Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are demanding the same level of quality and functionality for their IT Web infrastructure as larger enterprise IT organizations. Many SMB organizations are implementing their own application delivery optimization solutions; however, others prefer to outsource their application delivery optimization infrastructure to managed hosting providers (MHPs).
By outsourcing, customers are able to avoid the headaches associated with 24/7 monitoring, troubleshooting faults and assuring that they have the most up-to-date gear. Moreover, they may not have the staff or budget required for hardware, security, software, operating systems and maintenance contracts.
Keeping Sites Running Fast
Application delivery controllers (ADCs) are network devices that sit between the firewall or router and the server farm at the MHP’s data center. The ADC can also be described as a next-generation load balancer, which also distributes Web and Intranet traffic across two or more servers through a series of traffic rules, in order to place traffic on the best-performing servers. In addition to basic load balancing, ADCs can offload and accelerate SSL (secure sockets layer) traffic from servers, compress and cache content and provide application-layer firewall protection.
Managed hosting service provider may offer load balancing and application delivery in conjunction with Web hosting and data center services. The MHP therefore requires state-of-the-art application delivery controllers that will handle traffic management cost-effectively in order to keep the MHP’s margins in line. The MHP is responsible for managing and maintaining equipment ranging from routers, switches, SSL accelerators, ADCs and routing tables, thereby alleviating capital expenditures for the customer. MHPs also manage provisioning, deployment and testing of the equipment.
SMBs with e-commerce and other critical applications use ADCs to assure that their sites are running fast and reliably. Availability includes having ample bandwidth, memory and storage, and also includes redundancy, failover, load balancing and persistence.
While load balancing is used to distribute traffic among available servers, persistence sends a given user to the same server each time that user makes a request in order to be able to access relevant data stored on that particular server. Virtualization is another characteristic of ADCs. An ADC may be logically partitioned into multiple virtual ADCs, each with its own set of rules separately managed from one another with overall centralized management.
Advantages of Outsourcing Application Delivery Services
There are many advantages to outsourcing application delivery optimization. Outsourcing application delivery optimization decreases management requirements. Outsourcing decreases resource management requirements, which are compounded in connecting multiple sites. Customers do not have to deal with multiple vendors each with individual contracts; the MHP handles all equipment and services. Benefits include:
- Reducing capital expenditures. The MHP provides the equipment as a bundled service offering, and this allows the SMB to avoid the need for capital expenditures to deploy an application delivery solution.
- Total cost of ownership (TCO). MHPs can reduce the operational expense that SMBs would have for hiring and training employees for planning, implementing, managing and supporting application delivery optimization.
- The MHP’s management processes. Small and medium-sized businesses can take advantage of the MHP’s processes for application delivery optimization to reduce operational expenses, including planning, management, support and control. MHPs have the ability to scale their operations across many customers to leverage their investment in automated management tools, and management processes that improve the productivity of their IT staff.
- The MHP’s expertise. MHPs are technology service specialists. This specialized technical services expertise can benefit SMB customers by providing application delivery optimization to increase Web site reliability and performance, while reducing the total cost to run the site infrastructure.
- The MHP’s technology. Due to the economy of scale advantages, MHPs can take advantage of advanced technologies for their application delivery optimization services and stratify their service offerings to best accommodate their customers.
- Time-to-market deployment. Managed hosting providers accelerate the learning curve and time to deploy an application delivery optimization solution.
- Focused strategy. Working with an MHP for application delivery optimization services can dramatically free up IT staff and better align in-house IT resources with the SMB business objectives.
Managed hosting providers serving small and medium-sized customers generally offer their customers a choice of tiered services:
- Dedicated (unmanaged) servers. A base-level package in which servers are collocated at the data center, but the MHP does not provide any additional services unless purchased separately. Clients maintain their own servers.
- Dedicated managed servers. The MHP monitors and maintains servers and hosting infrastructure. May include event notification and back-ups.
- Virtual private servers (VPS). Combines server hardware with virtualization software, which acts like a dedicated server. Clients may customize their own services. From the VPS, traffic is rerouted to a hardware-based server.
A Tremendous Opportunity
Up to 70 percent of large enterprises worldwide state that they will have outsourced server management and disaster recovery functions by 2009, according to a Yankee Group survey.
While the figure is lower for SMBs, for the MHPs in the U.S., this presents tremendous opportunity along with the responsibility of delivering the availability and reliability that their customers require. The benefits of managed hosted application delivery optimization include high-reliability and performance, while transferring the headaches to the MHP.
Kevin Mahon is founder and president of Kemp Technologies, a provider of application delivery controllers and server load balancing appliances for small and medium-sized businesses.