Want the Cloud? You’ll Need an ADC

The cloud is all about application delivery. Whether it’s a public service delivering software to various clients or a top enterprise looking to do the same for knowledge workers, the ability to provide apps reliably and securely will define success or failure in the cloud.

It’s no small wonder, then, that the application delivery controller (ADC) is such a hot commodity in IT circles these days. And since we’re talking about delivery over extensive networks here, the newest designs stress speed and management as primary attributes, where the controller itself is merely one component of a broader application platform.

Array Networks pushed the envelope a little more with the release of the APV9650, a 60 Gbps device that ups L4 and L7 throughput at what the company says is a breakthrough price-performance ratio. The system runs the company’s SpeedCore platform that provides parallel, multi-core operation, as well as 2048-bit SSL encryption, in a massively scalable architecture — upwards of 20 million concurrent, non-intrusive connections.

Meanwhile, Radware also has added a number of pieces to its Virtual Application Delivery Infrastructure (VADI), including a new Alteon virtual appliance — what the company calls a SoftADC — that delivers local/global load balancing and Layer 7 connectivity as a VMware virtual machine. The company has also released an ADC management orchestration plug-in called vDirect that provides a VADI management interface to VMware vCenter and vCenter Orchestrator for improved automation and management capabilities.

Properly configured, an ADC can do more than simply improve application performance, says F5’s Lori MacVittie. As the chief enabler of “connection management” in complex environments, an ADC allows you to quickly scale up resources without adding, or perhaps even reducing, the physical resources that normally would accompany increased TCP connectivity. Enhanced load balancing, in fact, is only the tip of the iceberg as long as the ADC is part of a comprehensive delivery strategy.

Speed and scalability are certainly worthy goals, according to Brenda Menard of Compuware’s Gomez Web performance division, but let’s not forget the need for enhanced visibility across the entire application delivery chain. With more than a quarter of all critical transactions now pulling at least one component from EC2, it’s a good bet that many enterprises are using the cloud without even knowing it. Compuware provides services like Cloud Sleuth to help determine exactly what your apps are doing, even as the number of content sources per website continues to rise.

Application delivery works best when it is part of a comprehensive data infrastructure strategy encompassing traffic management, WAN optimization and a host of other functions. Like virtualization itself, it is best viewed as a continuing process rather than a goal to be achieved and then implemented.

It’s a complicated but necessary element in the cloud.

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