Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad 404? Introducing jetNEXUS flightPATH Application Traffic Management Feature, a WebMaster’s Best Friend


This blog is inspired by a recently read marketing article which recommends that organisations revamp their website at least every two years. Having made both small design refreshes and dramatic restructures to our own website over the years, we are all too aware of the pitfalls and implications of managing dynamic sites and optimising content. This blog explores the increasingly pivotal role that Application Delivery Controllers play in optimising site performance and handling expired content.  

There is a host of reasons why companies execute website changes, including keeping up with available technologies, refreshing design, renaming pages for SEO optimisation, managing seasonal/promotional materials and updating product offerings.  With this comes the inevitable process of removing old product pages no longer in circulation and renaming existing product pages and services that have been updated. Job finished and fresh new website working, right? Wrong.

What happens when Google search results continue to direct traffic to pages that no longer exist, but that have been indexed? Or when previously correct, but now incorrect links can still be accessed from external referring websites and old email marketing campaigns? Without a contingency in place, the server will return a rather ugly looking 404 (not found) error page, telling users that the page no longer exists. Bad news!

So what are the disadvantages of producing 404 errors? Well firstly there is the rather obvious case of poor user experience. Throwing up a number of 404 errors seriously dents a website’s credibility, potentially discouraging future customers from browsing, and more importantly, buying.

Secondly, 404’s are not beneficial for SEO because they alert search engines to the fact that there are errors on your site. A site which performs poorly (according to Google’s recommendations) can be looked at unfavourably. In addition, a loss of Google page rank can occur when many pages are deleted, potentially affecting site-wide search result rankings. This can be detrimental to levels of organic website traffic, resulting in fewer hits and limited internet exposure.

In such a competitive market and with the economic downturn, ecommerce organisations in particular cannot afford to lose customers based on something as trivial as a 404 error. So how do we resolve the issue?

Application Delivery Controllers are advanced Load Balancers that offer significant value add functionality, including features for application performance optimisation. Introducing jetNEXUS flightPATH – a powerful routing engine feature of the Accelerating Load Balancer which enables users to create and implement bespoke application rules at the click of a mouse.

Scenario One:
Webmaster has re-named existing product pages. In this instance, a simple flightPATH rule can be set up to redirect traffic that attempts to access the old link, to whichever new page the webmaster stipulates. This redirection prevents any service interruption or broken connections and delivers a seamless user experience.

Scenario Two:
Webmaster has removed pages entirely from the website directory.
In this instance, the user would generally receive a generic 404 error page. However, with the use of the flightPATH feature and a 301 redirect, the user can be presented with a custom 404 page, designed specifically to provide information on why the error has occurred and where to proceed next. flightPATH will automatically detect the 404 error and serve the custom page dynamically. By providing easily navigable links to alternative pages, a custom 404 page helps prevent visitor bounce out rate and enhances user experience.

From a webmaster’s perspective, the custom branded 404 page can include keyword rich links to other pages, thus enhancing SEO potential. This traffic management feature will also work effectively in scenarios when a URL is simply misspelt by the user.

The use of a traffic management feature such as flightPATH to control 404 errors can help minimise loss of traffic and allow webmasters to update and reorganise websites without the worry of damaging brand reputation or traffic levels. Why not try it out for yourself?

flightPATH is available on the Accelerating Load Balancer Extreme. A free evaluation is available here and flightPATH video tutorials are here.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Calling all Web Teams. . . . Speed Matters! Ok, you know that, but do you know how much?



Why is Website Speed Important? 

Did you know that 47% of web users expect a page load of 2 seconds or less and 64% of shoppers who are dissatisfied with their site visit will go somewhere else to shop next time1. With just a two second wait threshold, online users are inherently impatient and will gladly abandon a slow site in favour of a faster experience elsewhere, most likely a competitor’s site.

There is no denying a correlation between site response times and business impact, and in such a ferociously competitive market space, web performance is a factor too important to be ignored by ecommerce organisations. This blog looks at the difficulties of achieving efficient application delivery and ways to tackle this.


Influencing Factors on Site Speed

In many cases, poorly designed front end applications and websites can lead to poor performance. Often website design in particular is led by style and marketing vision. Users demand an interactive experience… cue embedded videos, flash tools and heavy graphics. This is all very well in theory, but what happens in reality when it comes to delivering and rendering such content over the web? What is the true impact on user experience?

