Considering application delivery optimization tools: Questions to ask

John Burke, Contributor

In the fourth part of this series, we explore essential questions to ask a vendor when evaluating application delivery optimization tools and solutions for your environment. This section also includes a list of application delivery vendors.

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These critical questions should be asked in an application delivery optimization evaluation:

  1. What physical appliances, virtual appliances, mobile/desktop clients and cloud services do you offer? What platforms can the software versions run on? How are solutions licensed? Are professional services required to implement?
  2. Which application protocols can your solution accelerate? What techniques and standards do you support for protocol optimization? How does your approach to optimization differ from your competition, and why do you believe it is better? Does your solution optimize TCP, UDP and IP traffic? (List the protocols you care about: HTTP, HTTPS, CIFS, NFS, SNFS, DFS, ICA/HDX, RDP/RemoteFX, PCoIP, your mail protocols and so on.)
  3. Does your solution compress traffic? If so, what kinds? Does compression work across streams and appliances? How does your solution deal with already-compressed traffic?
  4. Does your solution do traffic shaping and prioritization? What kinds of traffic can it shape? Does it interact with other QoS mechanisms?
  5. Does your solution do packet ordering and additional loss mitigation?
  6. How does your solution deal with data that has already been encrypted? Do you optimize encrypted traffic in any way?
  7. How does your solution optimize Voice over IP (VoIP) protocols, video chat, Microsoft Lync/OCS and Multicast Video Streaming?
  8. Describe your solution's support for Web Cache Communication Protocol (WCCP), and out-of-path deployment models.
  9. Does your solution support source/destination address and port transparency?
  10. How does your solution fit into a network security infrastructure? Do firewall devices and/or Access Control Lists affect your solution or vice versa? NAT devices?
  11. Can your solution read and/or set QoS flags (DSCP, IP Precedence and/or TOS) in IP packets, and/or Class of Service bits in Ethernet frames? Can it pass them through untouched?
  12. Does your solution provide native IPv6 support for all services and functionality? If not, where does it fail to support v6?
  13. What is the recommended configuration to provide 100% uptime for my network?

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  14. How do you use your company's resources to support a catastrophic failure at a customer site?
  15. How do we manage your solution? How much training is necessary or required to manage it effectively? Describe your CLI, Web GUI, SSH/TFTP/SNMP access, use of syslog, capabilities of your Central Management Platform/Console, and support for customization.
  16. What are your solutions' support for standard directories and authentication mechanisms, including LDAP, AD, Kerberos, TACACS, and the like?
  17. To what extent does your solution integrate with my management and APM tools? Does your solution provide thresholds and alerts notification? Does your solution provide the ability to send various forms of notification, such as email, SMS and page?
  18. Does your solution support on-the-fly patching with no interruption of service? Does it require taking the platform out of service or a reboot? Please describe. Describe the patch distribution process.

Vendors at a Glance

This is a representative list of physical and virtual application delivery optimization appliances.

BlueCoat
Certeon
Circadence
Cisco
Citrix
Dell (SonicWALL)
Exinda
F5
IBM
Ipanema Technologies
Juniper Networks
Riverbed
Silver Peak
StreamCore

This is a representative list of cloud providers with application delivery optimization services.

Akamai
Aryaka
Bat Blue Networks
Internap
Virtela

About the author
John Burke is a principal research analyst with Nemertes Research, where he advises key enterprise and vendor clients, conducts and analyzes primary research, and writes thought-leadership pieces across a wide variety of topics. John leads research on virtual enterprise, focusing primarily on the virtual and mobile desktop, Application Delivery Optimization (ADO), and management and orchestration tools for the virtualized data center and the cloud. He also covers the security aspects of all of these topics, as well as server and storage virtualization, network and application performance management and monitoring, branch office IT and SOA.

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