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Application delivery services can save customers money, help VARs

As Web applications become more prevalent, customers need application delivery services. VARs can capitalize on client needs around reliable and efficient application delivery.

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The concepts discussed here also apply to application streaming over the Internet.

Application delivery services

Before you can begin capitalizing on application delivery, you need to understand what application delivery is and what is involved in the application delivery process.

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Simply put, application delivery is a method for connecting users to a Web application. Although providing basic connectivity is easy, application delivery technology revolves around the goals of providing high availability, scalability, and security. The technologies that make such goals attainable are often collectively referred to as an application delivery network.

There are two main aspects to an application delivery network. The first is WAN optimization, which  uses techniques such as caching, compression, and traffic shaping to maximize the amount of data that can be passed through a wide area network (WAN) connection. For application hosts, WAN optimization is essential because without it the host may not have adequate bandwidth to meet the demand for the hosted application.

The application delivery controller is the other part of the application delivery network. The application delivery controller is also referred to as a Web switch, a multi-layer switch, or a content switch. It is typically an appliance that sits between the perimeter firewall and a Web server farm. The controller tasks  vary from one manufacturer to the next, but almost all application delivery controllers provide load balancing capabilities. Some controllers perform SSL offloading, connection multiplexing, compression, and even server health monitoring. Therefore, proper configuration is no small feat.

Application host services

One way in which you can capitalize on your client’s need for reliable application delivery is to host applications on their behalf. This approach is sure to appeal to your clients for a couple of reasons. First, building the required application delivery network tends to be expensive and complex. By hosting the application delivery, you can free your client from the expense. They can simply pay you a monthly fee for the service rather than having to shell out thousands of dollars in startup costs.

The other advantage to hosting an application delivery network for your clients is that your clients will not need the technical expertise to build and maintain such a network.

Of course if you do decide to offer these types of services to your clients then it will be you – not them – who is forced to make a major infrastructure investment. Although the client’s subscription fees will eventually offset your startup costs, it can take quite some time to recoup your investment. You may be able to sharply decrease the amount of time that it takes you to break even by offering application delivery services to your other clients once you have the necessary network infrastructure in place, including controls to keep each application private and secure.

Application delivery network infrastructure

The other way that VARs can capitalize on the need for reliable and efficient application delivery is by providing their clients with the necessary application delivery network infrastructure. Along with selling the necessary hardware and software components, installation services and a long term maintenance contract can be part of the package.

Some clients will likely be inclined to maintain their own application delivery networks, so you may have to remind them of the benefits of a maintenance contract. Maintenance involves more than just applying the occasional service patch. Traffic patterns evolve over time, and this evolution directly affects the application delivery network’s maintenance needs. For example, you may have to install additional hosts for load balancing purposes or adjust the amount of WAN bandwidth that is available to the application. These are just two of the numerous adjustments that may need to be made to a customer’s application delivery network.

About the author:
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a six-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional award for his work with Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services, file systems and storage. Posey has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, he has written for TechTarget, Microsoft, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit his website at www.brienposey.com.

This was first published in February 2012

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