Research shows that four out of five online users will click away if a video stalls while loading2.  It has also been reported that 52% of online shoppers claim that quick page loads are important for their loyalty to a site1. 

The truth is, it’s less about style and more about speed when it comes to delivering a positive online experience: “The speed of website responses is a key factor affecting usability. Raw speed is one of the key attributes that can determine the quality of the user experience. In addition, Google's search engine uses website performance to determine the position of a Web page on search results pages. Therefore, investing in performance improvements will increase the benefits for website owners.” Ray Valdes, Gartner, Q&A: Website Performance and User Experience.

So it seems that achieving that elusive balance between dazzling users with feature-rich, dynamic content and limiting user frustration from slow response times is key to achieving a successful online strategy. It is interesting to know that if Amazon increased their page load time by +100ms they would lose 1% of sales3.  Time really is money when it comes to ecommerce platforms.

In addition, there are other influential factors affecting site performance including latency, poor internet connections and traffic spikes. On an average day a site may load in reasonable time, but what happens on days with extreme traffic loads? I’m thinking about the run up to Valentine’s Day, Sporting Events, Christmas hype and the infamous ‘Manic Monday’ – renowned as the busiest internet shopping day of the year. (According to the Centre for Retail Research, in 2011, a predicted total of £424 million was spent on Christmas presents throughout the day4).

These are the types of events that network teams can prepare for; after all, they happen every year. But what about unexpected traffic peak due to unforeseen circumstances? News and Media sites for instance cannot predict when the next big story will hit, or the repercussions of such on their site metrics.

In some cases, unprecedented demand has brought services down completely. In 2011, traffic to the UCAS Track website was four times the peak per second compared to 2010. This forced it to shut down temporarily, leaving A-Level students anxiously waiting5. This kind of service failure can spark complaints, lose revenue and damage brand reputation.

In the very least, it is critical that Application Delivery environments remain available, regardless of external variables and it is important that they maintain acceptable response times. Web teams need to ask themselves if their network infrastructure and application is engineered to adequately accommodate traffic fluctuations and extreme loads.

Finally, it is worth considering that the ways in which users access websites is dramatically changing and diversifying. Soaring numbers of remote and mobile workers has led to an increase in application access from PDAs. Gartner industry analysts argue that to meet service level expectations, application support and performance management is an essential service, not just a nice-to-have.
David A Willis, Gartner, Hype Cycle for Networking and Communications.

So What’s the Answer?

In an ideal world, web applications would be designed and constructed specifically with speed and load efficiency in mind and all users would have10gig connections. However this is neither realistic nor feasible. So what’s the alternative?

Gartner comments on the important role that the Application Delivery Controller (ADC) or advanced load balancer plays in optimising application performance and availability. “Demand is surging for many network-intensive applications ……The move toward more-complex application environments is fuelling the growth and continued innovation of the [ADC] market.”
  Mark Fabbi, Gartner, Hype Cycle for Networking and communications.


ADCs are application proxies that can improve server performance by offloading server and network processing by using features such as Content Caching and SSL Offload. ADC’s also work to accelerate the delivery of applications by deploying performance enhancing features such as HTTP Compression, Content Re-Writing, Caching and Connection Management.

ADC’s remove the overhead of CPU intensive tasks, allowing services to both run and scale efficiently, without the need to increase servers, bandwidth or network infrastructure.

More information on the Application Delivery Controllers can be found here.


And so to Conclude……..Speed Counts!

Ok, it’s easy to oversimplify, but when it comes appreciating the business value of application speed and performance, we think that deploying an ADC is a no brainer!  

ADC’s optimise the efficiency and speed of application delivery. This in turn can lead to: 
  • Improved end user experience
  • Increased browse time on site
  • Higher transaction and conversion rates
  • Increased brand loyalty and return visits
  • Increased online visibility
  • Reduced bandwidth consumption




Sources

·          1. “eCommerce Web Site Performance Today” Forrester Consulting.
(A commissioned study conducted on behalf of Akamai Technologies, Inc., August 17, 2009)

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

FREE CDN? Host your jQuery on Google





Why aren’t we all taking advantage of Google’s generosity, by hosting our jQuery on their fast Content Delivery Network?

3 reasons why I think we should!

