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Network Automation: Leveraging Virtual Application Delivery Controllers

ADCaaS is beginning to gain momentum as enterprises move to virtual, cloud and software-defined data centers

With the growing number of applications in use in today's enterprises, you as a network administrator are surely noticing some new challenges. Many IT professionals responsible for supporting applications in data center and cloud environments continue to see growth in the number of applications being deployed and upgraded, which often goes hand-in-hand with data center consolidation, while IT budgets either remain stagnant or are reduced year-over-year. In other words, the adage remains: do more with less.

The good news is that changes with application delivery, one of the most critical services in the data center, can help enterprises overcome roadblocks to application and business performance and address the application and budget challenges that so many now face. By adopting a virtual application delivery controller environment, or ADC-as-a-Service (ADCaaS), location-independent computing can be cost-effective and help deliver flawless application performance.

Doing More with Less
IT budgets are essentially stationary. Recently, the Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG)[1] reported that a majority of the enterprises that they surveyed expected flat to reduced IT budgets year-over-year. As such, obtaining spending approval for modern data center technologies to support an increase in applications can be a challenge, but ESG also found that demonstrating a project's strong ROI is the most effective way to get that approval.

Despite static budgets, enterprise organizations are looking increasingly more like service providers in the transition to modern environments. With requirements for greater flexibility, agility and efficiency, IT delivers services to different business units in multi-tenant environments, leveraging cloud services when necessary. The ESG report indicated that the number of applications that IT organizations support will increase year over year in more than 84 percent of enterprise accounts, and that the average enterprise should also expect to upgrade between 11-25 existing applications over the next year.

Given the fact that a strong ROI is the number one way to get the necessary spend approval for new projects, if application-focused technologies can reduce CAPEX and OPEX costs, deliver a short ROI and maintain the same or better SLAs for application services, IT administrators will be in a better position to meet their applications demands while complying with a flat budget.

The Need for ADC
The Application Delivery Controller (ADC) is one of the key technologies for application delivery infrastructure. ADCs are used to help scale, improve availability, secure and optimize applications.

Virtual ADCs allow customers to dynamically deploy an ADC per application through ADCaaS. With ADCaaS, users can quickly spin the ADC up or down for a scalable, secure and elastic delivery of enterprise, cloud and e-commerce applications. It can also control and optimize end-user services by inspecting, transforming, prioritizing and distributing application traffic across environments, from physical and virtual data centers to public and hybrid clouds.

ADCaaS is beginning to gain momentum as enterprises move to virtual, cloud and software-defined data centers. ESG spoke with enterprise and service provider IT organizations and found that new technologies are required in the ADC space. A software-based, cloud-ready, highly automated ADCaaS approach can enable organizations to demonstrate the necessary ROI while significantly improving business processes.

Moving Toward ADCaaS
For enterprises ready to work toward a modern data center environment in the face of greater demands for applications, agility and flexibility, the following considerations may be helpful.

Provision Faster: The time taken to deploy an application can be heavily impacted by the time required to provision the application delivery infrastructure. ADCaaS can typically reduce the amount of time to provision this infrastructure by an order of magnitude, resulting in the ability to spin up new services in about 30 to 60 seconds compared with those with legacy ADCs that would report times in the two to six hour range.

Rapidly Move from Test and Development to Production: Many legacy ADC users find that the test and development environment does not match the production environment, which means a longer transition time from test and development to production. ADCaaS users typically can easily support test and development with all the capabilities of the production environment and deliver those services more quickly, which can translate to faster time to market.

Accelerate The Time to Value: Purchasing and deploying legacy ADCs can delay ROI by several months. Meanwhile, ADCaaS customers can download the software, type in the license key and be operational in a matter of hours. In addition, ADCaaS can be easier to use than legacy ADCs, which is useful for consolidated data centers that are large but must remain agile. Easy-to-understand interfaces mean that in some cases even less-skilled staff can configure and provision services.

Rapidly Scale the Environment: By leveraging a pay-as-go licensing model and the ability to deploy solutions in the cloud (IaaS), ADCaaS-enabled organizations are able to rapidly scale to meet demand while only paying for what they use. ADCaaS environments eliminate the time-consuming steps required by the physical domain, and eliminate the need to purchase and wait for additional appliances when more capacity is needed. Scaling an environment back down also happens faster with a virtual appliance, which is especially useful in test and development environments with constantly changing requirements.

Burst to the Cloud: As a virtual appliance or software-based solution, ADCaaS instances are easily deployed in IaaS environments, and many cloud providers either offer solutions by the hour/month or have bring your own license (BYOL) options in place. Enterprises can significantly lower CAPEX and OPEX costs by bursting to the cloud as well because a pay-as-you-go model eliminates the need to overprovision physical devices and pay maintenance fees for devices not always in use.

Traditional ADCs cannot inherently scale efficiently and burst to the cloud; it is clear that new, agile, software-based technologies are needed to support the demands of modern data centers. Enterprises that achieve this vision can experience location-independent computing, turn distance and location into a competitive advantage, and provide IT the flexibility to host applications and data in optimal locations while delivering flawless application performance and the best user experience.


1. ESG "ESG: ROI Benefits from Automating Application Delivery Solutions" by Bob Laliberte, Sr. Analyst, November 2013.

More Stories By Neil Abogado

Neil Abogado is currently a director of product marketing for Riverbed SteelApp application delivery. Before joining Riverbed, he worked at Cisco Systems as an outbound product manager for application delivery, Metro Ethernet, storage networking, and L2 VPN technologies. Throughout his career, he has focused on marketing application delivery, server virtualization, networking routing, and switching.

Neil received a BS in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his MS in Telecommunications from DePaul University. He is a Routing & Switching CCIE and a VMware Certified Professional on vSphere 5.0.

Outside of the office, Neil enjoys digital photography, following Chicago sports teams, and spending time with his family.

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