The state of hybrid cloud application delivery

Amr Alashaal, Regional Vice President – Middle East at A10 Networks discusses the findings of a survey the company conducted about the experience of delivering applications in the cloud

In digital business, success depends on application performance. Organizations must deliver the best possible experiences for employees and customers while driving innovation and ensuring security. To meet these interrelated objectives, many enterprises are migrating application delivery to hybrid/multi-cloud environments and related techniques to achieve the kind of agility and resiliency formerly only found in public cloud providers.

But are businesses achieving these benefits?
A10 Networks and Gatepoint Research conducted a survey asking senior technology decision-makers about their experiences delivering applications in the cloud, including where their applications are primarily hosted; how they use their application delivery controller (ADC), and whether they’re satisfied with it; and what application delivery capabilities they need to ensure that their business objectives are successful.

Key takeaways:

  • Only 26% of respondents think they’ve been highly successful in migrating applications to the cloud.
  • In a related finding, only 34% of those using an ADC are highly satisfied with their solution.
  • 50% are struggling with legacy technology in application delivery.
  • Looking forward, the top application initiative for the coming year focuses on agility: moving to flexible software/scale-out solutions.
  • Essential application delivery capabilities needed to ensure business success include faster troubleshooting, optimizing IT staff and resources, and analytics/application insights.

Taken as a whole, the survey captures a snapshot of the industry at a key inflection point in evolving digital infrastructure. To ensure the success of their move to hybrid and multi-cloud environments and deliver the best service for customers, organizations must overcome limitations of their current ADCs. Reducing the complexity of IT operations will be essential, especially as new technologies and evolving systems expand the skills required of IT staff. At the end of the day, the ADC will either enable digital success or impede it—depending on the choices IT leaders make now. 

Below are some of the interesting findings from the report: 

Cloud transformation continues – But legacy isn’t going anywhere
Businesses are now hosting their applications in a variety of environments, both public and private. Despite the rapid rise of cloud services, 74% of respondents continue to host applications in an on-premises data center. Private clouds are highly popular, with 43% of organizations using these environments. The combination of environments reported by respondents show the prevalence of a hybrid approach in which an on-premises data center is leveraged in tandem with one or more types of clouds and vendors. While this hybrid/multi-cloud approach offers great flexibility to choose the ideal environment for each application, it also increases the complexity of application delivery. Organizations must be able to manage application delivery, and consistent policies, across heterogeneous environments, including requirements such as performance optimization, load balancing, and troubleshooting.

There’s room for more than AWS, Azure and Google
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is used by a full 66% of companies in the survey. Microsoft Azure follows close behind at 63%. But Azure and AWS aren’t the only providers in the market. Google registers a respectable 25% for Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Oracle Cloud Infrastructure has achieved a significant presence as well at 15%, showing that customers will look to other vendors with a long track record in enterprise and commercial technology that meet specific needs. By considering the full range of options, organizations can make the optimal choice for each application based on the provider’s expertise, service level, pricing model, and relevant value-added features. It’s almost taken for granted that cloud is everywhere, but a full 15% of respondents don’t use public cloud at all, perhaps for reasons of security, customization, privacy, or regulatory compliance.
Tip: To prevent rising complexity, it also becomes crucial to gain unified visibility across environments while avoiding the need for multiple interfaces and solutions 

Application Migration initiatives show moderate success
Given the strategic importance of cloud migration, you’d expect that companies would be diligent in the planning and investment needed to achieve optimal results—but the survey results tell a different story. Only 26% of respondents said they had been highly successful in these efforts. These unimpressive results show a clear need for better planning. Not all applications are suitable for all clouds, or for the cloud in general. IT organizations need to make the right choices about the right environment and provider for each application. The migration process itself needs to be approached thoughtfully and methodically as well.
Tip: The more thought companies put into their cloud initiative, the more they’ll get out of it.

New ADC use cases gain importance
Beyond baseline ADC functions like Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB), TLS/SSL Offload and application acceleration and optimization, new use cases are on the rise. As cloud-native, microservice architectures transform the way applications are developed and delivered, 15% of respondents are using their ADC to control access to containerized applications. With security a perennial and rising concern, 12% of organizations are using their ADC for authentication and CAPTCHA access controls—a feature common in public commercial environments that is now making its way into enterprise planning. And given that digital business runs on DevOps, 10% of respondents are using their ADC to support continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD). 

ADC satisfaction shows room for improvement
As a critical element of digital business infrastructure, companies have a right to expect exceptional results from their ADC. Most fall short. Only a third (34%) of IT leaders are highly satisfied with their solution. The reason for this disillusionment may include the limitations of older solutions that fail to meet the latest needs, such as observability, analytics, and feedback to DevOps. ADC requirements have changed over the years as companies adopt new technologies to support their business and employees. Meeting today’s standards for an exceptional digital experience calls for a fully modern infrastructure.

New initiatives and new requirements focus on ADC modernization
While organizations are pursuing a variety of application initiatives in the coming year, two objectives dominate the agenda: Agility (48%) and Operational Efficiency (47%). Both areas reflect the rising demands of digital markets and a growing need for automation needs. Organizations need to be able to deploy and deliver applications more flexibly and efficiently, avoid bogging down in manual tasks, and gain greater insight to ensure that fast-changing environments maintain performance and availability. A similar story is told by the new application delivery capabilities needed to ensure successful business objectives – Faster Troubleshooting/Root Cause Analysis (69%), Automation to Optimize IT Staff and Resources (53%) and Analytics and Application Insights (52%). All three of these top priorities show a drive to improve operations, reduce complexity, and avoid human error in more complex hybrid/multi-cloud environments. A competitive digital experience depends on both performance and innovation; an ADC must be able to support both.

ROI is king
As organizations evaluate their next ADC solution, one consideration stands above all others: ROI (46%). Over time, ROI also depends on the lifetime value of a solution. It’s equally important to avoid getting locked into a deployment model that no longer fits an organization’s needs, and 9% of respondents cited flexible and portable licensing, a relatively new concept.
Tip: Choosing a solution with flexible licensing options, portability, and multiple form factors enable a solution for today, as well as a cost-effective future plan to minimize disruption and create digital resiliency.

While moving to hybrid/multi-cloud environments can help companies achieve the application performance, business agility, and IT resiliency demanded by today’s digital businesses and markets, many are struggling to realize these benefits. As revealed in this survey, outdated application delivery infrastructure can make it difficult to address security threats, ensure availability, and deliver the best possible experience for customers and employees. But the survey also points to a path forward, as IT leaders recognize the potential of the latest application delivery capabilities to solve problems more quickly, empower staff for greater effectiveness, and put data to work to improve performance, security, and uptime throughout the infrastructure.