1)   Content Delivery Networks are expensive but fast! Users should get content served to them from a nearer / faster location.  

2)   Many websites use jQuery. If we all hosted our jQuery on Google then there is a reasonable likelihood that the end user will already have it locally, thus saving them having to download it again, therefore speeding up the page load time!

3)   If users download their content from Google then it does not contribute towards their connection count. Most browsers will only open 2-6 connections to a specific host. After that it will have to re-use those connections. Given that most websites contain lots of objects, each connection may need to be used 20 times!  If you can offload the jQuery onto a different host then you can download it in parallel, thus saving on your precious connections and accelerating the process for a speedy end user experience! J

How Do I Host my jQuery on Google?

Two options:
Visit:  http://code.google.com/apis/libraries/devguide.html#jquery and change your code to use the Google link.

Use jetNEXUS ALB-X. Simply drag and drop the “Offload jquery to Google” rule from the flightPATH catalogue to apply.

A Nice Trick

What happens if Google is not accessible or accessed via an intranet with no external connection I hear you ask?

Try this little trick: (it’s an example so you need to change the source location!)

<!-- Get Google jQuery, fall back to local if offline or on intranet -->
<script src="//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.6.4/jquery.min.js"></script>
<script>window.jQuery || document.write('<script src="http://www.jetnexus.com/js/jquery-1.6.4.min.js">\x3C/script>')</script>

Monday, 15 August 2011

Application Delivery Controllers - Real Business Uses


Also known as traffic shaping or packet shaping, traffic manipulation is one of the advanced Layer7 features that differentiates next generation Application Delivery Controllers from old, simple load balancers.

Increasingly, organisations are subscribing to the advantages of greater control and intelligence in their service delivery. As we discussed in our last blog, users can implement traffic management rules to automate a myriad of everyday routing tasks from simple HTTP redirects to much more granular and complex rules unique to individual SOA’s. Great I hear you say, a feature that can control network traffic in order to optimize network performance, accelerate applications, and deliver personalised service levels!

More control ultimately leads to more productivity, efficiency and flexibility, doesn’t it? This blog discusses implementation scenarios for the jetNEXUS flightPATH routing engine, reflecting on the business benefits and the powerful implications of such. Is there really such a thing as too much control?

Controlling Spiders
Search engine spiders, robots, Googlebots, however you like to refer to them, can be quite the virtual pest for online businesses. Whilst we appreciate that they are vital to SEO, Googlebots utilise valuable bandwidth and add load to servers when they make multiple requests, crawl sites and test forms. Importantly, content found by the bots on your website is indexed, affecting search engine ranking and quality scoring. flightPATH gives users the ability to block or control spiders, redirecting them to dedicated servers, separate from where ‘real’ users are accessing the site to avoid network slowdowns.

Sound good? Better still, flightPATH can detect Googlebots and automatically serve them different content that has been specifically designed with them in mind. So you could have pages with very clean code or less dynamic data so that they load faster. Or if you are a bit naughty you could serve Googlebots pages that are enriched with heavily searched for keywords. An increase in relevant keywords helps to boost your site’s ranking in organic search results and give you that competitive edge. Just another possibility borne out of the power of fligthPATH!

Prioritising Premium Customers for E-commerce
Many E-commerce organisations have a set of loyal users and clients that frequently revisit their site. flightPATH can log and segment these premium users based on user ID or Cookie type and set rules to service their requests in a different way. It may be that you want to serve alternative content to repeat visitors or provision them with a premium service for a faster online experience. Either way, this feature gives clients greater control in their service delivery, detecting users and managing their online experience.

Traffic Shaping to Control Spam
*Play Jaws Theme Tune here* :) ‘botnets’ are the primary source of spam today. Typically ‘botnets’ are PCs with broadband connections that have been infected with malware, allowing a remote user to control its behaviour. Zombie computers grow uncontrollably each day, primarily because domestic users have a more relaxed approach to security and anti-virus!

jetNEXUS ALB-X can help to reduce the threats from spammers, ensuring that only a manageable quantity of email traffic flows into the mail server. This makes attempts to flood the servers and bring them down more difficult.

These are just a couple of ways in which you can use this powerful routing engine. With a catalogue of pre-built rules designed to satisfy the typical requirements of the vast majority of users including block unwanted requests, rewrite user requests and fix broken URLs, it has never been easier to take control of your network.

