If a single word could describe today’s IT operations, it would be complex. We live with a mix of physical and virtual resources, and IT teams are becoming service providers that have a tremendous impact on the company’s bottom line by ensuring that employees are productive and customers can access the resources they need.
The typical enterprise may be running thousands of applications to keep things working. The introduction of application delivery controllers (ADCs) first addressed the challenges of this complexity years ago. Because one application outage can potentially cost millions in lost revenue, managing ADC services is a priority for IT.
Here are a few of the challenges that IT faces today when managing ADCs.
Dynamic Change Requests
As organizations grow, their business needs change. ADC infrastructure must be able to adapt to support this growth. It may involve everyday updates to hardware or simple configuration modifications. Other changes, however, are more drastic. Large-scale upgrades, new configurations and significant changes to infrastructure create the risk of application outages that can hamper business operations. The cause is often manual ADC management, creating delays and leaving service requests unfulfilled. Several factors influence this situation, such as the complexity of the ADC environment and a lack of time to address the volume of change requests.
Collaborative Challenges Causing Delay
Application teams perform a variety of functions, from new-application deployment to configuration changes. As a result, multiple teams may be involved in managing a single request. If the separate application teams fail to effectively collaborate, the result is a lack of communication that lengthens what would otherwise be a quick resolution. If hundreds of requests are pouring in, long wait times or mistakes from rushing are the inevitable outcomes. ADC teams must balance service with security and performance.
Backup and Upgrade Requests
Many of the tasks that ADC teams perform create the potential for outages, thus necessitating a robust backup system in case a configuration change or compatibility issue causes downtime. Typical backups require automated tools in conjunction with manual tasks, and the resulting disorganization means even locating correct archives can be a challenge. Further complicating matters, frequent application upgrades boost the performance of individual applications, at the potential cost of stability. Because ADCs may work with multiple applications, updating a single application can have a ripple effect throughout the infrastructure.
ADC configurations are at the heart of successful application management, and maintaining an up-to-date set of configurations should be a priority. For many enterprises, however, keeping configurations current often takes a backseat when moving an application to the cloud or performing updates is necessary. Over time, unused and outdated configurations accumulate, taking up resources every time transition occurs. Eliminating configurations is considered a risk because staff may lack the time to fully analyze the impact.
Visibility Into Application State and Status
The complexity of the ADC infrastructure means just seeing into the application environment is a challenge. Complete visibility into the service infrastructure is something most organizations lack, but it plays an important part in overall ADC management. If an outage occurs, knowing the status of applications is vital to rectifying problems quickly. Every minute an application is unavailable costs the organization money, and manually examining thousands of configurations is impractical.
Overcoming ADC-Management Challenges
Most challenges in ADC management owe to the continued use of manual processes in an increasingly complex environment. However well staffed, IT will inevitably leave tasks undone and make mistakes. ADC-management tools can help overcome these issues in several ways.
The single most important way to improve application delivery is through automation. Using the right tool can help with every aspect of ADC management. It can automatically assign configuration-change requests to the appropriate team, getting the process moving more quickly. An automated solution can also simplify the development and deployment of frequently needed configurations. Teams can use it to create templates for the most common scenarios and use those templates to automate the deployment process, freeing them from repetitive tasks and allowing them to address more-important tasks.
Backups can also be handled automatically, either as needed or on a set schedule. If a configuration is compromised or hardware fails, restoring from the most recent backup is a simple task. Automated tools can store needed configuration data in a central location to simplify the process of finding necessary files. Because updates are especially notorious for causing outages, an effective backup solution allows IT to better keep ADC-configuration versions up to date.
Configuration optimization is another area that automation improves. The ideal tool presents a complete infrastructure view that makes it easy to identify and eliminate unused configurations, or optimize them. This capability helps reduce the operational costs of monitoring unused objects, and it provides for a more efficient expenditure of IT resources.
Because a broader group is often involved in ADC management now than before, improved collaboration can increase the speed at which problems are addressed. This collaboration is best accomplished using role-based access for each team member. Ideally, a single monitoring window provides insight into workflows, and self-service control further promotes productivity while minimizing manual tasks. The result is an agile team that can quickly address change requests with minimal delay as individual tasks are manually delegated.
Finally, common management issues are reduced through a solution that delivers full application visibility. As the number of ADCs increases, the right management solution will provide complete insight into applications, while ADCs manage them, their required services and their dependencies. A simple view of the whole system dramatically improves visibility into what service may be causing an outag, enabling rapid troubleshooting. Furthermore, the solution should be able to provide automatic alerts and comprehensive reports on activities and resource allocation.
To summarize, an effective third-party ADC-management solution should provide automated management of ADC services throughout the organization. It will promote collaboration and reduce manual-configuration errors to increase efficiency. Custom alerts will aid with compliance and meeting SLAs, and the tool should allow the organization to seamlessly upgrade to the most current version of ADCs.
Businesses are more dependent on application delivery than ever, particularly in the distributed work environment that most enterprises employ. By implementing the right ADC-management solution, organizations can overcome the inherent complexity of today’s ADC environment to increase uptime, simplify workflow and more quickly reach business objectives.
About the Author
Mark Vondemkamp is Executive VP of Marketing and Business Development at AppViewX. He is responsible for AppViewX’s products and go-to-market strategy. He brings more than 28 years of experience in the tech industry, with a focus in the security space, working with some of the industry bests. Previously, Mark was VP at F5 Networks, where he owned the security portfolio and strategy. Mark and his team also built the business case for and launched Silverline, the F5aaS offering. Before that, he held product leadership roles at Avaya, Hifn and Nokia, and he was chief technology officer and founder of Semaphore Communications, which built and sold the first enterprise VPN solution. Mark attended Kansas State University and lives in Seattle, Washington.