As resellers adjust to the increasing use of on-demand services by their customers they need to find places where they can still sell product, make margin and add value. One area with plenty of opportunity is the ensuring of application performance through the use of application delivery controllers (ADCs).
ADCs are, basically, next generation load balancers and are proving to be fundamental building blocks for advanced application and network platforms, and essential to the delivery of on-demand applications. So this is where to opportunity lies; a recent Quocirca report shows that more and more organisations are coming to depend on the delivery of either on-demand IT and/or e-commerce services to engage with their customers (Figure 1).
Of course, in many cases, especially when it comes to e-commerce applications, the delivery platform will be provided by an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider. This means the data centre, server hardware and basic software infrastructure is already managed. However, the applications still need provisioning and their performance, resilience and security ensured.
This is where ADCs come in. They enable the flexible scaling of resources as demand rises and/or falls and the offloading of work from application servers. They also provide a number of other services that are essential to the effective operation of on-demand applications. These include;
- Network traffic compression – to speed up transmission
- Data caching – to make sure regularly requested data is readily available
- Network connection multiplexing – making effective use of multiple network connections
- Network traffic shaping – a way of reducing latency by prioritising the transmission of workload packets and ensuring quality of service (QoS)
- Application-layer security – the inclusion of web application firewall (WAF) capabilities to protect on-demand applications from outside attack, for example application-level denial of service (DOS)
- Secure sockets layer (SSL) management – acting as the landing point for encrypted traffic and managing the decryption and rules for on-going transmission
- Content switching – routing requests to different web services depending on a range of criteria, for example the language settings of a web browser or the type of device the request is coming from
- Server health monitoring – ensuring servers are functioning as expected and serving up data and results that are fit for transmission
Most ADCs can be deployed as standalone appliances or as virtual ones, which makes them flexible and ideal for supporting in-house, cloud-based or hybrid application deployments. This also means they are key to the enablement of flexible delivery of resources through cloud bursting (the scaling out of on-premise applications to a shared cloud platform) when workload demands it.
Two of the best known ADC suppliers are Citrix (whose NetScaler product is resold by Cisco) and F5; both vendors are part of Cisco’s new Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) initiative, a move that further underlines the momentum in this area. Other vendors include Kemp, Riverbed, Radware (which partners with Juniper), Brocade, Barracuda, A10 and Array Networks.
Selling ADC products is one thing but what about the value add? Well the good news here for resellers is that help is needed to deploy all these on-demand applications. Only 32% of organisations say they have sufficient current and up-to-date skills to manage advanced networks (Figure 2), 62% already look to service providers to help plug the gap (Figure 3).
Many of the ADC vendors are well positioned to help resellers get skilled up via accreditation programmes. Quocirca’s report shows that the value of such programmes is widely recognised by end user organisations, whether the accreditations are for their own employees or for those of their reseller partners.
The importance of on-demand applications is hardly likely to diminish in the coming decade nor is the use of cloud infrastructure services. Those resellers with the product portfolio and skills to help their customers ensure the performance of on-demand application are set to prosper.
 In demand: the culture of online service provision, Quocirca, Oct 2013, http://www.citrix.com/news/market-research/oct-2013/quocirca-in-demand-the-culture-of-online-service-provision.html