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Pandemic-driven changes to application-delivery infrastructure may become permanent

Jun 29, 20203 mins
Hybrid CloudNetworkingRemote Access

Enterprises are beefing up application-delivery security and capacity to accommodate an increasing remote workforce.

IT staff setting server hardware in a data center.
Credit: Evgeniy Shkolenko / Getty Images

(A recent Enterprise Management Associates survey of 253 enterprises about their use of application-delivery infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic found that changes in how users access applications has forced adjustments to that infrastructure. The results are published in an EMA report “Application Delivery Infrastructure for Multi-Cloud Enterprises.” This article by EMA Vice President of Research Networking Shamus McGillicuddy discusses the results of the survey.)

Ninety percent of enterprises have made changes to their application delivery infrastructure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including strengthening security and increasing capacity.

Application-delivery infrastructure provides Layer 4-7 services such as load balancing, application acceleration, SSL offload, and web application firewalling in data centers and public clouds. These technologies include load balancers, application delivery controllers, service mesh software, and cloud-based services such as AWS Elastic Load Balancing.

We asked enterprises what changes, if any, they have made, to this critical infrastructure in response to the pandemic. The average enterprise has made at least two adjustments to their application-delivery networking.

Ramped up security

Forty percent have added new security functionality, such as web-application firewalls or distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection. EMA believes these added security capabilities are driven by multiple factors. Anecdotally EMA has observed increases in malicious activity since the pandemic began, and some enterprises may feel the need to tighten security for their critical applications.

Additionally, EMA suspects that some applications that were previously only accessed internally are now being accessed by the surging population of remote workers, creating a new attack surface that must be protected.

Scaling up via the cloud

EMA found that 39% of enterprises have increased the throughput or bandwidth capacity of their application-delivery infrastructure. Also, 38% have scaled up session capacity. These changes suggest that enterprises are experiencing a surge in application traffic and users.

EMA also found that 35% of enterprises had added application-delivery infrastructure in new public-cloud environments, suggesting that enterprises have expanded their use of public-cloud infrastructure during the pandemic. There is clear evidence that data-center infrastructure projects have stalled during this crisis. In response, companies that need more capacity are expanding their use of public cloud resources, either temporarily or permanent.

Network operations enhancements

Thirty-eight percent of enterprises have increased their use of infrastructure automation during the pandemic. IT organizations have been reinventing service delivery on-the-fly for the past few months as businesses have had to adjust to massive disruptions. With skilled personnel stretched thin, automation can help streamline operations. EMA found that companies that increased their budget for application delivery infrastructure in 2020 by 10% or more are more likely to invest in this automation.

Finally, the least common response in the pandemic is the implementation or expansion of the native observability and analytics capabilities offered by application-delivery controllers. Only 27% have taken this step. Either companies were already using these capabilities, or they’re trying to get by with their existing IT operations monitoring tools, such as network performance monitoring and application performance-solutions.

Overall, it is quite clear that very few enterprises have been able to ignore this critical infrastructure during the pandemic. The changes brought by this crisis have forced IT organizations to manage capacity, increase security, and optimize operations. Many these changes will probably be permanent, especially since experts are predicting that the pandemic will permanently change aspects of society and the economy.


Shamus McGillicuddy is the research director for the network management practice at Enterprise Management Associates. He has been covering the networking industry for more than 12 years as an analyst and journalist. Prior to joining EMA, Shamus was the news director for TechTarget's networking publications. He led the news team's coverage of all networking topics, from the infrastructure layer to the management layer. He has published hundreds of articles about the technology and competitive positioning of networking products and vendors. He was a founding editor of TechTarget's website, a leading resource for technical information and news on the software-defined networking industry.

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