How Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) can help object storage vendors meet changing customer needsStorage Published on •4 mins
Customer requirements are changing dramatically, with integrated workloads increasingly on the wish list. But how can Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) help object storage vendors respond to these changing customer needs?
The challenge: Customers want object storage vendors to take care of high availability for them
Customers today expect applications to remain always-on to ensure adequate ROI. This means that it is now incumbent on the object storage vendor to take a position on this on the customer's behalf — either by providing them with a complete, integrated solution, or at the very least by recommending a validated, high availability solution that they know will work with their application.
Object storage vendors have historically been reluctant to get involved in conversations about high availability. After all, why would they? They spend millions developing their core product, which they're keen to provide to businesses worldwide. After all, the customer's network is nothing to do with them, so it's not their fault if compromised customer servers lead to downtime, undermining the performance of their object storage application.
But, increasingly, object storage vendors are experiencing scenarios where they have been excluded from tenders and lost deals when they have failed to address this pain point for the customer. And perhaps rightly so.
The absence of a high availability solution to support the object storage application requires customers to:
- Bear the cost of object storage downtime or slow performance, to their operational or financial detriment.
- Dedicate additional time pre and post sale, researching the market for an adequate solution.
- Overcome the challenges of deploying a piecemeal solution and architecting the integration.
The pitfalls of this approach are that:
- The customer may be mis-sold a load balancer that can't be easily integrated into their existing application stack, due to a lack of specialist knowledge.
- They may also end up spending significantly more than they need on a high-end load balancer that has more functionality than they require. Something the customer will take into account when looking at the commercial viability of the object storage solution itself.
- Furthermore, the customer may not understand the specific requirements of object storage, or the rationale behind the need for a dedicated clustered pair of load balancers.
This ultimately results in poor customer satisfaction and unbudgeted costs further down the line. This problem is further compounded when support teams and processes are also segregated, with the customer unsure who to contact to resolve technical issues or answer queries.
The solution: Deciding to integrate ADCs into your solution stack is only the beginning...
In order to meet these customer demands, object storage vendors are increasingly looking to integrate load balancers into their solution stack. They are however, also finding that integration in and of itself is not necessarily the solution. It ultimately depends how this is done.
For example, many object storage vendors who thought they already had an answer to the integration issue are now realizing their current approach has limitations. For example:
- Either they've built their own load balancer that doesn't work or isn't supported.
- They're tied into a solution that's too expensive.
- They already have a free load balancing solution, but it isn't fully customizable, and therefore doesn't now meet their needs.
At the end of the day, different ADCs and load balancing algorithms are designed to solve different problems.
For example, when it comes to object storage, higher throughput's are typically required due to the size of the objects themselves. Layer 4 load balancing might therefore be better placed to help with this as it offers superior performance. But not all load balancing providers will offer Layer 4.
A free, open source solution such as HAProxy (although brilliant) will, on its own, only offer Layer 7 load balancing, and doesn't offer Global Server Load Balancing (GSLB) which provides critical multisite resilience and the backups so fundamental to data storage.
So, while we are avid supporters of the open source community, these solutions are unlikely to serve the specific needs of object storage vendors. The key is to be clear about what you're trying to achieve and cherry-pick your solutions accordingly.
And the ADC vendor's route to market has to meet the needs of the object storage vendor
For object storage vendors looking to address the issue of high availability for their customers, there are a number of different options available to them, which each come with their pros and cons.
- Recommend a specific load balancing vendor - This is pretty much the minimum customers now expect.
- Deploy free, open source load balancing software on their own hardware and position it as their own - This is unsupported and unlikely to be fit for purpose as a stand-alone solution.
- Enter into a co-branded partnership with a load balancing vendor - This ticks the 'integrated' box but doesn't usually offer the desired commercial flexibility.
- Meet in the channel - This can work well as long as the two partners have independently validated their joint solutions and can provide detailed deployment and support documentation.
- Go full OEM - This model offers the most technical and commercial flexibility but the degree of tailoring available varies greatly by load balancing vendor.
Check out this blog: How Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) can help object storage vendors increase their margins, for further details of each of these options. The key takeaway here is that there is no one-size-fits all solution, so the commercials and roadmap of both vendors needs to align.
Customers now expect object storage vendors to take care of high availability for them, taking away the pain of performance issues and downtime. However, how the object storage vendor chooses to tackle this is not straightforward, and the chosen path needs to meet the commercial as well as functional needs of the object storage vendor themselves. As such, object storage vendors are now reviewing their solution stack and existing ADCs. If you'd like to do the same, learn how a tailored ADC can change your business model for the better.