As more organistions begin to deploy application delivery networks (ADNs) to mitigate limitations in business-critical applications, Gartner says the emergence of ADNs creates a need for a new group of technical professionals.
ADNs are required for successful deployment of modern browser-based applications and emerging web services applications. Organisations should recognise that designing and managing this new network overlay requires unique skills and build a team of application delivery architects and engineers. These new roles will be key to the deployment of very expensive applications and protocols.
“In many IT departments, application delivery professionals will be the first new positions for several years, and their emerging status as highly sought-after individuals will generate friction with the ‘old guard’,” says Joe Skorupa, research vice-president at Gartner. “Nevertheless, IT departments that add these positions will see smoother application development and deployment, increased user satisfaction and lower costs.”
Application delivery architects work with application development, storage, security and network architects to develop an overall approach to the delivery of each application. This team determines which optimisation techniques (protocol offload, caching, application firewalls, and so on) are required and where they should be implemented.
“This approach is considered the ‘lifeboat method’ because all members of the team must work together to ensure success. No individual can succeed unless the entire team does. With this approach, the application delivery architect functions like a lifeboat's captain leading the effort and filling in the gaps in understanding between other members of the team,” says Skorupa.
Once the approach to application delivery has been decided, an application delivery engineer leads the operational effort. He or she configures and manages the elements of the ADN. This may involve programming application delivery controllers through scripts, developing web application firewall rules, or working with the managed service provider to optimise the ADN service.
Members of this team will often be drawn from application/server and security administration. The cross-functional nature of the application delivery engineer's job requires strong people skills as well as broad, strong technical skills.
Because ADN knowledge is in short supply, Gartner says most companies will have to develop staff in-house. Although this will require investment in training and, perhaps, pay grades higher than those of network engineers, it is a necessary investment. Application delivery architects and engineers can be key to the deployment of highly expensive business-critical applications.
Gartner believes that companies which employ them will realise a very positive return on investment and could achieve strategic market advantages.