The 10 Most Important Questions to Ask Your Application Delivery Controller Provider

By: Chris Gale, EMEA Partner Director at A10 Networks

Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) are networking devices that reside in the data centre and serve as a key part of an application delivery network. With the explosion in Internet traffic, business applications, and the number of Internet-enabled devices, application delivery controllers provide the front-end intelligence that supplements and enhances business application flows. In addition to traditional load balancing, application delivery controllers provide a host of features that maintain the availability, speed, and security of Internet-based applications. More advanced application delivery controllers offer critical data centre functions such as application acceleration, layer 4-7 load balancing, application health-checks, SSL offload, DNS application firewalls, and DDoS protection.

Is it time to refresh your application delivery controller? Maybe your current box is end-of-life or you’re looking for more functionality or better price-per-performance? Or perhaps your application landscape has evolved and you’re examining ADC providers to help optimize app delivery, or to bridge your cloud and traditional on-premises application environments.

Here are the 10 most important questions to ask an ADC provider before you buy.

Can I run all ADC features simultaneously?

You wouldn’t buy a car if you couldn’t use every feature when you drive it. Imagine having to shut down the steering wheel to use stereo, or having to stop using the gas pedal in order to turn on the air conditioner. You wouldn’t feel like you got your money’s worth, and it’d be grossly inefficient.

What is the TCO?

You deserve to know how much your ADC is going to cost you in the long run. You don’t need sneaky licensing fees and upgrades popping up at every turn to nickel and dime you.

How do you support multi-tenancy?

Modern applications demand speed and security. Users do as well. When it comes to ADCs, app delivery has to be optimized and secure, with few headaches. Often, companies are running hundreds of apps, each of which requires a specific set of policies. App-specific policies can be applied and tailored to individual applications to ensure that application performs the way you need them to. For example, some apps require an application firewall or a more specific security configuration to be applied, while some require L7 content switching that can provide better levels of service to certain customers and use cases.

For example, some apps require an application firewall or a more specific security configuration to be applied, while some require L7 content-switching that can provide better levels of service to certain customers and use cases.

Businesses need the granularity to provide app-specific ADC policies to most (if not all) of their applications and user groups. These policies must be tailored to each individual application, but having one ADC per app is not practical or feasible in certain environments. ADCs must support multi-tenancy and deliver the ability to have app-specific policies — it’s a must-have, not a nice to have.

Is the ADC easy to use?

Ease of use and integration are huge factors in the purchasing decision. That’s why ADC products must be completely programmable and interoperate with other complementary infrastructure gear. Leveraging setup and configuration methods used by mainstream vendors makes devices easier to learn and deploy. Difficult-to-use APIs, or a CLI that is not intuitive and doesn’t adhere to industry norms, make operation all the more challenging and cumbersome; that can delay getting boxes up and running and require extra training for IT staff.

What’s your cloud strategy?

The world is moving to the cloud, along with many of your applications. Your ADC vendor should have a finely-tuned cloud strategy that will help you bridge the physical and cloud-native worlds. This is especially true for service providers. If your ADC vendor lacks solutions for cloud-native applications, multi-cloud environments and ADC-as-a-Service, are they the right partner to invest in for your business’s future?

What sets your operating system apart?

Modern applications require speed and agility. If your box is running a legacy operating system or one that hasn’t been updated or optimized in a few years, your apps may feel like they perform as if they’re running over dial-up.

How do your ADCs scale?

There’s nothing more frustrating than a box that doesn’t scale. Don’t get burned by limited scaling, or by a forced upgrade or additional purchases to achieve the scalability your applications require.

What do your customers say?

Before you take the plunge and side with an ADC vendor, it’s imperative to learn about what their customer base thinks about them and their service. Due diligence requires close examination of case studies, reviews, and references.

How stable is the executive leadership team?

Turmoil and turnover in the executive ranks can directly impact customers. It impacts productivity, decisions, and product direction and availability. Changes in leadership can create dramatic shifts and unsettle partners and customers.

What’s in your trophy case?

Finally tech awards are a great validation of the product.