Riverbed’s Virtual ADC Aimed at Cloud Environments

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2013-05-08

Riverbed’s Virtual ADC Aimed at Cloud Environments

Riverbed Technology is introducing its new Stingray Services Controller, which is designed to make application delivery within data centers as flexible and agile as the increasingly virtualized resources around it.


The new solution, which is being demonstrated at the Interop 2013 show in Las Vegas this week, creates what Riverbed officials are calling an application delivery controller-as-a-service (ADCaaS) platform that will automate the deployment of application delivery services throughout the network, including software-defined networks (SDNs).


The automation introduced by the Stingray Services Controller also will help accelerate the deployment of the services as well as provision and scale their application delivery controller (ADC) services as needed, which will be particularly important to service providers and enterprises looking to leverage private clouds, according to Riverbed officials.


Traditionally, deploying ADCs has been a time-consuming task that can take days, weeks or months, which can be a problem in an otherwise virtualized data center, according to Jeff Pancottine, senior vice president and general manager of the Riverbed Stingray application delivery business unit.


“With the emergence of the virtualized data center, legacy ADCs can be a bottleneck and were starting to be excluded from virtualization strategies and cloud deployments,” Pancottine said in a statement. “With Stingray Services Controller, customers will have a hyper-elastic ADC platform that can adapt to workload changes.”


According to Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, traditional hardware-based ADCs are deployed on a per-application basis: Each new application requires a new ADC, as does migrating to a new hardware platform.


“Customers would sometimes repurpose older hardware, but given how fast hardware evolves, this was more the exception than the norm,” Kerravala said in a blog post on the NetworkWorld site. “Lately, the hardware platforms have evolved to where a single ADC could be shared and support multiple applications, but this still doesn’t give a true one-to-one ratio of ADCs per application.”


There are other challenges with hardware-based ADCs as well, Riverbed officials said: Enterprises can’t guarantee the performance of each application, and scaling ADC operations is cumbersome and requires having to overprovision capacity rather than dynamically scale up and down as needed.


Riverbed is aiming to change that with the Stingray Services Controller, leveraging technology the company gained in 2011 when it bought Zeus Technology. With the new controller—due out in the third quarter—businesses and service providers will be able to automatically create ADC instances when needed, use them as long as needed and then take them down when they’re no longer needed. They will be able to automatically provision, deploy, license, meter and manage their ADCs in a cloud-based model, Riverbed officials said.


Riverbed’s Virtual ADC Aimed at Cloud Environments

In addition, the new services controller will offer a new way for users to deploy ADC services through the Stingray Traffic Manager (STM) “micro” instance. The STM micro instances can be anything from small ADC instances to large Stingray instances, all housed on commodity servers. Through the STM micro instances, service providers and businesses can scale their instances on demand to meet the needs of each application, rather than having to guess at the traffic load and ADC capabilities ahead of time.

ZK’s Kerravala said that while hardware-based ADCs will always be used for various high-performance workloads, the trend in the data center is toward more flexible, scalable and dynamic resources.

“If you look out into the future, the server and storage infrastructure will become increasingly virtualized and mobile, creating an agile and flexible compute environment,” he wrote. “All the functions that surround the server must have the same level of flexibility and agility and that can only be done with a product like the Stingray Services Controller. Over time, I expect to see other data center services such as security functionality; even some network functions will move to this ‘as a service’ model to keep up with computing trends.”

Analysts at Dell’Oro Group said in a September 2012 report that virtual appliances will help fuel growth in the ADC space, which they said will grow from $50 million in 2011 to almost $500 million by 2016.

“Within the Application Delivery Controller market, we see increasing strength in virtual appliances and expect this growth to continue throughout our forecast horizon,” Casey Quillin, senior analyst of data center appliance market research at Dell’Oro, said in a statement at the time. “Virtual appliances can quickly be deployed in production networks as unexpected or unplanned needs arise, such as supplementing existing hardware with a virtual appliance for peak load or surge situations.”

ADC vendors like Riverbed, A10 Networks, F5 Networks and Citrix Systems were given a boost in September 2012 when Cisco Systems officials said they would exit the market. Cisco reportedly had been losing share to other vendors, and company officials said it was part of a larger effort to shed underperforming businesses.

Rocket Fuel