Automate and Manage ADCs Across Complex, Dynamic Infrastructures


Introduction

Today IT must deliver mission-critical business applications and be agile enough to address growing business expectations at the speed of digitalization. In addition, enterprise networking is evolving quickly as organizations extend their traditional environments to the cloud and embrace other new advancements to be more flexible and agile and reduce costs.

The load balancing market in particular has changed drastically from simple load balancers, which began in the late 1990s as a way to ensure application performance and availability, to advanced Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) that introduced enhanced features and functions in the mid/late 2000s. Over the last decade, the impact of digitalization on the ADC market has opened doors to platform services and cloud-native ADC solutions. The ADC market is now in a state of transition with the growing bifurcation between traditional infrastructure and operations (I&O) and a new app-centric approach. Enterprises need to adopt “bimodal”1 work styles (mode 1 is about managing I&O for stability and predictability, and mode 2 is exploratory and about innovation).

As organizations begin to launch mode 2 initiatives, they need to strategize their new ADC deployment process very carefully. They have to improve operational agility and support mode 2 applications while maintaining high availability, security, and reliability in the data center. This white paper examines the challenges of managing a dynamic ADC environment and the solutions that can help manage and automate ADCs efficiently to speed application delivery

Understanding the Challenges

Multiple applications, many devices, more complexities

Applications are at the core of businesses. Growing digitalization demands new applications that customers depend on to connect with a business. The F5 State of Application Delivery 2016 report shows that half of the 3,000 companies surveyed run an average of 201 or more applications, and that 20 percent of these companies run more than 1,000 applications. These include internal applications that store critical information and customer-facing, external applications that drive in revenue. In both cases, application availability and security are proportional to the success of the business.

These applications typically have a tiered, distributed architecture and require complex network services delivered by ADCs to ensure application availability, enhance security, boost performance, and provide the required visibility. To achieve flexible delivery of business applications, enterprises are expanding their ADC portfolios by adding devices or moving to the cloud. As the number of devices increases to meet application traffic, so do the complexities in management, logistics, troubleshooting, and so on.

Building an agile environment

Digital transformation requires an agile data center. Digitalization demands that IT work in two modes: one to maintain and enhance the proven, traditional approach and another to meet agile needs with an app-centric approach. Gartner says that the future IT organizational structure is cross-functional and bimodal.2 As coined by Gartner, “bimodal IT” provides a way to provide stable, secure services and deliver agile, innovative services faster. But the major challenge here is where to start building an agile infrastructure and how to manage it effectively.

The ADC market is following this same bifurcation, and many application teams facing high business demands are looking at open-source software like HAProxy, NGINX, or solutions offered by Platform as a Service provider, such as Amazon Web Services Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) or Microsoft Azure Load Balancer (ALB). What’s clear is that many enterprises are or soon will be operating a heterogeneous ADC environment that is more dynamic and complex.

Dynamic ADC environment, piled-up change requests

Trying to manually manage mode 1 and mode 2 applications serving production users is a difficult and daunting task. I&O cannot manage these multiple applications at any one time and relax. There are constant ADC upgrades and changes as well as new applications to deploy and secure as application teams demand faster delivery. To make an application production-ready, an ADC must be configured, which involves multiple teams. ADC environments are very dynamic and subject to frequent changes. Yet it often takes several days or more to implement the necessary configurations to deploy a new application in a greenfield environment or modify an existing one in a brownfield environment.

In fact, an EMA survey found that 47 percent of organizations take more than a week to deliver an IT request.3 Network teams receive thousands of change requests every week. This results in a pile of unfulfilled change requests, which delays time to market.

Manual configuration errors cause costly outages

ADC configuration changes in brownfield and greenfield deployments involve manual processes and multiple teams, and they are prone to errors. The undisputed #1 cause of network outages is human error4 which causes application availability issues and network outages, which can negatively impact the business and result in revenue loss. Many organizations have experienced downtime from core errors that can cost thousands of dollars or more per incident. To protect against these outages, network teams must adhere to corporate and federal compliance requirements, auditing standards, and regulations.

