Control Plane for NetOps, SecOps, and DevOps
Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) have become a very important cog in the software development process. With all the different teams involved in the software development life cycle, ADCs make it easier to coordinate and deploy applications. Not only that, but ADCs also provide much-needed visibility into various aspects of the application, such as resource utilization, performance, etc. With all the benefits they provide, let’s take a look at how we can load balance ADCs from a centralized control plane and simplify application delivery and security for all the stakeholders, including NetOps, SecOps, and DevOps.
A centralized control plane for application delivery means using one platform for all your application needs. It pulls together people working on applications throughout their development life cycle, often using many different systems and platforms. This improves communication and collaboration between these teams.
A self-service application development and deployment approach can save time and ensure applications are deployed quickly. Application Development teams can deploy applications on their own without having to go through other departments. On the other hand, platform operations teams can help developers without slowing down the development and deployment process by providing guidelines and standards that ensure compliance with corporate security standards.
What are the “data and control planes” of the network, and what does each do?
This isn’t complicated: a network device (or system) has three main functions: data (or packets), control, and management.
In a variety of technical fields, these terms may have distinctive connotations, but they all follow the same basic model:
- A plane represents where certain operations take place in your network.
- The data plane is where the workers of a system live, such as a server, a web page, or a spreadsheet cell. The data plane is responsible for sending and receiving communications through a network, including routing, forwarding, and traffic shaping.
- The control plane can be considered the layer of management that sets the rules for the data plane. In a decoupled model, the control plane would manage the fabric of your system. In a network, the control plane would control and configure a fleet of Data Plane workers to drive traffic appropriately, similar to how an air traffic controller would manage the traffic in an airport.
There are many benefits to decoupling the control plane and data plane.
Decoupling applications from their infrastructure is essential for modernizing software systems. Decoupling the data and control planes helps to create more flexibility within networks. This is an important concept for Software-Defined Everything (SDE) and Infrastructure as Code (DevOps).
The ability to decouple data and control planes, in general, has the following advantages:
- Operational Efficiency – It is the ability to see the big picture and manage an entire complex system more efficiently than if each component were managed separately. This means identifying inefficiencies and optimizing processes to run more smoothly.
- Agility – The ability to allocate resources more efficiently and switch between platforms when the situation demands it.
- Cost Optimizations – Eliminating inefficiencies and cost savings can be achieved by utilizing ubiquitous connections that are readily available as a service.
The problem with traditional integrated ADCs in the realm of modern applications
In application delivery, there are two components: load balancers and web application firewalls (WAFs). These components have an integrated control plane and data plane, which means that the user interface and logic are in the same application as the packet processing and forwarding.
From Load Balancers to ADCs
Load balancers are important in managing traffic flow within a data center. In the traditional model, load balancers are placed at the edge of the data center. However, this model dates back to when load balancers were hardware appliances. They were monolithic deployments in high availability configurations, often an Active/Passive pair (with one sitting idle) that could handle the whole or substantial parts of an organization’s application portfolio. Nowadays, load balancers are often software-based, and they can be deployed in different ways depending on the needs of the data center.
Over time, the market for load balancers has evolved dramatically, and the traditional model is no longer viable. Today’s applications are much more complex, often running on multiple data centers and the need to be load balanced across multiple servers.
Load balancers have come a long way and are now commonly referred to as Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs). ADCs are responsible for a much more comprehensive range of functions related to applications rather than just low-level networking. This can include TLS/SSL offloading, application-level DDoS attack and bot mitigation, web application and API protection, access management, and web content optimization.
Why won’t a traditional ADC model suffice in the era of Microservices and Application modernization?
In a situation where there are hundreds or even thousands of applications, the traditional ADC model can become a workload that can jeopardize your business. Here’s why:
a. With microservices, applications are made up of many small services that all need to be updated quickly. This is different from before, when just a few big monolithic applications needed to be maintained and updated. As the code for an application gets updated, so must the ADC. This includes changes to routing rules and security policies. Since many services need to be managed, it can be difficult for platform operations teams to make service updates during designated maintenance windows.
