Industry Voices—Doyle: Application delivery controllers play a key role for service providers

Virtualization of ADC functionality, increased use of NFV and the rise of microservices and containers will impact the deployment and use of ADCs. (Pixabay)

Application delivery controllers (ADCs) play a critical role in accelerating application performance in leading communications service provider (CSP) networks. 

CSPs spend close to $1 billion per year on ADC appliance, software and services to expedite video delivery, content caching, web services acceleration and improve network security responsiveness, according to Doyle Research. Virtualization of ADC functionality, increased use of NFV and the rise of microservices and containers will impact the deployment and use of ADCs in leading CSPs over the next several years.

ADC defined

ADC traffic prioritization capabilities are a critical aspect of delivering on quality of user experience requirements for many web facing applications. Often deployed in the data center between the firewall and the application servers, ADCs use a number of techniques to optimize application performance including traffic identification, data compression and reverse caching. ADCs can be used in a number of network/security applications, including SSL encryption and to protect against DDOS attacks.

CSPs tap into ADC

In addition to the standard use of ADCs in the data center to accelerate web traffic, CSPs have a number of unique use cases (and requirements) for ADCs. In the network, ADCs are often deployed in NFV, OpenStack-centric environments to accelerate video content delivery and media streaming.  ADCs are also deployed as a front-end to improve network security performance, for example for NAT, SSL and firewall applications. As with all CSP network elements, the ADCs must deliver extremely high performance —think millions of users—be highly reliable and scale up or down as network requirements change. And, integration between multiple ADC functions and centralized MANO (management, automation and orchestration) continues to be critical.

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The impact of NFV and microservices

Most leading CSPs have implemented initial deployments of NFV a single function replacement for hardware appliances.  As CSPs deploy multi-function NFV as decomposed “cloud” services, their requirements for application acceleration and security will evolve.  The virtualization of ADCs and decomposition of its functionality creates new opportunities to deploy distributed ADC capabilities.  Going forward, CSPs require the ability to deploy specific ADC functionality where and when it is needed.

Recommendations for leading CSPs

Leading CSPs, including AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink and Comcast, have stated publicly their desire to move away from dedicated hardware appliance platforms in favor of micro-services software running on standardized compute platforms. Virtual ADCs will continue to play an important role in traffic acceleration (for example, content delivery) and security in wireless and wireline networks. CSPs will migrate from ADC appliances towards microservices-based offerings where they pay for only the services and capacity they use.

Leading CSPs should evaluate ADCs on their unique functionality, performance at scale, interoperability with other VNFs and ability to integrate with their NFV MANO platforms.  As ADC functionality becomes more distributed and customized (per application or per customer), CSPs should consider ADC suppliers with the ability to deliver disaggregated functionality on a pay per use basis.

Lee Doyle is principal analyst at Doyle Research, providing client-focused targeted analysis on the evolution of intelligent networks. He has over 25 years’ experience analyzing the IT, network, and telecom markets. Lee has written extensively on such topics as SDN, NFV, enterprise adoption of networking technologies, and IT-Telecom convergence. Before founding Doyle Research, Lee was group VP for network, telecom, and security research at IDC. Lee holds a B.A. in economics from Williams College. He can be reached at [email protected]; follow him @leedoyle_dc.

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by FierceTelecom staff. They do not represent the opinions of FierceTelecom.