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load balancerThe $2 billion market for application-delivery controllers — software to optimize the delivery, performance and security of large programs over a corporate network — is in a state of flux that reflects a divide inside corporate technology teams, according to a Gartner report on the state of the market.

On one hand, these controllers historically have been bought, used and managed by traditional infrastructure and operations personnel. Also referred to as load balancers, the controllers have been around since the mid-1990s, when they were created mainly to ensure the availability of websites. IT personnel tend to use controllers in environments where requirements are well understood in advance and can be identified by analysis. These staffers tend to seek fully capable controllers, using some or all of their advanced features. Gartner calls this “Mode 1.”

On the other hand, developers and others more interested in applications are increasingly making or influencing decisions about buying controllers. These workers tend to use controllers for cloud-native apps where accurate, detailed pre-planning isn’t possible and iterations and projects are short. They tend to seek lightweight, low-cost controllers that are easy to implement. Gartner labels this as “Mode 2.”

Where the emergence of DevOps strives to combine software development and IT operations, this schism emphasizes the difference between those two worlds.

Gartner’s report, “Magic Quadrant for Application Delivery Controllers,” was released Aug. 29. Only three companies among 11 included in the report qualified as “leaders”: F5 Networks, Citrix and Radware. Market-share leader F5, the Seattle-based network infrastructure and security technology company, tends to emphasize Mode 1 use. It’s solid and sophisticated, but it’s the most expensive offering, and it doesn’t adequately address Mode 2 use, Gartner said.

Citrix, number 2 in market share, has been most aggressive in pursuing both modes of controller use. It’s cost effective, though it lags F5 in demonstrating expertise in complex enterprise environments, Gartner said.

Radware, fourth in market share, has a deep and broad set of security and performance capabilities and is available as software or a service. But its GUI could use improvement, and it’s not as well known as its competitors, according to the report.

In the lower-left corner of the quadrant, labeled “niche players,” are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Nginx, Barracuda Networks and Sangfor. Despite their laggard status, they won praise from Gartner, which said Nginx is open-source, highly extensible and “extremely cost effective, often 50% to 70% less than its competitors.” It noted that AWS is “the de facto choice for developing applications within the AWS cloud.”

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