In a setting with hundreds or even thousands of apps, the traditional ADC model can hinder productivity due to the amount of time it takes to manage and update each app. This can produce a significant “blast radius” that can jeopardize your business.
b. Furthermore, the traditional ADC approach can limit the agility of development teams and slow the introduction of new features, especially when applications are deployed in microservices. With microservices, each application comprises more minor services that require different application delivery needs and updates at a higher velocity. With each new release of application code, various changes in ADCs are necessary, such as modifications to routing rules, security policies, etc.,
c. The traditional ADC model is becoming less effective in supporting modern applications. Continuous policy changes might severely strain ADCs and destabilize your application delivery and security. Also, this model puts a strain on platform operations teams, who are forced to make service updates during designated maintenance windows.
The pitfalls of decentralized per-application ADCs
Traditional Application Delivery Controllers (ADCs) can hinder development and concentrate workloads on a single bottleneck. Is it possible to solve this problem by utilizing ADCs per application or tenant?
It is possible to design a model where ADCs are managed individually per application or customer. This is because we are no longer constrained by hardware appliances that are expensive and purpose-built. ADCs have come a long way in recent years and offer virtual and containerized form factors. These are high-performing and feature-rich but don’t take up much space in compute and storage requirements.
The decentralized ADC model is designed to reduce potential problems and improve efficiency. It allows teams to choose the right size ADC for each application and empowers application teams to work quickly and release new code on their schedule.
For example, an ADC cluster for one application may need more powerful Virtual Machine specifications than another because it has heavier workloads. The team for the second application can push new features and modify their ADC policies more frequently without affecting the first application because they are separate clusters.
When you allow application teams to manage their own ADC instances, it can be tough to maintain compliance, governance, and consistency across all deployments. For example, one group might use an ADC from Vendor X. In contrast, another team uses a different ADC from Vendor Y. This can lead to tool sprawl and make it challenging to guarantee compliance with security standards.
How can a centralized Control Plane help improve the benefits of an integrated and decentralized ADC model?
A centralized control plane is a bit like a head chef in a restaurant. They are in charge of ensuring that all of the food from the kitchen is of the same high quality. This is done by incorporating the best aspects of the integrated and decentralized ADC models.
The enterprise solution is a centralized control plane for application delivery. A centralized control plane is a bit like having a control tower in the center of an airport. It provides the inventory of all ADC deployments and allows you to deploy, configure, and operate your entire application delivery infrastructure from one central location. This is beneficial because it can help improve communication and collaboration among teams, as well as help reduce deployment times. This way, you can keep track of everything going on and ensure everything is running smoothly. This solution offers a “single pane of glass” that gives you a complete view of your application delivery infrastructure.
This model separates the ADC instances in the data frame from the logic & UI of the central control plane.
It can be beneficial to have both per-application and per-tenant deployment. Platform Operations teams can pre-provision instances and set “guard rails” or global policies. Meanwhile, Application Developers can manage their per-application ADC policies. This gives us the best of both worlds regarding control and flexibility.
A control plane that supports role-based access controls can help streamline the work of all the groups involved in an application’s lifecycle. This model can bring together network specialists, security experts, developers, site reliability engineers, and more. By having a single platform to manage these disparate roles, you can simplify the tool sprawl and minimize the risk of human error and exposure to threats. Plus, it saves money by reducing the need for separate tools for each group.
Where using a centralized control plane for application delivery makes sense
For example, if you need to provide an unbiased evaluation of the entire application environment or if you need to make changes like configuring new policies or upgrading underlying devices. Centralized control planes can be helpful in these situations because they give you a single point of control for making changes to the system.
This platform is ideal for managing massively scalable and distributed apps, with many teams involved in the application lifecycle.
Some critical scenarios where you might want to use a centralized control plane include:
- You are looking for a scalable way to manage your applications. You have a lot of different applications that each have their purpose and are written in different languages. You want to be able to quickly and easily deploy new versions of these without having to manage each one separately across hybrid and microservices architecture.
