Best Application Delivery Controllers

An application delivery controller (ADC) is a networking appliance specifically built to enhance the security, performance, and resiliency of applications delivered over the web. Today, there is great demand for legacy load balancing appliances to manage more modern application delivery requirements as well as enhance application performance.

As computing shifts to the cloud, modern applications need to run across all network types and at locations beyond the limits of physical workspaces. They must also serve the needs of an increasingly hybrid workforce. ADCs are crucial in today’s enterprises, as they enable applications to adapt to the networks and protocols of today. Software ADCs increasingly handle tasks that have been predominantly carried out by custom-built hardware.

How to Select an Application Delivery Controller

Besides cost and budget considerations, there are a number of factors to consider before purchasing an application delivery controller.

  • Performance: Find a solution that provides a balance of performance and availability as opposed to overlooking performance to offer constant availability.
  • Licensing Options: Understanding how flexible the vendor will be with the licensing options they offer is key, as your ADC requirements might change with changes in your environment.
  • Features and Ease of Use: It is important to consider the ease of use, deployment, and management of the prospective solution. The solution should be backed by effective support and be able to scale according to the evolving market needs. It should have the features required to satisfy your enterprise needs today – as well as in the future.
  • Consider Where the Solution Can be Deployed: To stay abreast of today’s hybrid environments and to future-proof your applications, your prospective solution should be deployable on virtual machine (VM) platforms, containers, bare-metal, and public or private clouds.

Also see: Best Network Virtualization Software & Products 

Best Application Delivery Controllers

Avi Vantage

As application development, deployment, delivery, and consumption continue to experience a fundamental shift, the Avi Vantage platform from Avi Networks is evolving with this shift. It is specifically built for the mobile and cloud era thanks to a standout software-defined and analytics-driven architecture.

In order to mirror the application usage needs, the architecture separates the data plane from the control plane. Avi Vantage provides multicloud application services such as Elastic Service Mesh, Software Load Balancer, and Intelligent Web Application Firewall (iWAF).

Key Differentiators

Software-Defined Scale-OutArchitecture. The solution’s architecture separates the Avi Controller from the Avi Service Engine and provides one management point with elastic scale to complement the growth of businesses and applications. Avi provides load balancing, security, container ingress, and other application services on a single platform across any environment.

REST APIs, Autoscaling, and Analytics. Avi is 100% based on REST APIs. It is completely automatable and flawlessly integrates with CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous delivery) pipelines for application delivery. Depending on application loads, Avi can scale elastically through on-demand autoscaling. Avi also delivers built-in analytics that benefits application delivery through actionable insights from logs, performance monitoring, and events via one dashboard.

Con

Avi Vantage requires greater technical skill to use as compared to similar products.

Kemp LoadMaster

Kemp LoadMaster is a first-rate, high-performance application delivery controller that delivers scalability, availability, and security for users’ business-critical workloads. Kemp provides adept solutions for load balancing, network performance monitoring, and network detection and response to guarantee applications are always available and network issues are solved before they evolve into problems. Its deployment form-factors include cloud, virtual, hardware, and bare metal.

Key Differentiators

Award-Winning L4-7 Virtual ADC. As an advanced and award-winning Layer 4–7 load balancer, Kemp LoadMaster offers high-performance deployment options to satisfy customer needs. It includes fundamental functions like Server and Application health monitoring, caching/compression, TCP multiplexing, SSL acceleration with FIPS 140-2 support, and an automation-enabled API among other functions.

Global DNS and Traffic Management Services. Kemp GEO Global Server Load Balancer (GSLB) delivers multi-site business continuity and enhanced geographic-based traffic redirection for optimal user experience. Mission-critical traffic is redirected based on predefined policies in scenarios where there is a need to scale capacity or in the event of service disruption to lessen the impact and need for manual intervention.

Con

Kemp LoadMaster’s user interface may need an overhaul to make it less clunky and more intuitive and to reduce the learning curve for users.

Also see: Best Cloud Networking Solutions

F5 NGINX

Part of F5 Inc., NGINX is the organization behind the popular open-source project NGINX that powers more than 400 million websites. NGINX offers an array of technologies for developing and delivering modern applications. In combination with F5, NGINX’s solutions bridge the gap between DevOps and NetOps through multicloud application services that cut across code to the customer. F5 NGINX Application Delivery offers a balance of security, control, and visibility to provide teams with the tools to align their priorities in one platform.

Key Differentiators

F5 NGINX Plus. F5 NGINX Plus delivers a cloud-native software load balancer, reverse proxy, content cache, and web server with enterprise-grade features and five-star support. These enterprise-grade features include active health checks, high availability, DNS system discovery, a RESTful API, and session persistence.

NGINX Controller Application Delivery Module. NGINX Controller Application Delivery Module is an application-centric control plane solution for users’ NGINX Plus load balancers. DevOps teams can use a self-service approach to deploy load balancers for modern, cloud-native applications while also enabling NetOps to guarantee compliance with corporate security policies.

Con

Lack of a GUI (graphical user interface) may make it a complex product for users who are less familiar with the console.

Citrix ADC

Citrix ADC is an extensive application delivery and load balancing solution for microservices-based and monolithic applications. Citrix ADC delivers improved user experience regardless of device and location, as the single code base across the Citrix ADC portfolio provides users with increased agility and speed by delivering operational consistency and holistic visibility all through multicloud environments through a unified dashboard.

