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An application delivery controller (ADC) is one which manages and directs the data flow between client connections and Web or enterprise applications, and can either be in the form of hardware devices or software programs. ADCs are usually associated with application delivery networks (AND) where their purpose is to perform simple tasks like what Web sites usually do in order to lessen the load from the Web servers. ADCs can also be found between a firewall and several application servers in a Web farm inside a demilitarized zone (DMZ).
Application Delivery Controllers serve as a single point of control that is able to determine the security needs of an application as well as provide authentication, authorization and accounting. Thus, ADCs are typically placed behind a firewall and in front of application servers. An ADC uses techniques like compression and reverse caching to be able to implement optimization and accelerate the performance of applications delivered over a wide area network (WAN).
Newer ADCs already offer additional features, such as connection multiplexing, traffic shaping, application layer security, SSL offload and content switching. Virtual ADCs, on the other hand, are very useful in virtualized data centers and cloud computing systems where customers need to be able to scale capacities up or down depending on the demand. Some ADCs are specifically made to deliver cloud load balancing, rapid scalability and availability assurance.