- You want to utilize multi-cloud strategies to save costs while maintaining unified tooling and observability across platforms.
- You have distributed applications in the cloud that need to run on edge computers. You want to ensure that these are managed easily and consistently.
- You need to speed up the deployment of apps and empower developers without compromising security.
- You probably have a lot of tools lying around from when you were trying to figure out how best to manage them. You might even have a few control-plane solutions for managing subsets of these tools – but it’s not about choosing which tool/solution is better; it’s about knowing when and where to use them.
- It would help if you had the freedom to decide whether you want an on-premises solution, a shared service (SaaS) solution, or both.
What are the key benefits of a centralized control plane that can turbocharge application delivery?
There’s more to your process than what you see. Centralizing the control plane is vital for any agile, cloud-driven organization. It offers a way to approach all your applications with a level head, tracking progress and reducing inefficiencies with distributed systems. A centralized control plane platform gives you the power to:
- Simplify and centralize application delivery management on hybrid and microservices architectures, whether on-premises or in the cloud.
- Reduce application delivery complexity with a single-platform ADC and load balancer that unifies the management of your application delivery infrastructure into one set of tools and processes.
- Eliminate the need to manage separate tools for Load Balancing, Application Delivery, API Management, and so forth.
- Integrate with other tools and processes such as ITSM, Security, and Networking, to form a single view of your environment.
- Simplify application development and maintenance. With a unified toolset and a simplified API to deploy and scale applications, developers can easily create new applications without being constrained by the existing configuration.
- Improve visibility across the entire application delivery infrastructure with a single platform that allows you to extract aggregated insights and granular metrics.
- Reduce operational costs and the time to troubleshoot problems due to eliminating fragmented and disparate tooling.
- Adopt IaC methods for provisioning and configuring application delivery infrastructure – including cloud and on-premises environments.
- Ensure secure and reliable access to production environments by providing an API interface to delegate control to application teams.
Intelligent Control Plane for Modern Application Services
The next-generation control plane for modern application services is designed to simplify your infrastructure’s design, monitoring, and management. It also adds intelligence to the equation, enabling adaptive and automatic network controls executed by machine learning (a mix of standardized processes layered with declarative models for application delivery). This allows for faster and more precise execution eliminating the risk of human-prone error. The next-gen control plane is designed to work with emerging edge computing and cloud-native architectures.
Many people are excited about next-generation control planes for networks, but what are we likely to see?:
- High Availability – In the event of a control plane failure, the traffic management service will automatically fail over to a new node.
- Scalability – Can be scaled up or down to match traffic demands, dynamically adapt to changing network conditions, and achieve a balance between capacity and cost.
- Autonomic Operation – Can operate autonomously without user intervention and respond to new traffic patterns, anomalies, and threats with automated, adaptive traffic rules.
- Community-Driven Intelligence – Looking to the future for protection against potential attacks, community-driven threat intelligence uses data collected from various sources in real-time. This information helps to identify patterns and potential threats, so that action can be taken to protect against them.
- Intent-Based Policies – Intent-based policies make it easier for users to communicate what they need without getting into the nitty-gritty details or being an expert on every technology function. This allows for better outcomes and high-level operational goals.
- Community-Driven Governance – Provides an open source governance model that allows users to self-organize and share resources to define and enforce policy within their domain.
A centralized control plane can help with a lot of things when it comes to application delivery. It can help speed up deployment and make different managing aspects of the application easier. This solution is perfect for people using lots of different tools or having trouble coordinating between different teams.
Using a centralized control plane will help to solve those problems by making it easier to manage hybrid and multi-cloud deployments.
Look at AppViewX ADC+, the next-generation multi-cloud application delivery platform with a centralized control plane. ADC+ can either be deployed on-premises or provided as SaaS and provides a centralized platform for deploying, controlling, and monitoring applications at scale using any cloud. ADC+ simplifies agile application delivery with built-in automation workflows, simple intent-based templates, and profiles.
If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help you take your application delivery infrastructure to a new level, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We offer complete, centralized control over every aspect of managing your applications while still preserving excellent performance and scalability.