While hardware was long-considered to be the foundation of IT, the tides are now turning. A brief glimpse into the not-too-distant past, and you’ll see that you simply couldn’t deploy an application without needing to configure dozens of servers and hardware appliances. While staff were shackled by time consuming and resource intensive activities, CTOs were faced with the challenges of proprietary physical hardware which was expensive, slow, and hindering efforts towards their digital transformation goals.

It’s a scene many of us recognise, but one that is thankfully fading. Thanks to the success and dominance of virtualisation and cloud environments, hardware’s grasp on infrastructure is being lessened, as enterprises commoditise or outsource hardware considerations. While these trends have been chipping away at hardware’s control of the data centre for years, it’s never been more evident than right now.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet. There’s no denying that the software-defined advancements in recent years have disrupted the traditional data centre, but the majority of enterprise applications still reside in the data centre. To find the culprit for this, look no further than hardware appliances.  Consider if you will legacy appliances such like hardware load balancers, which make up for their shortcomings with robust security features and controls. Then consider cloud native load balancers, which hold their own in terms of automation, elasticity, and price; but for many organisations, questions still remain around security. Both options appear to be a compromise.

It’s a dilemma faced by a growing number of organisations each year – how to address the tricky question as to how you can combine the features of hardware appliances, with the speed and performance of cloud native solutions. Of course, we want to have our cake and eat it, but is that really possible?

A recent study by ZK Research looked into this very matter, and part of the findings discovered significant shifts in application delivery practices, as enterprises are automating or adopting cloud-native applications. The research findings were released in a white paper entitled “Legacy Hardware-Based ADCs Are Holding Companies Back” which contains its findings on the difficulties that these legacy appliances create. It went on to describe how by modernising their infrastructure via software, enterprises can address on-demand scalability requirements, improve management and lower costs.

Which brings us back to the question ‘can enterprises really can have their cake and eat it?’ I believe so. With advancements in 100% software solutions, enterprises can harness the power of a next-generation application delivery platforms that provide benefits of both the hardware and cloud native solutions, without the drawbacks of either.

By selecting a solution that includes a smart load balancer, intelligent web application firewall, and elastic service mesh – such as that offered by Avi Networks – organisation’s will reap the rewards of an intelligent analytics engine that provides invaluable visibility into its end-users, applications, and infrastructure. If the platform runs on bare metal, virtual machines, and containers, it will be a truly universal solution, applicable for use cases across all environments.

As each and every organisation looks to get the greatest return on IT investment, they need – and deserve – to get more from the data centre and the cloud. With many hardware appliances – such as legacy load balancers – standing in their way, it’s time to take a stand against hardware. Those savvy organisations that look to remove their dependency on hardware appliances, will not only maximise their investment in both their data centre and the cloud, but their digital transformation efforts will also be accelerated. The benefits of migrating more applications to the cloud – or bringing cloud-like agility to the data centre – are clear to see, and can only be achieved through software.