So for which ever scenario you need to manipulate traffic you can use flightPATH – but remember it’s a powerful tool, use it wisely!

Download a free trial and test it out for yourselves: jetNEXUS ALB-X 2.0 (with flightPATH)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Architectural Changes to Microsoft Exchange 2010 Makes Load Balancing Even More Important for Your Organization.

As an Application Delivery Control Technology vendor, jetNEXUS all too well understands the vital role that business applications play in maintaining a productive and effective working organisation.

Communication applications in particular, such as Microsoft Exchange 2010 sit at the heart of corporate communication, making it part of the essential life blood of most business organisations.

As such, it is absolutely imperative that these business critical applications run seamlessly with superb performance and robust security.

Advanced Load Balancers, or Application Delivery Controllers, as termed by Gartner, play a pivotal role in ensuring this. Those unfamiliar with the terminology around this technology may want to read one of our archived blogs: An ADC is not just a Load Balancer with more features.

Application Delivery Controllers possess several key features that work within a network to maintain application availability and fluency. When discussing load balancing in conjunction with Microsoft Exchange 2010, an ADC solution would serve two main purposes:

1. It will reduce the impact of a single Client Access server failure within any one of your active directory sites.
2. It will ensure that the load on Client Access Servers and the Hub transport computers is distributed evenly.

In earlier versions of Microsoft Exchange 2010, Outlook would connect directly to the server hosting the relevant Mailbox or refer directly to a global catalogue server. Microsoft have since implemented architectural changes so that these connections are handled by a Client Access server role. In order to achieve fault tolerance and for better management, both external and internal connections should be load balanced across the array of the Client Access servers in any deployment.

Further to this, Microsoft recommend that a load balanced array of Client Access Servers be used for each Active Directory site and for each version of Exchange. It is not possible to share one load balanced array of Client Access Servers.

But what do architectural changes mean to your deployment? In response to these operational changes, network managers and system architects will need to reconfigure their Load Balancers in accordance with Microsoft recommendations to ensure that application delivery remains uninterrupted.

Microsoft suggest that “Before you configure load balancing, you should understand the loads that are placed on an Exchange 2010 Client Access server.” Microsoft Tech Net
We have taken the liberty to list a few pointers for consideration when configuring your Load Balancers for Exchange 2010 Client Access Server:

• Different types of traffic that the Exchange 2010 Client Access server receives
• Understanding the key technologies and the options of load balancing solutions
• Understanding Affinity
• Reverse Proxy Solutions
• How to use existing Cookies or HTTP Headers

There are many more to add to this list but we don’t want to scare you off! This may seem like a long and laborious task but when taking into consideration the integral role that Exchange 2010 plays in business communication, it is not only worthwhile but imperative to ensure it runs with optimised performance and high availability.

You will be relieved to know that the jetNEXUS ALB-X Application Delivery Controller is specifically developed and tested to operate within Microsoft Exchange 2010 environments. The ALB-X 2.0 has successfully completed solution testing, meeting all Exchange Server 2010 requirements and features on the Microsoft Technet list of qualified suppliers. :)

For more information please visit our jetNEXUS and Microsoft Exchange 2010 brief or contact info@jetnexus.com to understand how jetNEXUS can help you manage your Exchange 2010 deployment.

Save yourself the hassle, download a trial version of the jetNEXUS ALB-X here today.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Traffic Manipulation And ALB-X 2.0


As with most networking solutions, over time load balancers have become increasingly sophisticated and capable thanks to the ever developing technology driving them. By way of reinforcing the advances that some load balancers have made, Gartner have introduced the term Application Delivery Controllers to mark a distinction between older, simple load balancers and more advanced solutions that offer greater functionality, application control and power. These next generation solutions become actively involved in the delivery of the application, providing sophisticated capabilities and true application fluency.

Gone are the days when a load balancer was simply required to blindly direct traffic to a designated server for high availability only. Today clients need more control and granularity in the management of their application environments. Optimising the speed and performance of the application itself is a crucial requirement. As I’m sure you are aware, we at jetNEXUS like to think of ourselves as innovators in this market space, developing and delivering the features that make the biggest difference to end user experience. Following this trend we are very proud to introduce to you flightPATH!

flightPATH is a powerful Layer 7 routing engine that helps to firmly place the jetNEXUS Accelerating Load Balancer Extreme product in the ADC camp. flightPATH can detect and manipulate application traffic, providing network managers with a level of control, intelligence and resilience in service delivery.

