IT architectures are evolving rapidly with the introduction of virtualization, cloud, software-defined data center (SDDC), and DevOps models. They are changing the Application Delivery Controller (ADC) technology landscape and how ADCs integrate into IT environments today. Core ADC technologies are mature and stable. Basic load balancing technologies have been around for 20 years. Organizations are looking for ways to integrate ADC functionality into these new IT environments.
Gartner has released their application delivery controller (ADC) magic quadrant for 2016.* We believe that the Magic Quadrant shows a shifting landscape for ADC vendors as IT architectures evolve and companies incorporate ADC technologies into their designs.
Beyond the basics
At the end of the day, companies want their applications to be available and performing optimally. ADC technologies have helped enable this goal with server load balancing (SLB), global server load balancing (GSLB), and corollary technologies like authentication, web application firewall (WAF), or web performance optimization (WPO).
The shift from fixed, hardware-based infrastructures towards software-defined and virtualization solutions requires integration of the different technology solutions that ADCs provide. Orchestration and automation of these components become essential for the success of these agile and elastic IT models. From SDDC and network functions virtualization (NFV) to DevOps, it is well understood that unified orchestration and automation of ADC services is one of the keys to the success of these IT models.
Why is the check engine light on?
Along with the operational efficiencies that orchestration and automation deliver, ADCs are in the perfect position to deliver application performance metrics to the company. All businesses have expectations for the performance of different applications on their network. Application SLAs can be defined, but how does the organization measure the end-to-end performance of the application?
As a reverse proxy, ADC solutions have the visibility into the performance of all the company’s critical applications. Application performance monitoring (APM) is necessary for these dynamic virtual environments to know when and how to react to changing network conditions while maintaining the application SLAs.
Flexible yet stable
DevOps unifies the virtualized architectures with a dynamic and unified IT organization that utilizes a continuous development cycle. This means that changes are being made more often and the IT infrastructure needs the flexibility to accommodate this business process. ADC technologies must integrate into the new DevOps processes using tools like OpenStack, Puppet, or Ansible.
But, one cannot sacrifice stability for flexibility. The applications need to function while the operational visibility and control need to be maintained. Continuous development means that there is a constant feedback loop monitoring the applications that allow the orchestration and automation systems to make changes to adjust for the revised data.
Outside the box
The value of ADC solutions is changing as the capabilities beyond the load balancing and security functionality are brought to the forefront. ADCs must be integrated into virtualized environments and DevOps processes through orchestration and automation tools. Operational visibility into the application performance and the ability to deliver metrics and policy adjustments into these management and orchestration solutions is a key value that ADCs can deliver beyond their core solutions.
The core functions of the ADC are mature and stable, but IT environments and organizations are not. IT architectures are in a state of flux as companies migrate from hardware-based network topologies to software-defined and virtualized solutions, or a hybrid combination. The continued importance of ADC technologies in IT is reflected in the annual release of the ADC magic quadrant by Gartner.
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*Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Application Delivery Controllers, Andrew Lerner, Danilo Ciscato, and Joe Skorupa, 29 August 2016