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Virtualisation Made Easy: Understanding and Leveraging Virtual Application Delivery Infrastructure

As more and more businesses and organisations incorporate a virtual data centre strategy, Nir Ilani, director of product marketing for application delivery at Radware, explains what needs to be done to ensure the correct, most cost-effective application delivery solution is installed. In essence, it is vital that the agility and performance of the business-critical applications are not impacted.


Date: 12 Sep 2011

The two questions that must be asked before making any purchasing decisions are;
1. Is your network ready to support the added demands and challenges of server virtualisation?
2. How do you plan a large scale data centre virtualisation project?

At the most basic level, an application delivery solution must seamlessly integrate into the virtual server environment to ensure the performance and availability of all applications running on virtual machines. The immediate result will be an agile virtualisation infrastructure, one that maximises the agility, performance and resilience of the virtual data centre, while keeping operational and capital costs down.

If only it was as simple as that!

Virtualisation – One of Today’s Hottest Trends
Virtualisation is a major IT initiative. It is a work in progress in almost all networks, from mid-sized companies and large enterprises up to very large hosting companies, carrier data centres and cloud service providers. Market research suggests there are only a handful of organisations in the world that have been fully virtualised, leaving the majority of IT teams managing heterogenic environments - a hybrid of dedicated physical and virtualised servers.

While the scope of virtualisation may differ among different size organizations, the business drivers for the virtual data centre are the same -- it is about creating a consolidated, cost-effective, agile, extremely available and highly-performing data centre.

Getting Virtualised: A Layered Approach
To really profit from the benefits of data centre virtualisation, IT managers need to re-architect each layer of the data centre. The first layer comprises the virtualisation and consolidation of the server and storage infrastructure.

The speed at which this take is completed depends very much on the number and type of data centre applications there are and how critical these are to the business. Increasingly, the trend is for IT managers to start the virtualisation processes by virtualising the less critical applications, getting this right before moving on to the business critical applications.

The second layer concerns the virtualisation and consolidation of the network and infrastructure. This includes access, aggregation and distribution switches, routers, firewalls, as well as application delivery controllers (ADC) – designed to enable the transition from a siloed architecture to a flatter, less tiered virtualised network design.

What is the impact on the application delivery layer and the Application Delivery Controllers (ADC)?

The answer is - significant. Re-architecting the network infrastructure from a siloed architecture to a flatter, less tiered virtualised network impacts the role of the ADC, its position and its deployment models. Previously the ADC managed a single application, or used a complex, shared configuration model; now it’s required to service the entire layer of virtualised applications sharing a common server infrastructure.

To address this, a virtualised application delivery infrastructure layer is needed. The implementation of this will not only provide alignment, but also will provide each application with an application delivery service capable of meeting its service level agreements (SLAs) and performance predictability needs.

To create a truly virtualised application delivery infrastructure, the IT team needs to separate the ADC services from the underlying computing resources, similar to the way applications and application operating systems are separated from their computing resources during server virtualisation.

How is this done?
The best way is to implement a virtualised application delivery infrastructure (VADI) is to provide a single, agile and scalable platform that supports the integration of the computing resources and the ADC and virtualisation services. By embedding an “on demand” approach which enables the ability to scale the number of instances, capacity, and services as well as to scale out of the data centre, VADI enables system engineers to dynamically address ever-changing business needs in the most cost-effective, scalable fashion.

Not only will this bridge the underlying hardware resources and support the various applications in terms of SLA and performance predictability, it will remove the inherent challenges of ADC consolidation. It will also deliver maximum agility to the application delivery space. Correctly configured, it will transform a ‘standard’ application delivery infrastructure into a ‘virtual’ application delivery solution able to support all the application delivery needs of the data centre.

A VADI makes the consolidation and virtualisation of application delivery services integral to the virtual data centre architecture. This reduces the risks of ADC consolidation because it ensures application delivery resilience and performance predictability, improves data centre business agility and increases IT efficiency, with the added benefit of dramatically reducing the cost of application delivery deployments.

What role do ADCs play in a virtual data centres
The key purpose of VADI is to separate the ADC services from the underlying computing resources. At the core of this approach, there is the Virtual ADC (vADC) concept, which transforms the standard ADC device into an Application Delivery Controller (ADC) service. vADC instances run on top of the general purpose or specialised computing resources to provide a consistent and complete set of application delivery features and advanced services including global service load balancing, application acceleration and integrated security. The service resources can be set by the IT team to ensure all SLAs are met.

To meet the unfolding needs of the business and the virtualised data centre, ADCs can be in one of three form factors -- a dedicated physical ADC device, virtualised ADC on a custom-made hardware, or soft ADC on general-purpose servers. The virtualised ADC approach enables multiple virtual ADC instances to be consolidated without compromising ADC service resilience or performance guaranties. This agility and the simplicity are vital to support the dynamic, ever-changing needs of virtualised data centres.

In terms of wider business benefits, operationally it drives faster deployment of new services and better alignment of ADC services against configuration changes. The reduced footprint and equipment needs introduce significant hardware cost savings, reduced management resources and related costs, less cabling and a major reduction in building capacity, power and cooling OPEX.

Conclusion: How do you plan a large scale data centre virtualisation project?

The answer is to gradually integrate. Consolidate the two core elements, server virtualisation, and network/application delivery virtualisation. This will create unprecedented visibility and flexibility including end-to-end service provisioning of servers, storage, ADC service and resources, for example, as well as application SLA resource adaptations and service migration within, or across, multiple data centres.

By implementing a virtual application delivery infrastructure, IT managers of large enterprises, data centres, carriers, cloud and hosting providers, will gain the following benefits:

• Significant costs reduction via ADC consolidation,
• Simpler path to complete data centre virtualisation,
• Improved business agility in the virtualised data centre,
• Greater IT efficiency through data centre workflow automation,
• Full application delivery resource elasticity according to business application requirements,
• On-Demand scalability in throughput, advanced services and vADCs,
• Full investment protection, increased asset ROI, and CAPEX savings.


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