With flightPATH users can create and implement bespoke application rules. This can be as basic as removing server headers so that potential intruders remain unaware of your operating system through to more intricate scripting including the direction of search engine crawlers to dedicated servers to avoid site slow down. We like to think that with flightPATH you are limited only by imagination!

Due to the configurable nature of flightPATH, rule options are infinite but some common uses are to:
• Block Unwanted Requests
• Rewrite User Requests
• Control Spiders
• Fix Broken URLS
• Provide Application Level Security

Ok so here is the shameless product pitch! The ALB-X 2.0 ensures optimal resource utilization, maximum throughput and minimal response time across the network. With a new user friendly GUI and straight forward CLI, the jetNEXUS ALB-X offers ease of management, making it one of the most competent Application Delivery Controllers in its market.

For maximum flexibility the jetNEXUS ALB-X 2.0 is available as hardware, software or a virtual appliance. Feel free to request a trial here: www.jetnexus.com

Friday, 10 June 2011

Is your Online Shop PCI Compliant? | PCI DSS and ALB-X 2.0

We are in the midst of a ‘shop online’ trend explosion. Internet retailers are continuously reinventing how we [customers] shop online. Whether it’s via our mobile devices, PCs, or in-store kiosks, there is a myriad of new options for transacting business that carry both positive and negative implications for the consumer and the retailers themselves.

One of the internet’s biggest issues is security; as an e-retailer you need to ensure that your online shop is safe and secure throughout the payment process, handling sensitive information efficiently and securely.

This brings me on to this week’s blog topic; PCI Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). In laymen’s terms this is the framework and set of regulations compiled by the PCI Security Standards Council within which online merchants must operate in order to be compliant. It demands that merchants develop a tenacious online card payment system, incorporating processes for prevention, detection and appropriate responses to security incidents.

Why Should I Comply?

As a merchant, you are probably wondering why you need to comply with the PCI Security Standards. These strict guidelines seem like a lot of effort, especially to small organisations. However Payment Card Security is becoming increasingly important and implementing precautionary measures could be potentially business saving.

Some of the reasons why (as highlighted by the PCI Compliance Council*) it would benefit to comply with the PCI Security Standards are:

Compliance with the PCI DSS means that your systems are secure, and customers can trust you with their sensitive payment card information:

• Trust means your customers have confidence in doing business with you.
• Confident customers are more likely to be repeat customers, and to recommend you to others.

Compliance improves your reputation with acquirers and payment brands -- the partners you need in order to do business.

Compliance is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. It helps prevent security breaches and theft of payment card data, not just today, but in the future:

• As data compromise becomes ever more sophisticated, it becomes ever more difficult for an individual merchant to stay ahead of the threats.
• The PCI Security Standards Council is constantly working to monitor threats and improve the industry’s means of dealing with them, through enhancements to PCI Security Standards and by the training of security professionals.
• When you stay compliant, you are part of the solution – a united, global response to fighting payment card data compromise.

Compliance has indirect benefits as well:

• Through your efforts to comply with PCI Security Standards, you’ll likely be better prepared to comply with other regulations as they come along, such as HIPAA, SOX, etc.
• You’ll have a basis for a corporate security strategy.
• You will likely identify ways to improve the efficiency of your IT infrastructure.

*https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/security_standards/why_comply.php

Be PCI DSS Compliant ALB-X 2.0

Enterprises often go through the time consuming and costly process of deploying an application firewall to ensure that their web platform is PCI Compliant. We at jetNEXUS even have a great solution called the jetNEXUS Application firewall. However, this is not the only option for online merchants. In fact, the additional cost of purchasing and implementing a unique, standalone application firewall can be avoided with the jetNEXUS ALB-X 2.0 Application Delivery Controller.

The jetNEXUS ALB-X has a powerful rule engine called flightPATH that works in the background, FlightPATH can be configured to help with PCI compliance. Unique traffic rules can be implemented, offering clients greater control and intelligence in managing their service delivery and protecting against top application threats as summarised by the Open Web Application security project (OWASP)*.

