Riverbed unveils the Mini-Me of ADCs

With the Stingray Services Controller, Riverbed opens up a new market for application-delivery-controllers-as-a-service, or ADCaaS.

If you remember the old Austin Powers movies, Mini-Me was a full replica of Dr. Evil in every way. Just as evil, just as cunning, and just as powerful. Today, Riverbed announced a “mini-me” version of its Stingray application delivery controller (ADC). Stingray came into Riverbed through the acquisition of Zeus so, in a way, Riverbed’s latest product is Mini-Zeus.

In the Austin Powers movies, Mini-Me really didn’t seem to have much of a purpose other than to laugh evilly and scream once in a while. That certainly isn’t the case with the mini-ADC, or Stingray Services Controller, as the product opens up new markets for ADCs.

Historically, hardware-based ADCs have been deployed on a “per-application” basis. Rolling out a new application? Buy a new ADC. Migrating to a new hardware platform? Buy a new ADC. Customers would sometimes repurpose older hardware, but given how fast hardware evolves, this was more the exception than the norm. 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.

The introduction of the Stingray Services Controller, or mini-ADC, brings much greater scale to the ADC market particularly for service providers or organizations looking to create a shared infrastructure model. Today, any company can go to a cloud provider such as Amazon and buy the exact amount of compute and storage that they require. However, companies can’t purchase ADC functions like load balancing that way.

The Stingray Services Controller lets numerous instances to be spun up on demand and then taken down just as easily. Now customers can buy compute resources and then front end them with an ADC on a per-application basis or even a per-version basis if they want, removing cost from the equation of determining when to deploy an ADC and when not to. In fact, this opens the door to ADCs being procured “as a service,” creating the “ADC as a Service” or “AAAS” market (Riverbed calls it ADCaaS).

The miniaturization of the ADC isn’t just for cloud providers. Enterprises can deploy the Services Controller and make ADCs available to internal developers, Q/A teams, engineers or anyone else who could take advantage of the feature set. While hardware ADCs will always be in demand for high-performance workloads, they are not flexible enough to become a pervasive IT resource where the mini-ADC is.

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. 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.

Again, I’m certainly not calling for the death of the hardware-based ADC. Far from it, ADCs should thrive in this new world of virtualized, cloud-delivered resources. The mini ADC, though, can take a resource that was once only used for top-tier applications and make it pervasive throughout the enterprise.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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