Addressing ADC Deployment and Management Challenges

Automated provisioning for business applications

To deploy a new application or modify an existing application, I&O teams have to reach out to network teams to assess the underlying ADC configurations, especially to create or modify virtual servers and initiate a change management workflow for implementation. Even for a simple change request to enable or disable a virtual server, application teams have to submit multiple requests to different teams.

As business expectations grow, application teams may submit hundreds of requests in brownfield and greenfield implementations every week. Many organizations rely on a manual approach, and when they do, network teams struggle to meet these challenges while trying to improve delivery time and reduce operational expenses.

Network automation and orchestration are key to overcoming network bottlenecks. By automating ADC deployments, organizations can overcome these issues. An ADC automation and management solution that is integrated with DDI and ITSM systems can automate the entire change workflow and address common challenges by:

  • Introducing consistent change management controls and enforcing deployment standards to address various application deployment scenarios.
  • Standardizing service offerings to enable organizations to respond to change requests quickly.
  • Automating configuration change requests to provide rapid and efficient delivery and improve quality with error-checking.
  • Maintaining an optimized ADC deployment process and bridging the gap between different teams.

Automating the ADC change management process reduces errors and operational expenses, and it allows application teams to deliver applications dramatically faster.

Understanding business value with an app-centric approach

I&O leaders need to focus on business outcomes. They must align IT initiatives (existing and new) to drive business value. What is important is providing better solutions to their clients, not managing infrastructure or boxes. Business applications support what a business needs to do, which is why the number of new applications being deployed is skyrocketing. Depending on the nature of the enterprise, there can be tens, hundreds, or thousands of customer-facing applications across the infrastructure.

To ensure application availability and troubleshoot application outages faster, the network team needs to have good visibility into what the applications are, which ADC device or virtual server the applications are on, which services they need to access, what other dependencies the applications have, who owns the application, and so on. Lack of application visibility causes network teams to spend too much time on operational issues. And without visibility, it is difficult to standardize repetitive tasks.

Related Articles:   Here's How You Can Achieve 100% Working Efficiency for Your Application Delivery Controllers (Adcs)

Adopting an application-centric approach to ADC management will enable organizations to maintain application availability and performance. An app-centric ADC management and automation solution:

  • Provides a network topology view that gives end-to-end visibility of the application service infrastructure: what the devices are, the associated virtual servers and configurations, and so on.
  • Identifies which service is down quickly and uncovers blind spots in the application network.
  • Accurately identifies and removes virtual servers for decommissioned applications without impacting the accessibility of other applications
  • Provides an in-depth, real-time view of device performance and tracks changes made on ADCs.

Going bimodal: the answer to digitalization needs

Business requirements change very quickly, and business applications and their ADC configurations have to be updated or created to meet these needs while maintaining availability. Building a bimodal ADC infrastructure helps to achieve rapid and efficient application delivery. Enterprises are using traditional ADC players like F5, Citrix, or Radware as well as cloud services such as ELB, ALB, and open-source solutions such as HAProxy, or NGINX. As technology undergoes this transition, it creates a challenging situation. Managing a heterogeneous and complex environment is difficult, and it becomes even harder when more devices are added or modified in a dynamic way.

An advanced ADC management and automation solution fills this gap by providing:

  • Consistent and controlled management and automation of ADCs that are serving both mode 1 and mode 2 applications across data centers.
  • A standardized delivery process and augmented ADC environment with a simple L4–L7 services deployment model that can be easily managed at scale.
  • The ability to build an agile data center, ensure application availability, and deliver applications at scale.
  • Ownership of load balancing to application teams.

Investing in a centralized ADC management and automation tool

Organizations increasingly look to extend their ADC environment with new advancements or cloud to maximize business agility and reduce cost. An ADC refresh opens up new opportunities to help the business meet tomorrow’s needs. Enterprises recognize the benefits of upgrading to the latest versions, but with the traditional approach of uncontrolled adoption of disparate ADC platforms on-premises and in the cloud, not having a centralized management tool to enforce policies can lead to a fragmented, unmanageable patchwork. And, as described above, ADC environments are subject to frequent changes. Tracking multiple requests to determine which changes are made, for what business purpose, and at whose request is tedious. Yet this is critically important if problems arise and the origin of changes needs to be tracked.

