RealTime IT News

Application Acceleration Looks to Go Virtual

Exactly what is Citrix planning by teaming up with Akamai?

Akamai is one of the many vendors offering application acceleration, and it does so not by offering a hardware appliance, but by providing a B2B network to clients that selects the optimal route over the Internet to transmit files and applications.

Enterprise clients just have to make a domain name system (DNS) change in their IP address and access one of Akamai's global server networks to transmit and receive files.

Many other vendors offer hardware -- Juniper Networks offers its WX application acceleration platform, and Radware offers its AppDirector intelligent application delivery controller, for instance.

But hardware-based appliances are expensive, and hardware application acceleration appliance vendor Certeon recently unveiled a virtual appliance that does the job and cuts costs.

That's going to be the beginning of a trend, Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Bob Laliberte told InternetNews.com. "We've seen this in other software management spaces, where what's traditionally been offered as a hardware appliance is now being offered as a virtual appliance," Laliberte said.

There are good reasons for this: The tough economic times are forcing enterprises to consolidate their servers and their datacenters to cut costs, and "We have one customer who has 10 servers in every one of his branches and his dream is to cut that down to two," Gareth Taube, Certeon's vice president of worldwide marketing, told InternetNews.com.

However, the more servers and applications are consolidated back to the data center, the more demands are placed on the corporate WAN because "all those applications are now being sent out from there," Taube said.

That poses a problem, because "now you need to make sure that the remote locations get the same experience they had when their computing infrastructure and applications resided at the branch," Laliberte said. "That's where companies began to provide WAN and application acceleration technologies.

The problem is, putting in an appliance to accelerate the traffic just adds one more piece of hardware to the datacenter.

That's where Certeon's recently launched aCelera virtual appliance comes in. This lives in a VMware hypervisor and Taube claims it cuts end user response time by 95 percent.

Laliberte's skeptical about this: "It's about the same as having a physical appliance," he said.

Access rights and other rights and privileges are managed by VMware, so "if you use VMware to clone the image and move it to another server while it's live, you also move us, together with the VMware access rights and directories," Taube said. Security is not an issue because VMware "can wall off whatever resources we virtually get access to," he added.

The real advantage of having a virtual appliance is that it costs less to run than a hardware appliance because "you're reducing capital costs. You have no infrastructure, less employees are needed for installation and maintenance, and you don't need hardware maintenance," Laliberte said.

Virtual appliances will be the next trend for two reasons, Laliberte said. One is because "CIOs don't want to put another box out in the branch offices; the more they can minimize the number of servers and not have to pay infrastructure costs, maintenance costs and so on, the better for them."

The other driver will come from the vendors themselves: Virtual applications are much easier to install and, "as a vendor, you're not in the hardware business and having a virtual appliance means you don't have to warranty a piece of hardware," Laliberte said.

Certeon next plans to integrate aCelera into Microsoft's Hyper-V, due out later this year, and will look at other vendors offering hypervisors "in the fourth quarter," Taube said.

Citrix, the major challenger to VMware will not necessarily be among them: "With XenServer, we can certainly pursue that path, but that will depend on customer requirements and corporate strategy," Rob Chen, Citrix's senior product marketing manager, told InternetNews.com.

"There are cases certainly where virtual applications make sense to a customer, but having a physical application and specialized hardware to handle high volumes of Web traffic is an advantage we don't see disappearing," Chen added.