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Most solution providers are familiar with the role application delivery controllers (ADCs), also known as load balancers, play within the data center. As the ADC analyzes application traffic it flows that traffic to the appropriate server. As important a function as that is within the data center, the rise of cloud computing is starting to expand the role of the ADC along with opportunities for solution providers that know how to deploy and manage them.

As cloud computing evolves it’s becoming apparent that thanks to advanced virtualization technologies such as VMware vMotion, it will become more common for application workloads to move from data center to data center. The reason for this may be “cloudbursting,” a process by which customers will invoke additional capacity on demand, or global IT strategies that require application workloads to move closer to the customer on a 24 by 7 bases. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that data center environments are going to get a whole lot more dynamic as various forms of hybrid cloud computing take hold.

Dean Darwin, senior vice president of worldwide channel sales for F5 Networks, a provider of ADC platforms, says cloud computing is creating new opportunities for solution provider to deploy ADCs to optimize the flow of application workloads between data centers. Each instance of an application workload, says Darwin, is essentially an application container than needs to find the most optimal set of servers to run on as quickly as possible.

While there’s a lot of interest in wide area network optimization (WAN), Darwin points out that ADCs are the only devices that are application aware enough to accomplish that task.

In addition, Darwin notes that ADCs such the company’s Big-IP platform also provides a number of security benefits within that context. Given the nature of many of those attacks, IT organizations can invoke the security functions of an ADC to more quickly mitigate security threats. That doesn’t mean replacing the firewall, but it does mean transferring the locus of some security functions to ADCs that are can better identify and respond to inbound threat. For example, if a new application exploit is discovered, it takes F5 Networks about an hour to write a rule to mitigate it versus waiting a week for a patch update from the firewall vendor.

As cloud computing continues to evolve it’s apparent that focus of enterprise computing is shifting from what’s happening inside the data center to what’s happening between data centers. That doesn’t mean that opportunities to optimize application performance inside the data center are going away. If anything, the complexity of the modern data center is putting more pressure on ADCs than ever. But solution providers should start asking customers about the impact cloud computing will have on application performance as workloads start to move between data centers. Most IT organizations know this will be an issue, but very few of them as yet have any concrete plans in place to address the problem.

As a rule, complexity is good for the channel in that it creates demand for expertise. The challenge is that solution providers face is that they often need to invest in gaining expertise before the customer really knows they have a problem. But in the case of cloud computing, customers are going to figure out they have a problem managing application workloads much sooner than later.