*https://www.owasp.org/index.php/Category:OWASP_Top_Ten_Project

This type of granular control in traffic management and application delivery is especially crucial when managing online applications and ecommerce sites. flightPATH is highly configurable, very powerful and yet easy to use. In addition to this, the jetNEXUS ALB-X is designed to dramatically improve the performance, reliability and manageability of application delivery. So whilst accelerating your applications may not have been the initial reason for looking at jetNEXUS, it is certainly a nice extra benefit!

Check out flightPATH here: http://www.jetnexus.com/flightpath.html

Friday, 4 March 2011

Date for Your Diaries: jetNEXUS Reveal New ALB-X 2.0 Release Date


As promised, jetNEXUS has announced the launch date for the new and improved version of the jetNEXUS ALB-X.

You will be able to get your hands on the eagerly awaited release of ALB-X 2.0 in April 2011.

Our dev team has been working hard to deliver some powerful new features for the ALB-X which will dramatically improve the performance, reliability and manageability of application delivery environments.

So what goodies can you expect to find in the new release?

o Flightpath: our new powerful layer7 rules and routing engine
o Multi Networks which add virtually unlimited networks and network interfaces
o Significant performance improvement x4 and x2 for HTTPS on existing hardware and VM
o FTP support for both Active and Passive
o Configurable Email alert
o Configurable application cookie session persistence
o Real-time Ajax server status display
o Support made easier with optional dial home
o SOAP API for external communication

For maximum flexibility, the ALB-X is available as a hardware, virtual or software platform. We don’t like to brag but we are really proud of this new release – it’s feature rich, powerful and will definitely get all you tech savvy fellows (ok geeks!) firing to eval!

We hate to leave you in wild anticipation, so during the run up to the release, we will let you have a sneaky peak at tech specs, performance stats and GUI screenshots – stay tuned!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Alert for eRetailers!

Do you know how and why to prepare for Manic Monday?

As we enter the run up towards Christmas, November 29th has been dubbed “Manic Monday” following forecasts that UK online sales are set to surge.
Manic Monday will follow Black Friday (26th November), a date which has seen sales figures rise consecutively year on year in the US. However it now looks as though the increase in sales expected on the 29th will see consumers spending over half a billion in one day! Internet sales are predicted to hit £22m an hour on the busiest online shopping day.
With websites predicted to be inundated by multitudes of Christmas shoppers, e-Commerce sites need to provision their delivery network for an increase in demand for their services.
The success of e-retail sites lies in ensuring that customers have an outstanding end-user experience. There are a number of factors which contribute to building a loyal customer base, and delivering a highly available site with excellent response times is definitely a good start. These have an immediate impact on user experience.
Websites have to be highly resilient and continuously available to cope with peaks in traffic, Black Friday and Manic Monday are key examples of such times. Everyone hates slow websites, so zero downtime is a must. Consumers are spoilt for choice and they simply refuse to wait around for your web pages to take time in loading. So making your site fast and responsive is a must or it could end up costing you dearly both economically and in terms of brand reputation.
So how do you ensure that you deliver a speedy, uninterrupted service for browsers?

Enter the ADC Application Delivery controller.

The Application Delivery Controller is a network device designed to sit between your web servers and your customers. Its aim is to speed up the delivery of the application so that your end users have an outstanding experience when shopping with you. Faster sites see an improvement in Browse to Buy ratio, as such you see an improvement in revenue!

Because your pages are being served faster, in a fixed amount of time you can serve more of them. This means you get a significant increase in capacity WITHOUT buying more webservers or other network equipment.

jetNEXUS Technology belongs in the ADC market: www.jetNEXUS.com

Monday, 4 October 2010

An ADC is not just a Load Balancer with more features

We have been developing Application delivery devices for some time now and have continually been trying to convince network managers to separate Application delivery from Packet delivery.

Many network engineers seem to struggle with this concept. The old perception is that ADC’s are like load balancers with an upgrade. They tend to look like switches, containing loads of network sockets with cat 5 hanging out all over the place; basically an evolved switch.

Whilst it may be true that the modern Application Delivery Controller does indeed contain much of the functionality of a traditional load balancer, it is however architecturally different. Most modern Application Delivery Controllers have high speed networking ports that connect to switches. They are more like proxies than intelligent switches.

Application Delivery Controllers are not switches or routers. Design your packet delivery network then build your application delivery network on top of it.

Let the network take care of the packet delivery and the ADC take care of the application delivery.