Gartner: 'Application-delivery architects' are key hires

The analyst says emerging network-management technologies will encourage companies to appoint more application architects

Industry analyst Gartner has said that engineers to manage the improved delivery of applications over corporate networks should be key hires for IT departments this year.

In a research note released last week, Gartner stated that so-called "application-delivery architects and engineers" should be appointed from existing staff, as currently these skills are in short supply.

"A need for higher-level architectural management is required across the board, with special emphasis on the communications between server and browser. This includes coding of objects as cacheable versus dynamic, the use of the local browser cache and compression or request pipelining for example," Joe Skorupa, research vice president at Gartner told ZDNet.co.uk on Wednesday.

Application-delivery networks (ADN) are defined as systems that manage network traffic to improve how applications are delivered.

"An ADN is an network overlay that rides an top of the packet-delivery network. ADNs have application-specific intelligence that enables them to improve the performance, availability and security of the applications, while reducing the network and server resources required," stated Gartner.

If the role becomes as prevalent as Gartner said it needs to be, the application-delivery engineer's job is likely to require strong people skills, as well as broad and strong technical skills. "It's suited to someone with a broad background that includes some security experience, but also someone who has skills in performance-tuning and management," said Skorupa.

Proposing the adoption of the "lifeboat method" of application development, where a team must work in unison to ensure success, Gartner said it sees the application-delivery architect taking on the role of "lifeboat captain". With this additional direction, the team would determine which optimisation techniques, such as protocol offload, caching or application firewalls, are required and where they should be implemented. Once the approach to application delivery has been decided, an application-delivery engineer would lead the operational effort as it progresses.

Gartner says that application-delivery professionals will often be the first newly created positions for several years in many IT departments, so their emerging status as "highly sought-after individuals" has the potential to generate friction with the older and more established members of the team.

However, some industry experts claim that Gartner's calls for more layers of management around application delivery are largely unnecessary.

"Speaking as a seasoned software engineer myself, the suggestion that we need an additional layer of architectural management smacks slightly of the 'too many chiefs and not enough Indians' syndrome. If Gartner thinks that it is the newer breed of web services that need this type of help, then maybe they should step back and look at the successes that most fledgling web-development companies have had with just a few employees, let alone another layer of architectural control. Yes, architectural planning and delivery mechanisms are important, but so is flexibility, and too many controls can denigrate this," said Geoff Hirst, owner of independent software consultancy 64Bitz.