ADCs – the Keystone to Advanced Application Delivery and Security?

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A new Quocirca research report underlines the importance of application delivery controllers (ADCs) and the skills needed to deploy and manage them. So, what exactly is an ADC and where can you get one?

ADCs are basically next-generation load balancers and are proving to be fundamental building blocks for advanced application and network platforms. They enable the flexible scaling of resources as demand rises and/or falls and offload work from the servers themselves. They also provide a number of other services that are essential to the effective operation and security of on-demand applications, these include:
  • Network traffic compression – to speed up transmission
  • Data caching – to make sure regularly requested data is readily available
  • Network connection multiplexing – making effective use of multiple network connections
  • Network traffic shaping – a way of reducing latency by prioritising the transmission of workload packets and ensuring quality of service (QoS)
  • Application-layer security – the inclusion of web application firewall (WAF) capabilities to protect on-demand applications from outside attack, for example application-level denial of service (DOS)
  • Secure sockets layer (SSL) management – acting as the landing point for encrypted traffic and managing the decryption and rules for on-going transmission
  • Content switching – routing requests to different web services depending on a range of criteria, for example the language settings of a web browser or the type of device the request is coming from
  • Server health monitoring – ensuring servers are function as expected and serving up data and results that are fit for transmission
Doing all this ensures providers of online services have the agility to remain competitive compared with the laggards that still rely on manual processes to try to achieve the same things or are just unable to carry them out.
As part of the research carried out across 300 IT managers in the UK, Ireland and Nordic region, Quocirca asked about the awareness the respondents had about the suppliers of ADCs.
The best known supplier was Cisco; however, Cisco recently announced it would discontinue further development of its Application Control Engine (ACE) after losing more than half of its market share over the past four years.
Two of the main beneficiaries of this are expected to be F5, a dedicated ADC specialist, which had the third highest awareness; and Citrix, which came fourth (number two was Juniper, another network giant, which exited the ADC market back in 2008 and now partners with Radware). Citrix should benefit the most as Cisco has further announced that it will partner to resell Citrix’s NetScaler ADCs, bringing Cisco’s huge reseller channel into play. However, such a major shift in the market will probably lead many to review their options, so all ADC vendors have an opportunity to benefit.
Behind the big four came Riverbed and Brocade, with Barracuda, A10 and Array Networks being the least well known as ADC suppliers.
HP was also on the list offered to respondents. Most selected the option “did not know it had one” (which it does not) confirming that the pre-screening to ensure the respondents knew a thing or two about ADCs in the first place had been effective.
Quocirca’s new research report “In demand: the culture of online service provision” is freely available for download.

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