AWS Partner F5 Uses AWS SaaS Factory Program to Tap into New Markets
F5 is an AWS Advanced Technology Partner
Collaborating with the AWS SaaS Factory Program and AWS Marketplace, F5 developed and launched its first SaaS offering in less than 18 months and has since launched a total of four offerings as part of the F5 Cloud Services suite in 12 months. The network security solutions provider joined the AWS Partner Network (APN) in 2015 and used the AWS SaaS Factory Program to quickly deploy F5 Cloud Services, a group of SaaS products, in order to meet customer demand for cloud services, tap into the growing DevOps market, and expand into the midmarket tier.
Partner Success Story – F5
An industry leader in powering and protecting applications, Seattle-based F5 is undergoing a company-wide transformation to establish a new business model, with the AWS SaaS Factory Program helping to accelerate the company’s shift to software as a service (SaaS). Currently, F5 serves 48 of the Fortune 50 companies, all 15 executive departments of the Cabinet of the United States, the top 10 global telecom operators, and the 15 biggest US commercial banks. Founded in 1996, the company has long supported mission-critical application delivery and security through on-premises hardware and software. But in 2014, F5 made the decision to expand its footprint by making a play in the DevOps market. It did so by harnessing cloud-based SaaS on Amazon Web Services (AWS) to meet customer demand for simple, fast DevOps services that could be automated as part of an application delivery workflow.
To best tackle the challenge of evolving from a product to a services organization, F5 joined the AWS Partner Network in 2015. The company followed the traditional trajectory to the cloud before engaging in the AWS SaaS Factory Program, which helps AWS Technology Partners at any stage of the SaaS journey by enabling them to create new products, migrate single-tenant environments, or optimize existing SaaS solutions on AWS. Partners receive direct access to technical and business content, best practices, solution architects, and SaaS experts that can guide and help accelerate delivery of SaaS solutions on AWS. While moving to SaaS was a highly involved and complex transformation, it also proved an imperative one given the shifting market. F5’s resulting SaaS suite, F5 Cloud Services, enables customers to easily provision, configure, and automate the services their apps need in minutes and has enabled the company to tap into the growing DevOps market and expand into the midmarket tier—ultimately providing customers with scalability, high performance, security, and optimized, flexible costs.
Tapping into New Markets with SaaS on AWS
Applications are often the lifeblood of organizations, so F5’s mission is to provide a portfolio of automation, security, performance, and insight capabilities that empower customers to create, secure, and operate adaptive applications. These applications, in turn, enable customers to increase revenue, reduce costs, and better protect users. F5 expands beyond traditional network operations buyers to encompass the entire value chain, including developers, to help organizations accelerate their digital transformation. Until 2014, F5 had focused mainly on network and security operations teams within companies that have a technical approach that calls for highly configurable solutions for their bespoke enterprise applications. But to better serve companies that used DevOps for their applications, it decided to launch F5 Cloud Services. “The cloud and SaaS have presented F5 with tremendous opportunity for accelerated growth,” says Calvin Rowland, senior vice president and general manager for cloud services at F5. The company developed and launched its first SaaS offering in less than 18 months and has since launched its first four offerings as part of the F5 Cloud Services suite in 12 months. Using these offerings—DNS Cloud Service, DNS Load Balancer, Essential App Protect, and F5 Beacon—F5 protects applications from creation to delivery.
Rowland notes that “partnering with the APN was a fundamental, obvious thing we needed to do to enable our traffic management and application security solutions in AWS.” Since becoming an AWS Partner, F5 has completed AWS Competencies in Networking and Security. “It gives customers a comfort to know that we’ve done the work,” Rowland says. “It gives them confidence that the solution is going to meet their requirements during the discovery, competence, and implementation cycle.”
“Partnering with the APN was a fundamental, obvious thing we needed to do to enable our traffic management and application security solutions in AWS.”
