The move towards Web 2.0 and rich content is changing the expectations of the end-user, posing a serious challenge to applications delivery.
So says Michael Abendanon, GM of network integration at Dimension Data, Middle East and Africa, who notes that applications delivery faces a host of complexities which organisations must come to grips with if they are to get ROI.
To discover how local organisation understand and make use of applications delivery, ITWeb in partnership with Dimension Data today unveiled the Application Delivery Survey 2011.
Defining applications delivery, Abendanon says, at the highest level, it is about optimising the end-user experience when working with applications delivered from the data centre.
He says the drive towards centralisation has concentrated application services in the data centre and, in the process, has increased the distance between the end-user and the applications they use on a daily basis.“With the growth in globalisation and the mobile workforce, users are connecting back into the data centre with many varying technologies and often suffer from the effects of high latency and limited bandwidth.
“Application delivery makes use of application delivery controllers (ADCs) and WAN optimisation controllers (WOCs) to mitigate the effects of latency and limited bandwidth,” he explains.
According to Abendanon, ADCs work to ensure that traffic is distributed among multiple servers as well as performing many application-specific optimisations to accelerate the delivery of data to the user.
He adds that WOCs use caching and transmission control protocol (TCP) optimisation technologies to reduce the amount of data that travels over slower WAN connections.
“These two technologies work together to ensure that the end-user experience, when connecting from remote locations, is vastly improved to the point where it is comparable to working on the local area network (LAN).
Describing how Web 2.0 has presented challenges to applications delivery, Abendanon says with the growth in video and dynamic content, users are far more demanding in what they expect from their applications.
“In addition, companies are discovering that they cannot divorce social media from company activities, as these are becoming the new platform for interacting with other users and customers.
“This content is fighting for bandwidth with the company's own internal systems and the challenge is how you let your users access rich content without effecting the critical business applications.”
Another challenge, adds Abendanon, is the growth in the mobile workforce which accesses applications over 3G or ADSL.
“With the increases coming through on toll roads and fuel charges, more and more companies will look to move towards a mobile workforce. The challenge is ensuring that these users are able to enjoy the same experience as the users connecting over the LAN,” he notes.
In the face of these shortcomings, Abendanon points out that applications delivery makes use of many technologies to ensure available bandwidth is used in the most effective manner possible.
“Organisations can manipulate the way servers deliver content, removing duplication and compressing data where possible. They can also ensure that server load is distributed efficiently over a pool of servers, so that no one server is bogged down by excessive workload.
“Then they can prioritise key applications so that they, in effect, receive a larger slice of the bandwidth pie. Finally, they can manipulate the TCP/IP protocol itself, removing some of the overhead built into a protocol that was designed over 20 years ago,” he says.
He believes these improvements all work together holistically to ensure organisations make the best use of all available bandwidth and deliver an optimum end-user experience.
Abendanon is also of the view that cloud computing has differing effects on applications delivery depending on how it is deployed by an organisation.
“If we are looking at infrastructure-as-a-service, then the effect will be that you can burst into the cloud at times of high workload, in effect increasing your available server capacity when required.
“This brings its own challenges in how an organisation redirects user requests dynamically to this additional resource without the user having to make any changes to the way they access applications,” he states.
According to Abendanon, virtualisation allows an organisation to grow and shrink server capacity based on demand, making sure that it only runs the required number of server instances to deliver an application service.
“However, as an organisation grows the number of servers in a virtual pool, it needs to dynamically distribute load to these additional servers without requiring manual intervention. Here the ADC can automate the process of adding or removing virtual servers to a pool and distribute new connections to these servers as they become available.”
For an organisation to get ROI with applications delivery, Abendanon believes if a business can reduce the amount of time-waiting for applications to respond to user input, then it can directly affect the productivity of the users.
“As an example, if an insurance company has a mobile sales team that generates quotes in front of a prospective customer, then halving the time it takes for application response directly affects the potential number of customer interactions in a given day.
“Of course, travel times between customers will limit the actual effect but even if we can make an additional visit per sales person per day we will greatly increase the productivity across the collective sales team.”
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