A path to re-empowering IT: the rise of the application delivery tier

GlobeThe most recent evolutions on the Web -- including IoT, mobile, big data and cloud -- have caused not just an explosion of connections between devices and web services, but also an explosion in traffic. The industry has responded with high-performing distributed application architectures. However, these interdependencies create performance risks for enterprise applications, most of which are mission-critical and have a key role in generating revenue. Performance and downtime are now the top threat to the bottom line.

The modern enterprise is asking for flexible technologies that can tie together both legacy and new applications in a way that ensures the highest-level of application availability and performance.

That demand has given rise to a new category of technologies that I call "application delivery tier" -- a connective tissue that can intelligently route traffic and deliver data to (and between) devices and services without the overhead or complexity of heavy middleware platforms of the past. It’s a new class of "light-ware" for the modern web.

Essentially, middleware is to the traditional three-tier application as "application fabric" (middleware technologies for Windows Server) is to modern distributed applications.

Isn’t this Already Being Done?

I’ve had countless conversations with the busiest websites in the world about their application architecture and the techniques they use to keep their applications performing. One thing is very clear -- modern web applications (startups and large scale SaaS sites alike) embraced distributed application architectures a long time ago and are still using them to great advantage today.

Enterprise IT needs to do the same if they want to have the same benefits of:

  • Faster speed to market
  • Developer independence
  • Reduced costs
  • Increased performance
  • Improved user experience

However, to achieve this, enterprise IT must leverage a single delivery layer that connects their legacy apps (often monolithic) to their new apps and services that will bring innovation and competitive advantage.

This puts enterprise IT in a tough spot. On one hand, they’re moving their systems towards a distributed architecture as Forrester has reported. On the other hand, they don’t have light and flexible software fabric that can connect to, and support, a combination of legacy and new applications in a rapidly changing IT environment.

So, What Does Enterprise IT Do?

A new category of software is emerging called "Application Delivery Tier". Some observers have anticipated this category for quite some time. Now that the competitive pressure is so strong, enterprises are beginning to realize the need for adaption, which has driven significant growth in this segment.

Applications today need a lightweight and flexible type of middleware -- something that can work seamlessly within heterogeneous environments. Then again, it’s no good if it requires wholesale architectural changes within IT. This fabric needs to meet existing IT requirements as well as fit with existing core applications.

With this in mind, HTTP has become the default protocol and foundation for an entire market of solutions that can radically improve enterprise’s ability to deliver modern applications and services. HTTP is scalable, reliable, mature and ubiquitous. A range of open source software is often chained together to create this delivery tier including Apache, HAProxy, Nginx and Varnish.

An enterprise delivery tier based on HTTP is interoperable, suitable for a variety of use cases, controlled by development teams and quick to deploy. It’s managed and configured using standard DevOps tools and methods such as puppet, chef or zookeeper. Ultimately, it is rolled out and scaled in exactly the same way that the application components are deployed and scaled.

This fabric communicates between your in-house apps, off-premise apps and 3rd party services --while giving IT control over performance and availability. This allows the enterprise to swap tech in and out agnostically while maintaining stability and performance across their environment.

The result?

Utilizing the application delivery tier, developers and business owners can confidently innovate and adopt the emerging technologies that are most appropriate for the business needs  that can easily interoperate without system-wide impacts when they’re deployed.  Furthermore, these new capabilities will be deployed to support the business in a matter of hours and days rather than weeks and months.

Image Credit: Jozsef Bagota/Shutterstock

gus_robertsonGus Robertson joined Nginx as CEO in April 2013. Before joining Nginx, Robertson was Vice President of Global Business Development for Red Hat where he managed Red Hat's strategic alliance relationships, and was responsible for vertical industry ecosystems and solution development. In his capacity at Red Hat, and at other senior management roles at Microsoft, Visio and Lexmark, Robertson has a proven track record developing mutually beneficial relationships with customers, major consulting and software firms, resellers, OEM partners.

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