Migrating to a cloud computing model will obviously have an impact on the infrastructure that\u2019s deployed.\u00a0This shift has already been seen in the areas of servers, storage, and networking, as those technologies have evolved to a \u201csoftware-defined\u201d model. And it appears that application delivery controllers (ADCs) are on the precipice of a similar shift.\nIn fact, a new ZK Research study about cloud computing adoption and the impact on ADCs found that, when looking at the deployment model, hardware appliances are the most widely deployed \u2014 with 55% having fully deployed or are currently testing and only 15% currently researching hardware. (Note: I am an employee of ZK Research.)\nJuxtapose this with containerized ADCs where only 34% have deployed or are testing but 24% are currently researching and it shows that software in containers will outpace hardware for growth.\u00a0Not surprisingly, software on bare metal and in virtual machines showed similar although lower, \u201cresearching\u201d numbers that support the thesis that the market is undergoing a shift from hardware to software.\n\nThe study, conducted in collaboration with Kemp Technologies, surveyed 203 respondents from the U.K. and U.S.\u00a0The demographic split was done to understand regional differences. An equal number of mid and large size enterprises were looked at, with 44% being from over 5,000 employees and the other 56% from companies that have 300 to 5,000 people.\nIncumbency helps but isn\u2019t a fait accompli for future ADC purchases\u00a0\nThe primary tenet of my research has always been that incumbents are threatened when markets transition, and this is something I wanted to investigate in the study. The survey asked whether buyers would consider an alternative as they evolve their applications from legacy (mode 1) to cloud-native (mode 2). The results offer a bit of good news and bad news for the incumbent providers. Only 8% said they would definitely select a new vendor, but 35% said they would not change.\u00a0That means the other 57% will look at alternatives.\u00a0This is sensible, as the requirements for cloud ADCs are different than ones that support traditional applications.\nIT pros want better automation capabilities\u00a0\nThis begs the question as to what features ADC buyers want for a cloud environment versus traditional ones.\u00a0The survey asked specifically what features would be most appealing in future purchases, and the top response was automation, followed by central management, application analytics, on-demand scaling (which is a form of automation), and visibility.\u00a0\nThe desire to automate was a positive sign for the evolution of buyer mindset. Just a few years ago, the mere mention of automation would have sent IT pros into a panic.\u00a0The reality is that IT can\u2019t operate effectively without automation, and technology professionals are starting to understand that.\nThe reason automation is needed is that manual changes are holding businesses back. The survey asked how the speed of ADC changes impacts the speed at which applications are rolled out, and a whopping 60% said it creates significant or minor delays.\u00a0In an era of DevOps and continuous innovation, multiple minor delays create a drag on the business and can cause it to fall behind is more agile competitors.\n ZK Research\nADC upgrades and service provisioning benefit most from automation\nThe survey also drilled down on specific ADC tasks to see where automation would have the most impact.\u00a0Respondents were asked how long certain tasks took, answering in minutes, days, weeks, or months.\u00a0Shockingly, there wasn\u2019t a single task where the majority said it could be done in minutes.\u00a0The closest was adding DNS entries for new virtual IP addresses (VIPs) where 46% said they could do that in minutes.\nUpgrading, provisioning new load balancers, and provisioning new VIPs took the longest.\u00a0Looking ahead, this foreshadows big problems.\u00a0As the data center gets more disaggregated and distributed, IT will deploy more software-based ADCs in more places. Taking days or weeks or month to perform these functions will cause the organization to fall behind.\nThe study clearly shows changes are in the air for the ADC market.\u00a0For IT pros, I strongly recommend that as the environment shifts to the cloud, it\u2019s prudent to evaluate new vendors.\u00a0By all means, see what your incumbent vendor has, but look at least at two others that offer software-based solutions.\u00a0Also, there should be a focus on automating as much as possible, so the primary evaluation criteria for ADCs should be how easy it is to implement automation.