Application Front Ends
The Product Formally Known as the SSL - Layer 4-7 - SLB
by Lynn Nye, APM Advisors
Published January 2004, Posted January 2004




The AFE marketplace will be played out by the companies mentioned in this paper. While many analysts have whacked Cisco for their lack of innovation or even action, they appear to be playing the game like they can. By waiting and watching, they have a big enough wallet to solve a number of problems. F5 as well has recently lined their pockets and has the opportunity to make some aggressive moves.


From APMA's perspective, if F5 follows through with their announced plans of upgrading their existing platform, rather than acquiring a new generation architecture, they will be in a tough position late in '04 and through '05. The grip on the channel will hold off the challengers for a bit, but as NetScaler and Redline Networks develop presence the channel will loosen up.


In conversations, with sell side analysts covering F5, many have a clear understanding of the level of "hype" produced by F5 in this marketplace and others are like teenagers in love. APMA wants to be clear that the specific timing of how the next generation of AFEs will impact F5 revenue is unclear, but the erosion has already begun.


It's hard for financial analysts to understand the underlying market issues that are driving customer decisions and the importance of an architectural foundation to deliver those requirements. Since they are responsible to their customers for quarterly results, that is basically all that matters. The long term vision and capabilities of many companies is compromised by short-term results.


What APMA is representing is that, the marketplace that was defined by SLB products is gone and IT organizations are rapidly and openly streamlining their application environments. As they do, the requirements that F5 will be delivering next year will already be dated. 2004 is the year of the AFE and it's up to Cisco, Foundry and F5 to decide their role in the marketplace. No amount of functional extension on their current platforms will deliver solutions that are as comprehensive as the likes of NetScaler and Redline Networks. It's just like putting lipstick on a pig.


There are plenty of "used to be"s - and there always will be. (We know that includes consultants and analysts.)



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