ADC Market in Transition: A Sign of the Times

The modern data center is evolving with the uptake of cloud computing, containers and virtual machines. So is the application delivery controller market. Partners need to know what new challenges their customers face and understand the product landscape in order to provide the solutions that they need.

Lynn Haber

August 9, 2018

3 Min Read
Application Delivery Network

As workloads becomes more dynamic and distributed, they’re not only disrupting the traditional application delivery controller (ADC) market but are shepherding in a bunch of forward-looking players — and that’s something that channel partners need to be aware of. 

On the forward-looking front, software-only ADC players include companies such as Snapt, Avi Networks, Kemp Technologies, Nginx and Pulse Secure (formerly Brocade), to name a handful. More familiar and traditional ADC vendors include the likes of F5, A10 Networks, Array Networks, Barracuda and Citrix, among others. 

**Editor’s Note: Channel Futures recently spoke with Dave Blakey, CEO and cofounder of Snapt, a young company looking to disrupt the ADC market and is building a channel partner program to help them succeed.**

As this market evolves, don’t expect the traditional ADC appliance vendors to disappear; rather, expect to see more software-centric ADCs in the modern network infrastructure to support cloud computing, virtual machines and containers. Traditional ADCs are still needed for private cloud and traditional applications. 

“Today, were seeing more workloads in more places, which is not the same as it used to be with big physical applications that had everything they needed to run,” Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research, told us. “Workloads today are smaller, especially containers, which still need some ADC functions but not a whole ADC.” 


Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala

Traditional ADCs are devices in the data center that sit between the firewall and one or more applications. They offer functions such load balancing, application acceleration and web application firewall.

“If I spin up a container to do authentication of a user, I may need to encrypt it, but I certainly don’t need to run it through a web app firewall and I don’t need to load-balance,” Kerravala said. “So, what’s important is that we need more ADC functions in more places; we don’t just need ADCs.” 

While the ADC market is clearly evolving with new entrants, or disruptors, and existing ADC vendors are shifting their product strategies, expect it to take another two to three years for this story to play out as IT modernization continues. 

On the customer side, Kerravala took the pulse of IT professionals, in an Application Delivery Controller Survey, and uncovered six key trends: 

  1. ADCs are deployed predominately to support on-premises legacy applications but other use cases are emerging.

  2. Respondents are experimenting with non-hardware form factors.

  3. More than half of respondents are considering alternative vendors.

  4. Network functions can be provisioned quickly, but core ACD features remain a challenge.

  5. A lag in ADC changes is impacting application rollouts.

  6. Satisfaction with current ADC vendors is tepid. 

The first step a channel partner should take is to determine the ADC vendor’s strategy pertaining to meeting new workload demands. 

If you’re looking to align with a software-only ADC player, find out who else is in their broader tech ecosystem. Do they work with VMware, Docker or Cisco? 

For example, Avi Networks is part of Cisco’s ACI ecosystem, which means you can use Cisco to manage Avi, as well as F5. Avi delivers intent-based application services with intelligent automation and elasticity across any cloud. The Avi Vantage Platform provides a software load balancer, intelligent web application firewall and elastic service mesh. 

Partners also want these vendors to offer good management tools.

“Physical (ADC) devices are straightforward to manage. But once you move into a world where you can spin up and spin down workloads almost on demand, it’s easy to lose track of them — like VM sprawl where you have too many of them to manage,” said Kerravala. 

Good management tools are critical. Does the ADC vendor offer its own? Or do they work with other vendors’ management tools, such as Cisco ACI manager, VMware’s VCenter or Kubernetes? 

Change is happening at a rapid pace. DevOps is a big initiative at companies, and so are containers. App-developer groups and infrastructure groups need to adapt and keep up.

“I think this is going to sneak up on partners and it’s going to sneak up on them quickly,” said Kerravala.

About the Author(s)

Lynn Haber

Content Director Lynn Haber follows channel news from partners, vendors, distributors and industry watchers. If I miss some coverage, don’t hesitate to email me and pass it along. Always up for chatting with partners. Say hi if you see me at a conference!

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