I recently had the opportunity to attend the F5 Networks event in Bangalore and interact with its senior marketing and sales team. One thing that kept boomeranging during the entire session was the idea that “load balancers are a dead commodity” and it is high time for organizations and data centers to move on to more advanced tools like application delivery controllers (ADCs).

Now, is this just another marketing and sales trick to kill traditional tools and make room for new fancy stuff — or does this really hold water? There is no second thought on the fact that ADCs are the future and that they unleash new capabilities beyond just “network load balancing.” But is the market for load balancers really dead? In my opinion, the answer is “Not very soon.” I see various reasons for this:

  • Load balancers have reached commodity status. Load balancer vendors are cutting their margins and dropping their prices for these boxes to an all -time low; there will never be a better time for organizations to invest in them. This is especially true for a country like India, where there exists a long tail of SMBs who haven’t really invested a penny in similar solutions.
  • ADC is a relatively nascent technology that is more complex to sell. Network companies like Cisco Systems or Radware often target load balancers at network administrators of an organization, marking a clear buyer/seller situation. In comparison, selling an ADC requires an OEM to target multiple stakeholders within the same organization. For a successful ADC deployment, network and application administrators within the organizations need to come together to really understand the problem, be clear on the responsibilities, and have a holistic approach to application deployment — something that most Indian organizations clearly lack today.

I believe that, for the next 12 to 18 months, the market for load balancers will continue to coexist with ADCs; each will have a space of its own. The market for ADCs should have been ripe by now, but some vendors can be held responsible for underselling their products (such as ADCs) and not educating the market to use the advanced functionalities. There clearly exists a gap between the strategists and the sales team on ground. This gap needs to be addressed for there to be much faster and wider adoption of similar solutions like ADCs.