Guest Column | November 27, 2013

A Shift In Balance: Virtualization Growth Drives Demand For Greater App Performance

By Atchison Frazer, KEMP Technologies

IT budgets have been on the move in recent years. The shift from central IT purchasing to line of business (LOB) responsibility has been spurred in part by C-level initiatives to drive greater departmental accountability without the problems of amortizing centralized IT overheads. In parallel to this, there has been a pronounced migration in data center resourcing from the large fixed capacity, compute and storage hardware systems, to virtualized and cloud delivery models.

Gone are the days of “big iron” dominating the centralized IT enterprise; today’s corporate infrastructures include a dynamic mix of physical, virtual, and cloud deployments. Server virtualization has rapidly become the default platform for modern data centers with some 50 percent of all new workloads deployed in a virtual machine (VM).

Two key attributes of server virtualization have accelerated this trend. Server-to-server and resource-to-resource isolation facilitate dynamic sharing of core data center hardware that prevents peak demand from one LOB from affecting the service quality for another’s workloads.  Additionally, direct visibility into resource utilization enables a metered “utility” chargeback model, solving that difficult-to-amortize overhead problem. Even though they draw from a common pool of shared hardware infrastructure, there is no need for autonomous LOB IT projects to be coordinated if they all run in their own well-isolated virtual environments. It is critical that LOB users have predictability in their application performance, and that their apps will not be randomly starved in favour of other apps running in the same virtualization environment.

This shift from physical to virtual also means that “big ticket” items such as expensive and inflexible hardware servers, storage devices and load balancers are now being augmented or selectively replaced with virtual alternatives. IT departments no longer need to invest up-front in “future-proofed” solutions that will accommodate applications rolled out years ahead. From an Oracle ecommerce solution or CRM system, to migrating to the latest version of Microsoft Exchange or implementing unified messaging, it is now very quick and simple to “spin up” a new virtual server to deploy a new application.

As a result, many organizations are rethinking their approaches to up-front purchasing and on-going IT management costs, switching from the traditional centralized systems cost model to a more agile and flexible application-based cost model. With the advent of mobile/cloud APIs replacing the website apps of today, collaboration with partners and customers across technology domains and even, perhaps, public cloud platforms will also spur demand for flexible, virtualized infrastructure.

Server virtualization is effectively putting line-of-business managers, driven by dynamic market and operational needs, in closer control of the computing environment with a pay-as-you go approach to deploying applications. You simply buy what you want when you need it and scale up and down as required.

Balancing the load

Traditionally, one of the high cost items for large enterprise IT systems has been the load balancer or application delivery controller (ADC). But until recently, ADC technology has largely been delivered with fixed-capacity, dedicated devices — analogous to “mainframes” in an otherwise agile data center. With big iron ADCs located in the data center, it is difficult to deliver on-demand, right-sized capacity to LOBs and virtually impossible to implement meaningful non-contentious chargeback.

An ADC directly assists in the management of client connections to enterprise websites and applications. ADCs are normally deployed behind firewalls and in front of the application servers and making application traffic flows behave more efficiently by managing the traffic shaping, steering and distribution.  A bit like high speed rail switching, the ADC directs client access requests to the best performing servers based on factors such as concurrent connections, CPU load and memory utilization. This makes sure that bottlenecks do not occur to reduce performance and if a server or application fails, the user is automatically re-routed to another functioning server. This process is seamless to the user and critical to delivering an optimized and reliable experience.

 “With a forecast expected to approach $2.3 billion in 2017, virtualization, cloud, and data center consolidation are all key signs driving growth in the application delivery controller market,” said Casey Quillin, Senior Analyst of Data Center Appliance Market Research, Dell’Oro Group. “The core market drivers, however, remain sound and we are only just beginning to see the positive impact of the public cloud on virtual ADCs.”

Dell’ Oro tracks ADC shipments and recent reports show that while F5 and Citrix still have a significant market lead, new players — headed up by KEMP Technologies ranks taking advantage of this market shift. In Q2 2013 for both the US and EMEA, Dell ’Oro puts KEMP third behind F5 and Citrix, and ahead of publicly traded mature companies like Brocade, Riverbed, and Radware .

KEMP was one of the first companies to recognize the growing demand for affordable load balancing among fast-growing SMEs as they ramped up the number of servers needed to run their mission-critical IT operations and deploy more web-based applications. But by offering the option of hardware as well as virtual solutions for VMware,Hyper-V, KVM and Xen hypervisor platforms, KEMP is now well-positioned to support larger enterprises as they migrate from hardware to virtual infrastructures. This foresight and commitment to deliver market-leading technology is reflected in KEMP’s 500 percent growth in the last three years.  KEMP’s LoadMaster (VLM) is also the first application delivery controller to add application-layer traffic management capabilities for mission-critical applications running in the Microsoft Azure cloud.  Tight integration is key and the KEMP LoadMaster for Azure runs directly on the cloud platform rather than just directing traffic to the Azure network, delivering higher performance and optimal throughput.

Atchison Frazer, CMO at KEMP Technologies, has over 20 years’ experience in technology marketing for both global IT leaders like Cisco and HP, as well as disruptive market-maker start-ups like Gnodal (now part of Cray) and Fortinet.