Growing digital business demands ultimately led to a skyrocketing use of applications, which has in turn driven the need for new features and more network devices. This is especially true when it comes to application delivery controllers (ADCs), which are key for maintaining solid application availability, security and performance. As a result, enterprises are adding more capacity to handle growing traffic and to ensure application protection.
Unfortunately, the costs associated with supporting more ADCs can quickly negate the benefits. All too often as we add more devices to address our business needs and overcome security threats, we forget to optimize the application delivery infrastructure. However, unlike firewall optimization, optimizing ADCs doesn’t not take priority due to the complexity involved, leaving 10 to 20 percent of configurations unused, without the network team even noticing. Maintaining these unused objects incurs unnecessary overhead costs that most of us can’t justify.
Reducing operational expenses while keeping operations running is a baseline business objective. The true value lies in providing services that deliver applications faster and more efficiently using optimized resources. Optimizing these resources benefits both the business and the network teams as it makes the entire enterprise more competitive, thanks to an IT department that enables a “more with less” system that supports efficiency and security. This white paper highlights three key ways to effectively optimize application delivery infrastructure to best power enterprise teams.
Explosive Growth of Applications
Ever since the “digital transformation” storm hit the market, the IT industry has witnessed (and still continues to adopt) new advancements and improvements to stay relevant in the changing landscape. In fact, digital transformation efforts are impacting all areas of IT and driving brand-new opportunities, resulting in an explosion in the application marketplace.
According to F5 Networks’ State of Application Services 2019 report, “69 percent of respondents are executing digital transformation-and app data reigns.”
This clearly shows that in this increasingly digital world, IT is a primary enabler of business. IT must build new business models in order to build a truly digital enterprise, improve business operations and processes, redefine customer experience and ensure application deployment and availability.
Today, applications are deployed across public clouds, private clouds, hybrid environments, co-location facilities, and more. The role of ADCs – to provide app availability, security and performance – is critical as they provide services that optimize the delivery of enterprise applications across the network.
The shift toward digital transformation has resulted in billions of new applications, opening the door to unprecedented threats and expanded opportunity risk. So, the more the applications, the greater the threat. Now, enterprises are forced to add more capacity to handle growing traffic and to ensure application security as improperly managed ADC services can cause costly outages and extra overhead costs.
The Challenge: Lack of Optimization
The whole approach to application delivery has shifted from primarily traditional hardware-based appliances to a more hybrid model that includes software-based and virtualized deployment methods. As a result, the role of modern applications in delivery controllers has moved up the stack. ADCs are tackling security through DDoS mitigation and web application firewalls that are deployed as a part of ADCs. But, evolutions like these are making it difficult to manage ADCs, and when they’re mismanaged, enterprises often experience costly outages and incur extra overhead costs.
One thing that network teams often mistakenly neglect is the deletion of unused virtual servers that are no longer needed. Oftentimes, these virtual servers are unintentionally left behind during migrations. This is where optimizing ADC configurations really matters. Unlike firewall optimization, optimizing ADCs does not take precedence due to the complexity involved.
Network teams must stop managing unused configurations. Maintaining hundreds of lines of configurations incurs unnecessary maintenance, so there are many advantages to removing unused ones:
- More efficient allocation of IP resources (i.e. Unused IPs that can be repurposed elsewhere)
- Reduced service costs
- The elimination of unnecessary management and monitoring overhead
The pressure to optimize application service costs is compounded by the demands of digital business initiatives. Enterprises are challenged to find room in existing budgets to accommodate investment in new initiatives. While optimizing ADC configurations reduces costs, the process of removing stale configurations involves significant time and resources. However, decommissioning virtual servers without proper impact analysis is far too risky.
Leveraging a Network Automation Tool for ADC Optimization
Let’s be clear: optimization is not a simple solution to all your agility and cost reduction problems. Optimizing application delivery infrastructure is a huge undertaking that could cause outages if done improperly. It might seem easy to implement automation, and expect a reduction in overhead maintenance. However, it is also easy to forget about the impact the network faces when you adopt some incumbent solutions.
If a plan to optimize ADC infrastructure is not designed, deployed and managed properly, it can present just as many challenges as it solves, if not more. Complexity issues can result in a decreased return on investment and thus, requires a clear, well-researched, and strategic journey toward optimization. Enterprises should take a holistic approach to managing ADCs centrally to ultimately provide self-servicing capabilities to both application and network teams.
The AppViewX Platform is a modular, low-code software application that enables the automation and orchestration of network infrastructure using an intuitive, context-aware, visual workflow. It is closed-loop and state-aware, capable of verifying that intent has been achieved and providing actionable insights and automated remediation. Using the platform enterprises can
- Enforce how configuration and policy are introduced into the application delivery infrastructure.
- Expose configuration and policy that is not being leveraged by the infrastructure.
- And automate how unused resources are returned back to the application delivery
Adopted by multiple top financial institutions, AppViewX enables the successful automation of ADC optimization through a visual canvas, defined validation checks and approvals, proper impact analysis which enable network teams to decommission unused configurations more effectively, and at a lower infrastructure cost.
