An interesting new report has been issued by Forrester Research that provides a great deal of market research and insight into the challenges of the data center network supporting large-scale virtualization. The report provides a representative view about the types of obstacles organizations are facing and where they are making new investments, along with some recommended best practices. As usual, the application services infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges, i.e., how to replicate the layer 4-7 and security services that mission-critical applications require in a highly virtualized or hybrid cloud environment. While servers and networks have largely been virtualized, relying on physical firewalls or application controllers can undermine or limit the beneficial effects of virtualization.
Forrester starts by pointing out what benefits customers are looking for and where they see the greatest growth in virtualization going forward. Over the next four years, Forrester sees 500% growth in total virtual x86 workloads that will be hosted in private cloud IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), where virtual servers are isolated between tenants, compared to 170% growth in private cloud pools in organizations’ own data centers. Forrester points out that overlooking virtual services can “negate private and public cloud investments”, however. 33% of their respondents indicated that they have difficulty integrating public services with internal virtual infrastructures, with 24% specifically citing “frustration with capability, agility and flexibility of traditional application delivery controllers (ADC)”. (see next table).
The oft-stated goals of IaaS deployments are to reduce time and costs to deploy virtual solutions, and to do so rapidly to adapt to changing business needs. 24% in Forrester’s survey, however, indicated that physical security appliances and ADCs are “too slow and hamper the creation of a complete service”. One of the key recommendations that Forrester makes is to invest in virtual network services, like virtual ADCs:
To support the drive toward self-service, cost reductions, and automation, the challenges that organizations encounter can be overcome by introducing and leveraging virtual instances of firewall, ADCs, and WAN optimizers. Sixty-five percent of respondents indicated that virtual appliances helped with reduction of operation costs within the data center. Forrester research has found that virtual appliances:
• Are less expensive to deploy than a hardware-based appliance.
• Enable organizations to recoup their costs faster since the time to deployment is reduced.
• Empower organizations using IaaS to leverage their own tools instead of the ones provided by the cloud provider.
• Standardize processes since the soft form factor is often identical to the physical one.
• Can improve collaboration with application development and testing teams and lead to a faster and smoother rollout of critical applications to production.
Consequently, virtualized application delivery controllers (vADCs) must be one of the fundamental products in any infrastructure toolbox. Since physical application delivery controllers are the closest entity to the application and improve a user’s application experience, virtualized application delivery controllers will allow data center teams to deploy IaaS. vADCs can easily follow the application in order to replicate the VM’s networking environment in its new location. In addition, they encourage better collaboration because it is much easier and quicker to put a virtual appliance into the hands of a developer than it is to give that developer access to an expensive piece of hardware that is sitting in a production environment.
65% of the survey indicated that the move to virtual infrastructure had overall reduced operational costs to maintain their data center. Between 27-40% listed more specific benefits from virtual services such as “increase the speed of response of the data center”, “enable better orchestration”, and “enable the infrastructure to leverage cloud providers”. (see table below).
While Cisco has had a virtual firewall and virtual WAN optimization solution for some time, Forrester’s focus on virtual ADCs is interesting. Cisco demonstrated a virtual version of its ACE application delivery controller recently at Cisco live in San Diego. While not specifying a delivery time frame, it’s clearly an important area for Cisco to round out its virtual service offerings and accelerate the integration of public and private clouds, virtual overlay networks and IaaS infrastructures that customers are looking for.
This vendor neutral Forrester report was commissioned by Cisco, and we again had great pleasure in working with Andre Kindness and team who authored the report and provided the market research.