– Calvin Rowland, Senior VP and General Manager for Cloud Services, F5
Making SaaS a “Critical Aspect” of F5’s Identity
Transforming F5 from a product-driven to a services-based company was a colossal undertaking. F5 began collaborating with the AWS SaaS Factory team, carving out a startup within the larger organization, developing multitenant SaaS offerings in line with SaaS architectural best practices, and setting itself up for a series of service launches starting in March 2019. “We received fairly deep architectural guidance and also unlocked additional customer value for AWS,” says Rowland. The AWS SaaS Factory team trained F5 staff in AWS Marketplace integration, ultimately enabling the company to bring services to market faster and more efficiently. F5 also received educational workshops and gained access to AWS engineering teams that helped the company to implement workarounds for architectural issues. The AWS SaaS Factory team facilitated the discussions between AWS service teams and the company along the course of the engagement. For instance, when F5 needed to load balance traffic in DNS Cloud Service to distribute the load to its Kubernetes-based data plane DNS server nodes, the AWS SaaS Factory team helped to get early access to critical services to enable F5 to stay on track to complete the integration.
Although F5 continues to serve its existing customers, Rowland notes, “SaaS is a critical aspect of our future identity that will drive value for our customers.” The shift has enabled F5 to tap into the DevOps market and target midsize businesses while maintaining its existing customers that use its legacy products—but also have access to new SaaS tools.
Building a Value Chain that Delivers Benefits from AWS to End Users
Through the APN and programs such as the AWS SaaS Factory Program, F5 gains access to benefits that it can then extend to its customers through a value chain— passing on fluid scalability, high performance, security, and optimized, flexible costs. As a result, the company has been able to provide customers a simple, frictionless experience. “We enable teams that don’t have expertise in areas of application security and load balancing to optimize modern application themes and build adaptive applications that integrate these services seamlessly into their existing DevOps processes, their existing continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines,” Rowland says. “Customers are consistently telling us that the reason they went with our SaaS offering is that it was easy to find, understand, procure, and deploy—and deploy quickly.”
Additionally, F5 Cloud Services has a flexible payment model that is more affordable for the company’s new smaller customers. “In the past, we had a channelled model that was very purchase-order heavy for multiyear commitments,” explains Craig Kitterman, senior director of product management at F5. “Now, for the first time, we offer flexible pay-as-you-go pricing and different ways for customers to transact through the AWS Marketplace.”
“We had a number of customers with challenges related to load balancing of application end points that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and they were able to get in touch with us and get their solutions rolled out in a matter of days.”
– Craig Kitterman, Senior Director of Product Management, F5
And F5 can now also drive a shorter sales cycle, delivering solutions to customers in a short time frame—agility that was particularly useful during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We had a number of customers with challenges related to load balancing of application end points that were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kitterman notes. “And they were able to get in touch with us and get their solutions rolled out in a matter of days.”
Thriving on a Customer-Centric Mindset Using AWS
By taking advantage of the AWS SaaS Factory Program, available to all AWS members at no cost, F5 was able to respond with agility to changes in the apphosting market, tap into new markets to spur growth, and offer customers simple, easy-to-use DevOps-ready tools hosted on the AWS Cloud. The AWS SaaS Factory Program and the APN have been true strategic resources for F5 since the inception of the company’s F5 Cloud Services suite, bringing deep expertise on SaaS business transformation and technical architecture, supporting joint go-to-market efforts and sales plays, and delivering collaborative executive messaging and joint reference architectures with the F5 team.
“AWS and [F5] are some of the most customer centered on the planet. That makes it very easy for us to collaborate, because we have the same goal in mind.”
– Calvin Rowland, Senior VP and General Manager for Cloud Services, F5
Both F5 and the AWS SaaS Factory Program have an enthusiastic focus on customer satisfaction. “AWS and our company are some of the most customer centered on the planet,” Rowland concludes. “And that makes it very easy for us to collaborate, because we have the same goal in mind.”
F5 expects that in the future, the bulk of its product revenue will come from software, the cloud, and SaaS. It plans to focus on customers’ responses to its SaaS offerings and on expanding more flexible options for how customers can buy F5 solutions. “We’ve come a long way,” says Kitterman. “We’ve expanded, gotten more flexible, and listened to customers—but we’re still learning.”
Country: Global (US HQ)
Partner Tier: Advanced
Partner Type: Technology
F5 powers applications from development through their entire life cycle, across any multicloud environment, so enterprise businesses, service providers, governments, and consumer brands can deliver differentiated, high-performing, secure digital experiences.
APN Program Participation
Published October 2020