In an increasingly data driven world, business is fast switching to security applications to deter any possible cyber threat. Kunacillan Nallappan, Senior Marketing Director, Asia Pacific, F5 Networks, in an exclusive interview with BW Businessworld speaks about cyber attacks, cloud technology, Digital India and more:
1. How can F5 help Indian businesses prosper?
Business operations have changed dramatically over the last few years; today, the world runs on applications. ‘F5 Networks’ helps enterprises deliver the fastest, most secure, and most reliable applications to any user, anywhere on any device at any time. This empowers businesses to effectively work with its employees who are increasingly using their own devices for work, and also to provide solutions for consumers facing businesses that have to provide access to their services on mobile devices.
While all businesses are recognizing the need to focus on applications accessed through personal devices as the next frontier, it is important to have an edge over the ever-increasing competition. F5 Networks technologies and services like availability, security, and acceleration for the application in the network can greatly impact productivity and customer delight providing the differentiator over the competition.
2. How will this cloud technology change the dynamics of Indian businesses in the near future?
We have observed that businesses in Asia are beginning to rely heavily on cloud solutions in support of their digital transformation efforts. There is an easier access to information and applications on the cloud than on housed servers staying to the promise of information ‘anywhere’. There is greater agility in services with cloud solutions.
However, as organizations intensify demand to cloud-based resources, they face major challenges around scaling applications and workloads between their data center and the cloud while not sacrificing enterprise-class reliability, scale, security, and performance. Businesses have the option of working on the public cloud on services like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud or build their own private cloud.
F5 Networks has powerful solutions that can help manage the efficiency of the traffic on the public cloud and provide the same level of control for organizations for their applications in the cloud. Most importantly, F5 can provide critical delivery services for applications wherever or on whichever cloud platform they are deployed.
3. Cyberspace vulnerabilities have increased. The world has recently witnessed two cyber-attacks. How can F5 play a role in shielding Indian business against these attacks?
There is a growing threat of ‘bad actors’ attacking businesses and even government institutions. While over 80 per cent of all security investment is being made for the network, we have seen that 9 in 10 attacks are being conducted through applications and utilizing vulnerabilities at the individual user level. F5 secures access to applications with policies that follow apps and provide authentication for users – everywhere. The solutions help protect the application themselves from network, application, and volumetric attacks by hybrid security solutions with DDoS, Web Application Firewall, Carrier-Class Firewall and anti-fraud protection.
F5 has the advantage of possessing deeper intelligence and visibility into encrypted traffic, F5’s SSL/TLS solutions help identify and block potential threats.
4. What are your plans for the Indian market?
At F5, we see ourselves as partners of progress for businesses in India. We are committed to ensuring business continuity for our clients. We try keeping them abreast of developments on application delivery solutions and the security threat landscape. We understand that there is a dearth of cyber-security practitioners in India. To address this situation we are introducing a SIRT (Security Incident Response Team) that will support customers.
F5 has made a significant investment in F5 labs extension to support threat detection in India. The Company has constituted a team of security experts that are observing and analyzing attacks and suggests short term and long-term solutions. There are teams that are dedicated to collecting data on threat succoring globally and translating the same into actionable intelligence. F5 is also setting up systems where the CISO’s can interact and share insights about the threat landscape and the common vulnerabilities on a single platform.
5. How can F5 contribute to PM Modi's Digital India campaign?
The Digital India initiative by the government is very encouraging. There is a great value in encouraging the transformation of the country into a digitally empowered and knowledge based economy. We have witnessed the democratization of the world through greater access to technology. We are enthused to see that the government is actively pushing for digital literacy and a concerted attempt is being made at moving its own processes onto digital platforms.
Globally, businesses are moving more apps to the cloud. In fact, F5’s latest State of Application Delivery report showed that 1 out of 5 respondents will have over 50 percent of their apps in the cloud by 2017. In India, many companies are realizing that there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to the choosing the right ‘cloud’ to meet their needs. As cloud computing continues to gain popularity, many enterprises are intrigued by the potential benefits it promises, but they are not willing to sacrifice security, visibility, and control to get them. F5 is here to help.
6. Do you believe that Indian businesses are not as digitally empowered as businesses in other nations?
India skipped a whole generation of desktop computers and directly moved into mobile devices. However, India’s digital economy is said to be the new productivity platform that some regard as the third industrial revolution. F5 has witnessed that businesses that were conceived and developed in the post digital era of mobile technology and data services are not only operating at the highest levels of digital understanding but are in fact developing disruptive businesses that are noticed by global organizations, case in point is the Halli Labs, the AI start-up being acquired by Google.
The older brick and mortar businesses have been slower to this change as developing digital infrastructure is a major investment. There has however been a rapid transformation and the best indicator of this is the government institutions and departments that have adopted digital technology.
Businesses are still straddling the divide between a younger urban India that is exceedingly digital and a rural India that is yet to receive access to 4G connectivity and affordable smartphones. Many businesses have to play a fine balancing act between the two.
At F5 Networks, we have had the privilege of working with businesses in both of these verticals and feel that Indian companies still need to catch up with businesses in other countries. However, India is definitely embracing digitization at a fast pace as we do not have legacy infrastructure that is bogging down the adoption.
7. What will be the impact of IoT on applications and is this technology safe?
It is estimated that the IoT market potential is set to reach $16.8 billion by 2012 with the speedy implementation of IIoT (industrial IoT) and government smart city projects. With the country moving towards a digital economy, the growing adoption of Cloud in IoT services, shifting of focus to IIoT, rising market of M2M communication and increasing trend of wearable technology applications are among the major factors driving the IoT market in India.
All IoT devices have micro applications that share the data back to the central applications housed on a network. IoT shifts the way business define their models and in some cases their offering as a whole. With smartphones becoming the center of people’s daily lives – a crucial hub for IoT data traffic – finding the way to bring all together and to keep pace with the changing landscape, business will need to come up with new business models and services.
The safety concern arises at the micro application level where the device could be hacked and malicious software can breach the network masked as information from the device. To ensure security, intelligent routing, and analytics, networking layers will need to be fluent in the language that devices use.
F5 Networks has application security solutions that monitor abnormal behaviour and also a deep understanding of checking encrypted data to ensure that such malware infections at the micro applications do not infect the network. While security will continue to be a challenge for IoT as it is for all networks and digital devices – there will be solutions developed to protect against attacks.