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ADC Vendors Continue To Fill Cisco ACE Void

As organizations phase out Cisco's discontinued ACE application delivery controller, vendors fill the gap with hardware, virtual, and cloud-based replacements.

The hole left by Cisco’s discontinued ACE application delivery controller (ADC) is getting steadily filled by vendors with both physical and virtual appliances, and some offering ADC capabilities as a service.

Cisco said last fall that it was stopping development of its ACE product line. In June, the company said it would integrate Citrix NetScaler ADC into its Unified Cloud Network Services architecture, but a broad range of vendors have stepped in with alternatives.

Bob Laliberte, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said vendors are trending toward taking what they used to sell as a physical appliance and putting it into a virtual form factor so the products can be deployed and provisioned more rapidly.

In addition to hardware and virtual ADC options, some vendors have introduced ADC-as-a-Service offerings. Earlier this year, Riverbed launched Stingray Services Controller, a platform that can enable cloud providers to deploy and manage a dynamic application delivery infrastructure.

Laliberte said Riverbed’s ability to spin up an ADC on application-by-application basis as a service with pricing and licensing models to support offers the kind of flexibility enterprises want.

Organizations are going to increasingly seek an ADC vendor that can offer both a physical hardware appliance as well as virtual, he said, while at the same time they can purchase and provision load balancing through the AWS Marketplace on demand as needed.

The level of performance required will dictate the deployment model, Laliberte said. “For the high-end applications, typically you’ll find a physical appliance is still required. But for the rest, the virtualized technology is catching up pretty fast," he said.

The latest ADC product from Kemp Technologies, for example, allows customers to make use of their existing Cisco gear by optimizing its LoadMaster OS to operate natively on Cisco’s Unified Computing Systems (UCS) C server line.

Jason Dover, product marketing manager at Kemp, said the company’s approach essentially allows a customer to “replace its Cisco hardware with Cisco hardware” by installing Kemp’s LoadMaster OS without having to adopt a new management platform. The OS resides directly on the C-series servers; the bare-metal installation essentially turns the server into a load balancer.

In its last quarter, Kemp hit a 50/50 split in terms of hardware versus virtual appliance sales, Dover said. It also recently announced native support for the Windows Azure cloud.

[Read about network security supplier Fortinet's expanded efforts in the ADC space in "Fortinet Integrates Coyote Point In New ADC."]

Tracy Corbo, principal research analyst at Enterprise Management Associates’ network management practice, said placing a virtual ADC on existing Cisco hardware is a logical choice as it optimizes performance. However, there will be situations where a physical box still makes sense and vendors need to be flexible with their offerings, she said.

“People want to virtualize everything but I don’t think that everything can be virtualized,” she said. “It makes sense that we will have hybrid environments.”

Corbo said F5 remains the dominant player in the ADC market, particularly in large-scale deployments, but as she noted in a blog post this summer, Cisco’s departure shrinks the playing field and offers opportunities for both pure-play vendors, including A10 Networks, Array Networks, Barracuda, F5, Kemp and Radware, as well as others such as Brocade, Citrix and Riverbed, that don’t rely strictly on ADCs for their primary revenue source.

Research firm Dell’Oro Group predicts the ADC market will approach $2.3 billion in 2017, with sales in 2013 expected to grow by more than 5% after a revenue growth slowdown in 2012.

Strong data center spending with ongoing projects such as new build-out and consolidation will drive revenue growth, according to the research firm. The firm expects hole left by the discontinuation of Cisco’s ACE will take time to fill.

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