Three Ways to Optimize Application Delivery Infrastructure
Here are three key ways AppViewX can help optimize ADC infrastructure through its advanced low code automation and orchestration platform:
Automate the Decommissioning of Unused Virtual Servers
It is very common to have hundreds of lines of unused ADC configurations. The AppViewX Platform provides many solutions to identifying unused virtual servers and then decommissioning them through a well-defined process. The platform enables self-servicing capabilities by providing granular object-level access control to multiple teams. In this way, who can perform what actions can be delegated by the administrator which brings the collaboration of multiple teams in a single window.
The first step is to identify unused virtual servers. Using AppViewX, the network architects or senior network engineers can create simple workflows to run scripts to find them. Then, the reporting modules give users a detailed usage report for these virtual servers. Upon analyzing the usage levels, they can identify the inactive configurations that need to be removed. The next step is to design an incremental approach to decommission them.
The network team can leverage the Visual Workflow module to design easy-to-use automation workflows by defining each and every step involved using intuitive drag-and-drop workflow elements. The workflow can even be defined with validation checks at each stage of the process, including with both pre- and post-validation checks during the decommissioning of virtual servers. Another advantage of this tool is its rollback feature, which can restore the configuration if something goes wrong.
Simplify and Standardize Complex Business Processes
The second way to optimize the infrastructure is by standardizing the existing service request process. ADC environments are complex and dynamic, and application teams raise hundreds of requests with the network team every week – most of chich are mundane and can be addressed with automation and self-servicing tactics.
This means that by defining standard offerings for various services, work processes and inputs/outputs, users can optimize the change management process. AppViewX Platform’s role based access control, easy-to-design automation workflows, and integration with ITSM and third-party systems make this process seamless and error-free. And, by simplifying the deployment process, users can significantly reduce time-to-market for both new and existing workloads.
That being said, the big advantage of standardization is the reuse of code. By implementing it, network teams avoid rewriting the code from scratch each time they need to address repetitive tasks, allowing application teams to then change the common variables and automate service requests themselves. This allows automation workflows to then be deployed again and again to address day-to-day tasks.
The most common application deployment scenarios are creation of virtual servers, modification of ADC configurations and deletion of configurations, and so on. The AppViewX Platform provides out-of-the-box workflows to automate each of these service requests, not only speeding up the service delivery, but drastically reducing and optimizing resources.
Plan for the Future: Add More, Manage Seamlessly
Creating a truly agile data center requires different elements to be managed cohesively across subject-matter teams. The scope and scale of your application delivery infrastructure is likely to expand just as your enterprise does, so maintaining a centralized management approach allows you to do more with less. Optimization is an ongoing process and to efficiently manage the complex ADC infrastructure requires an advanced automation solution that brings cross-team collaboration and support for agile initiatives in the digital era.
The benefits of automation solutions are compelling and today, most organizations have already started exploring how it can help them to meet their business demands. When it comes to application delivery infrastructure, gone are the days where devices were only hardware and few in number. The emergence of DevOps and explosive growth of applications resulted in a more agile way to deploy applications. Today, enterprises are using (or soon will be using) a combination of hardware, software-based, and cloud-native load balancers.
This new agile method makes some things easier, while leaving other much more challenging – especially the management of heterogeneous ADC infrastructure. To best utilize their resources, NetOps teams must take a centralized approach to the management of ADC services.
The AppViewX Platform provides a comprehensive management and automation solution for multi-vendor hardware load balancers, software load balancers and cloud-native suites. Multiple stakeholders must collaborate effectively and rapidly to provision an application, which can be facilitated through the self-servicing automation workflows and role-based access control (RBAC) capabilities. It supports A10 Networks, Akamai, Amazon Web Services (ELB), Avi Networks, Brocade,Cisco, Citrix, F5 Networks, HAProxy, NGINX and Radware.
Sample Use Case: Decommissioning Unused Virtual Servers
The AppViewX Platform automates the decommissioning of unused virtual servers through simple self-service forms and automated workflows that significantly reduce manual touch points and eradicate errors typically caused by human intervention.
Let’s review a real-world scenario involving the deletion of unused virtual servers. The automation workflow below is just a sample, and any step can be modified based on an organization’s unique needs. The automation workflow collects data on unused virtual servers for a finite period and then emails the results to the network team. Upon approval, it initiates the change implementation to disable these unused configurations, then deletes them after going through a validation process.
Configuration changes like these are approved through a two-step process: first by ITSM system, then by AppViewX. After approval is received, the configuration changes are implemented on the load balancer.
When it comes to centralized ADC management and optimization, AppViewX leads the way with its automation solutions. An organization’s optimization strategy must focus on using a centralized, unified approach to delivering applications efficiently.
By broadening the view of the optimization effort using the AppViewX Platform, users can provide increased business value beyond just reducing operational expenses. Instead, they can transform the change management process, optimize application delivery infrastructure, and ultimately create a more agile network that will help drive the value of the business.
Try AppViewX today.