystem innovations from Arm and NS1. Arm, together with NGINX, will showcase how companies can achieve significant cost and power efficiencies with Arm® Neoverse™‑based solutions for a wide range of applications, running on Amazon EC2 A1 instances in the AWS Cloud. NGINX is also demonstrating continued support for customer choice and flexibility with a new Certified Module that seamlessly integrates NS1 global server load balancing with NGINX Plus.

These new capabilities represent an update to the NGINX data plane, where NGINX Plus and NGINX Unit help apps “sense” with CDN, proxy, API gateway, Kubernetes Ingress control, WAF, app server, web server, and load balancing capabilities. In our updated control plane, NGINX Controller helps apps “think” and “respond” via Load Balancing, API Management, Analytics, and Security modules.

A Glimpse into the Future: Transforming How Teams Work to Deliver Modern Apps

I’d be proud even if that was the whole story. But much of what we’re delivering today has been in the works for some time. What really sets NGINX apart now is our ability to accelerate development thanks to increased resources from F5. That’s why we’re extending our “living app” vision to how organizations can leverage our data and control plane solutions to fundamentally change how DevOps, NetOps, and SecOps teams collaborate throughout the application lifecycle.

Sound intriguing? We hope so. Consider this a tease of what’s to come by the end of this calendar year.

Tune into the NGINX Conf Livestream to Learn More

I’ve always believed talk is cheap. You need to see it to believe it. That’s why I encourage you to tune into the NGINX Conf livestream. We’ll detail everything I’ve discussed above in a series of 12 short, high‑energy keynotes across two days.

The broadcast starts at 8:40 AM PT on Tuesday, September 10, with keynotes summarizing new announcements, and again at 8:30 AM PT on Wednesday, September 11, for deep dives and demos. Get all the details – including the agenda, speaker bios, and session abstracts – at the NGINX Conf site.

Don’t worry if you miss something. All sessions become available for on‑demand viewing at the livestream link.

Tune in, share your thoughts, and join us as we bring the vision of NGINX to life.

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Headshot Gus Robertson CEO NGINX

Gus Robertson

Senior Vice President and General Manager of NGINX

Gus Robertson is Senior Vice President and General Manager of NGINX at F5.

Previously, he served as CEO of NGINX, Inc., which was acquired by F5 in 2019. Robertson joined NGINX as CEO in 2012 when the company had no commercial offerings or revenue and a staff of 8. Over the next 6 years, he grew NGINX to more than 250 employees and raised over $100 million in venture capital from such investors as Goldman Sachs and NEA.

Prior to joining NGINX, he worked at Red Hat for 10 years, first as Vice President of the Asia Pacific region and then leading Global Business Development from the US. Before joining Red Hat, Robertson ran the Asia Pacific region for Visio, prior to its acquisition by Microsoft in 2000.

Robertson studied Marketing at Charles Sturt University in Australia and completed the Advanced Management Program at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.


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