"ADC configuration can be much more involved than firewall configuration, because now you're twiddling with the apps, you're standing in the middle of that whole process," he says. "So even though an ADC has a lot of security-like' capabilities it is a full proxy, it does have denial-of-service protection, and so on it does not do the same thing as an enterprise-grade firewall."
Rohit Mehra, vice president of network infrastructure at IDC, says that both positions should be taken with a grain of salt, in that F5 and Citrix likely have differing views on the role of security in the ADC market because their product lines dictate it.
"I think it's fair to say that security is an adjacent networking capability, that it would be always nice to have as an add-on to ADCs," he says.
ADCs and virtualization
But what of virtualization? According to Mehra's predictions, 2014 will be the year virtualized ADC revenues surpass the $200 million mark. But generalized adoption of the technology won't really take off until 2015, he says, and hardware appliances will remain more common at least through 2018.
"The virtualized ADC is still at a very early stage of its life cycle," he says. "We're definitely going to see significant growth, but obviously the purpose-built appliance market will continue to hold its own from that perspective."
F5's Murphy is excited by the possibilities, particularly when it comes to managed services.
"Hands-down, it's going to be huge. And a lot of it is going to be driven by enterprise customers who are looking for services, obviously, in the cloud, but very specifically with MSP providers and the ability to manage their virtual infrastructure in the same way that they've managed their traditional infrastructure in the past," he says.
Management will be the main concern for integrating ADCs into virtualized data centers, and platform agnosticism, in turn, will be an important part of that, says Murphy.
"Being able to manage those [cloud] services with one interface, to not have to go pick and choose and kind of create this issue of operational inefficiency that's kind of the big hurdle," he says.
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