Avi Networks Transforms Application Delivery Control

Avi Networks aims to offer what an ADC should be all about: delivering applications to end users in the most secure, efficient, cost-effective fashion.

 By Frank Ohlhorst
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It can be pretty hard to get excited about load balancers. After all, the typical load balancer, often referred to as an ADC (Application Delivery Controller), is expected to churn away in the recesses of network infrastructure, taking care of mundane tasks to ensure that end users have reliable access to applications and services.

However, many of today’s ADCs harbor a dirty little secret. They tend to be hard to deploy, manage and tune. Adding insult to injury, ADCs often do a poor job of offering the analytics needed to track down performance problems.

Newcomer Avi Networks has entered the fray, bringing a new ADC that aims to eliminate many load balancing pain points by combining machine learning, advanced analytics and automation into both the control and data planes of load balancing.

The crowded ADC market

Today's ADC market is crowded with both industry giants and petulant startups, all claiming to have the best way to deliver applications using load-balancing technologies. On one side of the fence are the industry stalwarts, which offer high performance hardware appliances that merge the control and data planes together to centralize the management and execution of load balancing. Companies such as F5 Networks, A10 Networks, Kemp Technologies, and Citrix have firmly planted their flag in the hardware appliance camp, while also offering virtual appliances to appease enterprises seeking cloud nirvana.

On the other side of the fence reside cloud-centric load balancing, ADC and even content delivery controllers that fully reside within the cloud and almost take on the role of proxies tuned to deliver applications. Some of those vendors, such as Incapsula, Lagrange Systems, and NGINX have put most of their eggs into the cloud basket, offering virtual appliances that deliver applications from cloud infrastructure.

Cloud ADC vs. Onsite ADC

One of the biggest points of contention with deploying an ADC comes in the form of choosing between a cloud-based solution or an onsite/in-house implementation. Naturally, those that manufacture physical and virtual appliances extol the virtues of  onsite implications, where control, ownership, connectivity and maintenance all fall within the confines of a physical location, run by corporate IT. Onsite implementations do offer significant advantages for balancing loads for local applications.

In that situation, all of the applications, related servers and networking hardware can work together in a low-latency environment to deliver applications to users in an extremely efficient manner. But enterprises are moving away from single site applications and centralized data centers. Once you move resources into the cloud, a cloud-based delivery mechanism becomes more desirable and ultimately more efficient.

What’s more, a growing number of organizations are hopping on the “microservices” bandwagon, which leverages small applications that communicate with one another from different locations to create a unified application experience for the end user. That creates a situation where multiple ADCs must efficiently communicate with one another to deliver an acceptable end user experience.

Microservices often rely on API calls to execute, which in turn can be delivered from various servers, creating a strain on network operations and adding latency to the execution process.

Further complicating the ADC equation is the rise of mobile computing. In the past, users were predominantly tethered to their desks using desktop systems. From a load balancing standpoint, that created a relatively easy environment to support.

These days, however, many enterprises are moving to a “mobile first” ideology, eschewing traditional desktops in favor of a mobile workforce.  Mobility further complicates the concept of application delivery, since ADCs now have to take in account the variables that mobility adds to the networking environment.

Providing acceptable performance in a mobile environment means that ADCs must be able to apply heuristics that can analyze users, their devices, the location of the application, details about the computing infrastructure, and any other element involved in the delivery of an application in order to create an adaptable load balancing solution that can react to changes in real time.

A closer look at Avi Networks v15.1

Sunnyvale, CA-based Avi Networks has built an ADC from the ground up that is capable of either being deployed on premises as a virtual appliance or placed out in the cloud as a hosted virtual appliance on AWS or VMWare’s vCloud Air public cloud platform service.

These deployment options give Avi Networks an advantage over competitors by allowing customers to choose which implementation works best for their given environment. What’s more, by using the virtual appliance ideology, implementations can be moved from the cloud to onsite and vice versa, offering customers an upgrade (or downgrade) path that can meet the changing demands of business.

That same ideology fits squarely into Avi Networks's concept of providing what the company calls a “next generation” ADC, which the company defines as an ADC that incorporates machine learning and advanced algorithms to leverage the way applications interact and communicate with one another. That, in turn, fuels self-tuning heuristics that can automatically scale workloads up or down based on real-time demands.

Avi Networks also differs from most competitors by separating the control and data planes, allowing each to use independent resources. This prevents high loads from impacting the solution’s ability to manage and assign loads. That separation also enhances continuity. For example, if the control plane fails, the data plane will still function and allow applications to be served. On the other hand, if one of the data plane elements fails, the control plane will automatically detect the failure and reroute application delivery as needed.

Avi Networks is able to separate the control and data planes by leveraging the ideologies of SDN (Software Defined Networks), where virtual components are built as portable services and can be quickly redefined, launched or modified to meet evolving network needs.

Next page: Hand-son with Avi Networks ADC

This article was originally published on Jun 10, 2015
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