Interop: A10 Networks Takes Plunge Into Virtual Application Delivery Controllers

A10 Networks on Tuesday announced the beta release of SoftAX, its virtual application delivery controller (ADC), and one of the major pieces of its recently unveiled virtualization product roadmap.

According to A10 Networks, there's a major play for solution providers that want to provide ADC and load balancing capabilities in virtualized infrastructure environments. The ability to mix and match multiple gigabit advanced ADC functionality in both appliance and virtual machine form is what's going make A10 a lot more competitive with rivals like F5 Networks and other infrastructure- and virtualization-savvy channel vendors, according to the company.

"Virtualization and cloud computing are a big deal," said Jim Lima, A10's director of channel sales and marketing. "And what we've heard from customers that have gotten into what we have here is that this is beyond their expectations in terms of performance. It's the type of performance they would have anticipated for an appliance, not a server with a soft ADC on it."

It isn't just the largest enterprises seeking ADC and load balancing capabilities in their network infrastructure, Lima explained. Midsized businesses, too, will open their wallets for virtualized and cloud-based infrastructure if they know they're getting the right feature set and price.

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"It will be a great door opener for partners in the small and medium business arena," Lima said.

SoftAX is based on A10's AX Series Application Delivery Controller appliances and Advanced Core Operating System (ACOS) platform, including the same range of Layer 4-7 features in a virtual deployment. Those include 64-bit, shared memory, multi-CPU ACOS, application availability and load balancing, application security including DNS application firewall, aFleX Layer 7 TCL scripting for deep packet inspection and control, virtualized management, global server load balancing, IPv4 and IPv6 load balancing and management, and other features.

SoftAX is now in beta, and initial hypervisor support, said Lima, is for VMware ESXi environments. Versions for Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and Linux KVM are on the way, he added.

Andrew Martin, senior partner for DataLink Associates Corp, an Allentown, Pa.-based solution provider, said SoftAX's main appeal is flexibility.

"As we already sell the AX series, with the SoftAX version, we not only have the option for a lower cost entry level product, but also one which is flexible and available on demand," Martin said in a statement e-mailed to ChannelWeb. "SoftAX is especially useful for replicating customer environments and testing, deploying in minutes with no additional hardware other than our hypervisor platforms."

NEXT: A10 Revamps Partner Program

Following the SoftAX beta, more pieces of A10's previously unveiled virtualization product roadmap will follow in the coming weeks, including AX-V Appliance, a hardware platform to run SoftADCs, and AX Virtual Chassis, to help organizations scale from between two and eight AX Series devices in a virtual cluster.

The moves come as A10 is in the midst of a substantial revamp of its partner program -- one, said Lima, that provides better discounts and flexibility to A10 partners.

"We changed our discount levels and increased our deal registration," Lima explained. "Since then we've seen a 30 percent jump in the number of deals registered. I mean, a partner program is a partner program -- you have tools, levels, MDF. The difference is the people behind it and how we execute."

A10 has added additional inside sales positions for channel. It also has a number of promotions in the field to help VARs take advantage of discounts when it comes time for customers to refresh or upgrade what they have for load balancing and application acceleration technology.

In its boldest promotion, A10 is offering between three and five extra points of margin for VARs who refresh existing competitive products with A10 offerings -- especially if it involves refreshing against existing F5 Networks gear, which automatically earns 5 percent no matter what the size of the deal, Lima said.

"We've been going in with partners [and] hearing from customers things like, 'I was going to go with F5 but that was a really expensive option because it was going to be a total forklift upgrade,'" Lima said. "That's why A10 is brought in, and partners are doing that all around. We're growing our list of customers."

Lima said he sees great potential for A10 in infrastructure and data center-centric solution providers looking to add ADCs and load balancing capabilities to their practices. More traditional network security VARs were also a target, he said, thanks to an emphasis on network security in the converged data center.

"If a security VAR doesn't look at that, they're going to miss out," he suggested. "It wasn't so much a story before, but in the past 10 years I've been working for the channel, that story has changed."