Paul Andersen is the Sr. Marketing Manager for Array Networks  and is responsible for communications and product marketing for Array’s line of application, desktop and cloud service delivery solutions.
There is a lot going on in today’s data center and there are several major trends creating challenges that IT managers must solve. Most prominent is virtualization, which aims to maximize application infrastructure to gain advantages in cost, security and ease-of-management. Although the most common use of virtualization is moving applications from dedicated servers onto more flexible and efficient virtual machines, interesting trends are developing around the integration of networking equipment with virtual environments and the moving of networking functions onto virtualized infrastructure.
A prime example of these trends is the application delivery controller (ADC), which provides availability, acceleration and security for enterprise applications and cloud services and has recently experienced two major transformations in response to increased adoption of virtualization. In the traditional data center, it was common practice to deploy ADCs in front of dedicated servers. Today, however, dedicated servers are being replaced by virtualized servers; as a consequence, ADCs must be able to seamlessly perform their function within virtualized environments.
In this first transformation, ADCs gained the ability to integrate with virtualization management systems in order to determine not just the health of applications, but also the health of underlying hypervisors. ADCs also became virtual management system aware as a response to integrating with and providing persistence for resources that are commonly moved, redistributed and shared across applications and servers to maximize utilization of compute resources.
Due to the impact of virtualization, evaluating an ADC’s ability to support and operate in virtual environments is just as important as evaluating its ability to support load balancing, SSL acceleration, compression, caching, traffic management and security features. Even organizations running dedicated servers today will understand that it will not be long before virtualization makes business sense. Therefore, any future investment in application infrastructure should support this important capability.
Consolidating Networking Functions on Common Architectures
In addition to performing application delivery functions in support of virtualized environments, ADCs have also undergone a second transformation. With advances in off-the-shelf processing, there is a growing trend towards consolidating networking functions on common architectures under direct control of unified cloud management platforms. In response, modern ADCs are now available as software products capable of running on commodity hardware and a variety of common hypervisors. As a result, IT personnel now have ultimate flexibility in deploying and supporting applications. ADCs may be spun up and spun down and relocated on the fly as needed to support applications and infrastructure services within private and public clouds or dynamically reallocated to maximize return on investment.
Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before those building public and private clouds requested an even further level of flexibility from ADC vendors. Leveraging expertise in high-performance hardware and newly developed virtualization capabilities, many ADC vendors now offer purpose-built multi-tenant systems that run multiple virtual ADC instances on a single high-performance hardware platform. Deploying virtualized ADC appliances, enterprises and service providers gain the best of both worlds with a solution that minimizes space and power, provides purpose-built performance and allows the flexibility to support multiple applications or customers on a single system.
Impact of Virtualization
The impact of virtualization on the application delivery controller has been and continues to be transformative. In today’s rapidly evolving technology landscape it is expected that application delivery vendors offer ADC product lines that feature strong integration with virtual infrastructure and that are made available as dedicated appliances, as virtualized appliances and as software running on commodity hardware and hypervisors. As virtualization evolves, it will be essential to select application delivery solutions that are evolving alongside in order to ensure the organization extracts the most from its investment in application infrastructure.
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