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The Cloud’s Next Big Disruption – The Application Delivery Controller

The Cloud’s Next Big Disruption – The Application Delivery Controller

  • By Sonal |

This blog originally appeared on the website of Benhamou Global Ventures, one of Webscale’s key investors.

In part II of a three part blog on cloud computing Sonal Puri (CEO Webscale Networks) and Anik Bose (BGV General Partner) share their perspective on the next big cloud disruption – the application delivery controller market.

Have business owners wondered why we still hear about websites crashing when too many people try to get in? Stories were rife during the recent 2016 Black Friday and Cyber Monday events with big names like Old Navy, Macy’s and Walmart, all experiencing availability issues due to surge traffic, even though these businesses have been around for decades and have adequate budgets to support their needs. Part of the problem is that many companies are still using traditional hosting and networking solutions for the scale, security and management of their websites, and web applications, instead of the cloud. And the other part of the problem is a lack of expertise in bringing all the disparate pieces of the solution together to solve for the big picture.

Lying in many data centers and server rooms today is an appliance we have all heard about (hardware, software, virtual or otherwise): the application delivery controller (ADC). During periods of high demand, like Cyber Monday, an ADC is expected to distribute incoming website visitors across multiple servers until they are at capacity. The ADC space is set to grow into a $2.9 billion global market by 2020 – but what’s driving this massive potential is certainly not an appliance.

Traditional ADCs – are they even worth it?

Anyone who’s worked in a small-sized business knows that building a traditional server deployment with an old-fashioned ADC is expensive, time consuming and challenging to manage. When an ADC and its associated functions get converted to a SaaS-based utility, everything changes. The deployment is a service and managed by the software vendor instead of the company who needs its features but not its associated headache. One can eliminate the need to constantly buy licenses and scaling out is automated, instant and cost effective, versus installing more physical servers, which may then sit dormant for a large percentage of time when not running at peak.

Old dogs can learn new tricks? Not likely

Traditional ADC vendors such as F5, Radware and Citrix are moving to embrace the cloud and stay relevant in the ADC business, but their entire business model has yet to pivot from the approach of deploying hardware. And their sales and go to market models are not suited for the new world. While these companies may feel like a safe bet and their cloud vision may seem compelling and logical, the ADCs still have to be installed for a cloud deployment and the customer still needs to support it.

Parallels across the storage, wan optimization and caching markets replaced almost entirely by SaaS services is difficult to ignore. Layer 4-7 functionality is moving to the cloud quickly.

What the cloud can really do

It is no secret that the cloud offers infinite scalability, but an ADC delivered as a utility-type service truly built for the cloud offers much more. Traditional ADCs are missing out on content optimization and the ability to offer analytics for customer insights. A built-in-the-cloud ADC solution like Webscale can detect changing requirements (sense) and respond to those requirements (control) – thereby monitoring a customer’s web traffic and infrastructure and resolving issues before they cause disruption. This can be anything from improved page load times to a full scale-out because of a sudden surge in traffic.

There are many stories of Webscale customers that have experienced unplanned scale out events just like this. As a vendor, the benefit of a service is constant feedback and improvement. The ADC market remains challenged because they get limited feedback from their customers. If you don’t touch your ADC appliances (either physical or cloud-based) after a customer purchases them, how can you know what your customers are doing with your solution and if your future enhancements are on track, right or wrong?

Isn’t it time to think outside the ADC box?

Despite these trends and ample proof points, some organizations aren’t being swayed to adopt the cloud or services that make the cloud more efficient, even when, in today’s rapidly moving, always-on world, any enterprise can be subject to a sudden traffic overload that traditional hosting solutions can’t keep up with. Organizations should be asking themselves the following question: is it better to worry about and maintain our own systems and ADCs or instead use that time and money to focus on growing the business?

The answer should always be to favor whatever route facilitates laser-focus on one’s business and leave everything else to service models available as a utility. And that is why old school ADCs are such prime targets for disruption from the cloud.


Sonal lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband, Gaurav, their two children, Rayan and Reyna, and a poodle. She spends all her energy on family, Webscale, reading and long 'thinking' walks.