Application delivery networking has its roots in simple load balancing, but has evolved considerably over the last decade. The first evolution was the integrated traffic management appliance, combining load balancing with additional networking functions such as SSL acceleration, compression, caching, TCP offload, connection multiplexing and Web firewalls to improve the performance, availability and security of Websites and Web applications. The next evolution was the application delivery controller (ADC), building on the integrated traffic management appliance to provide application-specific configurations and deployment guides for ensuring maximum performance, availability and ROI for business-critical enterprise applications such as Microsoft, SAP, IBM and others.
Shortly thereafter, application delivery networking came to represent more than just a single product. In addition to the application delivery controller, products such as WAN optimization controllers (WOC), secure access gateways and Web application firewalls were seen as necessary components in providing the access, mobility, security, availability, performance and scalability needed to derive maximum ROI for investments in application infrastructure. Today, many vendors are strong in one or more of these areas, but are moving quickly to address all areas as more and more enterprises are looking to deploy a holistic solution for supporting their applications.
Perhaps to be expected, before this last evolution has finished a new one has started. Until recently, application delivery networking was associated with dedicated physical appliances – due in large part to the performance demands of advanced acceleration and security functions. However, performance improvements in virtualized infrastructure and the growing influence of cloud computing are providing the foundation for significantly changing the face of application delivery.
In many ways, the evolution from load balancer, to application delivery controller to application delivery networking is repeating itself in the cloud. Today you see vendors that specialize in application delivery controllers offering virtual editions of their product designed to run on commodity hardware and most common hypervisors. Moving ADC functionality to the cloud, load balancing may be offered as a service, organizations may develop and test applications in the cloud, and businesses may benefit from hybrid public and private cloud architectures that share a common platform and enable on demand capacity and bursting. You can also see vendors including Array and others starting to offer WAN optimization in cloud and virtualized environments, dramatically improving agility and significantly reducing the cost of ensuring application performance across the Internet.
It is not difficult to see where this is heading – vendors in a race to provide customers with application delivery, WAN optimization and secure access, all available in cloud and virtualized environments, available as a holistic solution with sufficient performance, reliability and management integration to drive down costs and improve efficiency and productivity. As this latest evolution unfolds, businesses are well advised to seek out vendors that demonstrate core competencies across all three key areas of application delivery networking – application delivery, secure access and WAN optimization – and also vendors that are ahead of the curve and already have virtual versions of these key application delivery requirements.
Paul Andersen is the Sr. Marketing Manager for Array Networks, responsible for marketing communications and product marketing for Array’s line of application, desktop and cloud service delivery solutions. Andersen has fifteen years of marketing experience in high technology in the areas of networking, security and application delivery. Prior to Array has held product marketing, partner marketing and marketing communications roles at Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems and Tasman Networks. A graduate of San Jose State University, he holds a BA in and holds a bachelor’s degree in Marketing with minor in Technical Communications.