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Changing needs of tech buyers rattle ADC market

A new breed of tech buyer is demanding application delivery controllers geared toward mobile and cloud development.

Tech buyers who are demanding software to control network functions are disrupting the application delivery controller (ADC) market by forcing traditional hardware vendors to reshape their portfolios.

The new breed of tech buyers have spurred next-generation ADC technology in the open source community, according to Gartner, based in Stamford, Conn. Among vendors, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has answered the call with a cloud-only ADC, while other suppliers are developing or acquiring technology to broaden portfolios aimed mostly at traditional buyers.

"At this point, no single vendor serves the two diverse buying centers well," said Gartner analyst Andrew Lerner.

The trend is reflected in Gartner's latest Magic Quadrant for Application Delivery Controllers. AWS is the only vendor in the report with a successful product line aimed solely at these nontraditional tech buyers, Lerner said. Other vendors have had only "limited success targeting app-centric buyers."

New kind of tech buyers in ADC market

So, who are these buyers? They are application developers and architects, DevOps teams and the lines of businesses they work for. The traditional ADC buyers were the infrastructure and operations (I&O) organizations, which favored hardware-based ADCs to boost the performance of Web and business applications.

At this point, no single vendor serves the two diverse buying centers well.
Andrew Lerneranalyst at Gartner

Times have changed, however. Today's developers need ADCs to provide load balancing and security to applications serving a large number and variety of mobile devices. These developers are also building cloud applications comprised of microservices, which are self-contained units that are independent, autonomous and modular.

Cloud and mobile application development calls for a new type of ADC; one that is software-only, low-cost and provides only essential features, Lerner said. The lightweight ADCs are deployed on a per-app basis, as opposed to a much broader computing environment, which demands a traditional ADC.

The newer ADCs account for roughly 10% of the market, according to Gartner. But sales of the technology are growing at a much higher rate than traditional ADC products.

Amazon and open source

Amazon's product suite is an example of what appeals to the new ADC market buyer. The package, available only in the AWS cloud, comprises Elastic load balancing, Route 53 domain name system services and the CloudFront content delivery network.

The Amazon suite is only for companies that run applications in the AWS cloud or plan to migrate applications there, Gartner said. Amazon has shown no interest in providing an on-premises version of its software, which makes it "extremely challenging" to move workloads between AWS and other public or private cloud infrastructures.

Developers who are not building apps on AWS are turning to open source software, such as HAProxy and NGINX. Commercial versions of the technologies are available through HAProxy Technologies Inc. and NGINX Inc., Lerner said. Both provide support and have built commercial software that sits on top of the open source core.

Traditional ADC vendors are trying to keep up with the market shift. In February, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. bought Riverbed Technology Inc.'s SteelApp line of virtual ADCs. The acquisition was to bolster the capabilities of Brocade's Vyatta network virtualization platform.

F5 Networks Inc., listed as a market leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant, has LineRate, a lightweight load balancer for cloud environments. In March, KEMP Technologies Inc. introduced a free version of its virtual LoadMaster ADC.

"Moving forward, we anticipate that the traditional players will continue to evolve their product and business strategies to go after these [tech] buyers," Lerner said.

That may be so, but to keep up with the shift in IT to cloud and mobile computing, traditional vendors will have to move fast to avoid being left behind.

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