Once an organization that has a dynamic environment understands its business needs and knows the benefits of automation, it needs a comprehensive tool that bridges the gap between the different network devices and business applications. Solutions that extend visibility, automate application services, enable backup and restore of configurations, and provide role-based access control (RBAC) across complex ADC infrastructure become more important than ever before. The best course of action is to target investments towards an advanced ADC management and automation solution to efficiently deliver applications across the heterogeneous environment.

Move Faster, Eliminate Errors, and Reduce Cost with AppViewX’s Application Delivery Automation solution

The AppViewX Platform’s multi-vendor ADC management and automation solution provides role-based management, automation, and orchestration of multi-vendor ADC environments that serve applications across data centers. It offers state-of-the-art management capabilities that map to the needs of application owners, network engineers, and network operations. It simplifies upgrades, and enables self-service capabilities to lines of business.

AppViewX’s Application Delivery Automation Solution

Key BenefitsThe Why
Manage, automate, and orchestrate ADC application services across geographically distributed environmentsAdvanced management and automation
Start creating more agile application delivery by building a bimodal infrastructureChange management automation
Increase operational efficiency by enabling seamless collaboration among cross-functional teamsGranular, role-based access control
Reduce manual configuration errors across the network by more than 70 percentApplication-centric visibility and monitoring
Increase visibility across the application delivery infrastructureSSL/TLS certificate management
Reduce risk and ensure compliance with application-centric service alerting and centralized reportingHorizontal scalability
Upgrade seamlessly to the latest ADC versions and reduce average delivery time from days to minutesProgrammable RESTful APIs

Enable self-service and automate ADC deployments

AppViewX’s Application Delivery Automation solution makes it easy to provision, maintain, and decommission applications across data centers. It enables self-service and automation of various ADC delivery requests in brownfield and greenfield environments. It reduces manual touch points and eradicates errors caused by manual interventions. It accelerates application delivery through simple self-service forms and automated workflows, and it gives self-servicing capabilities to application teams.

Get app-centric visibility and troubleshoot outages faster

The application topology view gives application and network teams visibility into the application infrastructure so they can troubleshoot application-related issues faster. It provides a network map of the ADC infrastructure with its complete hierarchy. Users can recursively look up the pool members (end servers) where multiple devices are handling traffic for one application, and they can take various actions, such as performing a backup, restoring a configuration, viewing a configuration, and viewing change and audit logs.

ADC infrastructure management from a single window

AppViewX’s Application Delivery Automation solution provides a single-pane-of-glass view of complex ADC infrastructure, supporting physical and virtual devices from the industry’s leading ADC providers. It simplifies version migrations with minimum application downtime. It provides application-centric, customizable reports to help monitor application utilization and enable efficient capacity planning on the ADCs. Nodes can be dynamically provisioned based on custom-defined thresholds.

Control access and improve operational efficiency with RBAC

AppViewX’s Application Delivery Automation solution provides granular access control to application objects, certificates, and configuration templates. The solution makes it easy to control access and delegate tasks. It integrates with external directory service systems, such as AD, RADIUS, TACACS, and LDAP. Roles can be easily created, changed, or discontinued per the needs of the organization.

Integrations and interoperability

AppViewX integrates with leading technology providers to provide state-of-the-art automation and orchestration capabilities.

Technology typeVendors
ADCA10 Networks, Akamai, Amazon Web Services*, AVI Networks, Brocade, Citrix, F5 Networks, HA Proxy*, NGINX*, Radware
ITSMBMC Remedy, HP Enterprise, ServiceNow
DDIBIND, Bluecat, Infoblox, VitalQIP

Learn More

To get started with AppViewX, start a free trial. AppViewX supplies prepackaged templates to address various application deployment scenarios, including the creation or modification of virtual IPs, to help businesses provision applications faster. Some standard templates are available in the AppViewX GitHub community (note that you must have an AppViewX instance in your environment to try the templates). Contact AppViewX for more information.

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