Key Differentiators

Comprehensive Security. Citrix ADC offers layers of comprehensive security to enable applications and APIs to remain secure from today’s cyber threats. These security techniques include DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) protection, bot management, and web application firewalls among others.

Flexible Pooled Capacity Licensing. Citrix ADC provides flexibility in its licensing to increase agility through pooled capacity licensing. Users can make the most of their constantly changing environments with pooled capacity licensing to reallocate bandwidth across ADC form factors as required.

Single Code Base for Operational Consistency. A single code base provides greater visibility and control, as it becomes easier to maintain operational consistency for all applications, regardless of the environment.

Con

In addition to a learning curve, some users also point out that its user interface is complex.

Also see: Top Software Defined Networking Solutions

A10 Thunder ADC

A10 Thunder ADC ensures servers remain available, vulnerable applications are protected, and content delivery is accelerated. It uses a polynimbus solution to master hybrid cloud and multicloud deployments, lower the cost and complexity of IT operations, and ultimately improve business operations. Thunder ADC may be deployed at the core of an environment, as it offers up to 370 Gbps in one hardware appliance and 100 Gbps in a single virtual appliance. It can also be deployed in any public or private cloud in a container or virtual form factor in multicloud environments, with homogeneous features across clouds.

Key Differentiators

Advanced Server Load Balancing. A10 Thunder ADC guarantees application availability through full proxy L4-7 load balancing that leverages agile traffic control, customizable service health checks, and aFleX scripting.

Multi-Tenant Software. Thunder ADC supports the highest density or most strongly isolated multi-tenant solutions with role-based access control for appliance consideration and customizable policies.

Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB). With A10 Thunder ADC, users can expand load balancing on a global basis to deliver multicloud global business continuity with quicker, localized server responses.

Con

Similar solutions offer similar features and capabilities at lower prices.

Azure Application Gateway

Azure Application Gateway is a web traffic load balancer that gives users the ability to manage their web applications. It is a solution with the ability to make routing decisions based on extra attributes of an HTTP request, including host headers or URI paths, unlike traditional load balancers that operate at the transport layer and IP addresses and ports. Azure Application Gateway also enables users to create secure, scalable, and highly available web front ends in Azure.

Key Differentiators

Scalable, Highly-Available Web Application Delivery. Azure Application Gateway provides application-level load-balancing services and routing to enable users to create available and scalable web applications. Users can also automatically scale Application Gateway instances based on their web application traffic load through autoscaling.

Web Application Firewall. With Azure’s web application firewall, customers can secure their applications from common web security gaps like cross-site scripting and SQL injections. Through custom rules and rule groups, users have the ability to monitor their web apps to eliminate false positives and satisfy their requirements.

Integration with Azure Services. Application Gateway’s integration with Azure services opens up users to a suite of useful Azure services like Azure Traffic Manager, Azure Virtual Machines, Azure Monitor and Azure Security Center among others.

Con

A lack of annotations for web application firewalls makes Application Gateway hard to manage.

AWS Elastic Load Balancing

AWS Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) automatically distributes inbound application traffic among diverse targets and virtual appliances in at least one availability zone. Elastic Load Balancing can be used to modernize applications with serverless infrastructure and containers, enhance the scalability of hybrid cloud networks, and enable users to retain existing network appliances. AWS Elastic Load Balancing can be accessed for free through the AWS Free Tier, as customers are offered up to 750 hours divided between Application and Classic load balancers.

Key Differentiators

Security. Users can construct and manage security groups related to ELB to deliver extra security and networking options for Classic and Application Load Balancers when using Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (VPC).

High Throughput. AWS Elastic Load Balancing is built to handle traffic as it grows. It can load balance millions of requests per second as well as handle unpredictable traffic patterns.

Health Checks. Elastic Load Balancing provides better insights into application health, as Elastic Load Balancers solely route traffic to healthy targets like EC2 instances, microservices, containers, Lambda functions, appliances, and IP addresses.

Con

Setting up SSL certification can be complex.

F5 BIG-IP

F5 BIG-IP application services empower its users to meet their business demands by delivering the availability, performance, and security user applications require. BIG-IP offers an Application Policy Manager to ensure only authorized people have access to the right applications. It also offers an Application Security Manager to empower users with the flexibility to deploy web application firewalls closer to the applications, and an Advanced Firewall Manager to secure user applications against volumetric DDoS attacks at Layers 3 and 4. BIG-IP application services consist of its Local Traffic Manager and its BIG-IP DNS.

Key Differentiators

BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager. BIG-IP Local Traffic Manager provides customers with the ability to control network traffic and choose the correct destination based on server security, performance, and availability. It is programmable and is a full proxy, thus providing the power, visibility, and control required. BIG-IP LTM also offers support of IoT clients among more capabilities.

BIG-IP DNS. BIG-IP DNS optimizes the availability and performance of users’ global applications by routing users to the best-performing or the closest, virtual, physical, or cloud environment. It also hyperscales and safeguards user infrastructure from DDoS attacks.

Con

The solution has a learning curve and is costlier than a number of similar services.

Also see: Top Managed Service Providers

Collins Ayuya
Collins Ayuya
Collins Ayuya is pursuing his Master's in Computer Science and is passionate about technology. He loves sharing his experience in Artificial Intelligence, Telecommunications, IT, and emerging technologies through his writing. He is passionate about startups, innovation, new technology, and developing new products as he is also a startup founder. Collins enjoys doing pencil and graphite art and is also a sportsman, and gamer during his downtime.

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