Citrix today released NetScaler 10, its next-generation application delivery controller (ADC) that is the company's answer for bringing dynamic elasticity to the network.
Increasingly enterprises want their data centers to perform like public clouds, with functionality to scale up or down automatically and to provide more efficient management of application delivery.
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ADCs optimize the delivery of applications to users. Through either software or hardware configurations, they control a variety of functions including bandwidth and security protocols, making application delivery to users faster, safer and more reliable.
In a cloud environment, the demand of applications can change rapidly and the ADC needs to keep up, says Greg Smith, senior director of product marketing for Citrix's cloud networking division. NetScaler 10 is focused on scalability in three areas using the company's TriScale Technology: Scaling up, scaling in and scaling out.
Scaling up refers to customers using the full power of the ADCs to service the application requests. Traditionally a common ADC setup has included a high availability (HA) pairing, which includes an ADC, plus a second one in case of failure from the first. NetScaler 10 has automatic failure identification and management, which means that if there is a failure, NetScaler will identify it and automatically switch workloads to another ADC. That gives enterprises the full use of their ADC, scaling up the enterprise's performance and eliminating the need for a chassis-based system. "There are tens of thousands of ADC appliances, and half of them are sitting idle," says Smith.
Scaling in means unified management of the ADCs to avoid application sprawl, or what Citrix says many enterprises suffer from when they have specific applications tied to dedicated infrastructure. NetScaler allows for the unified management of up to 40 independent devices, which gives managers greater control of the appliances. And scaling out means adding appliances to existing NetScaler deployments, with up to a 32 times increase in capacity.
Unifying the management of the ADCs and allowing them to scale to new capacity levels also gives NetScaler insight into the applications it's controlling. With this view into the application operations, NetScaler provides monitoring and analytics functions through an ActionAnalytics feature. Enterprises can monitor and control end user behavior, such as monitoring top URLs on a site, to providing metrics about the top application resources and which IP addresses are accessing them. NetScaler allows enterprises to throttle certain customers, for example, if they are taking up a disproportionate amount of bandwidth.
Citrix sells the software starting at $2,000.
Joe Skorupa, a VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner who covers data center convergence, says the ADC market is a "vibrantly competitive space," which he says is slightly surprising given that the technology has been around for more than a decade. The biggest player in the market is F5, which has about 50% market share, he says. Citrix is one of a variety of competing models, along with Radware, A10 Networks and to a smaller extent Riverbed. The NetScaler announcement, Skorupa says, is "innovative in features and aggressive in pricing."
Scalable capacity of ADCs is not necessarily a brand-new feature, though. Radware and previous Citrix releases have allowed for multiple virtual machines to run the ADC at once and scale up on an as-needed basis. But, Skorupa says the combination of all the feature sets by Citrix in one package is innovative. Plus, he says, it creates a contrast with F5, which has not offered scalable capacity, and instead allows customers to scale up their modular chassis by buying additional hardware and cluster that into the ADC. He expects service providers and large enterprises to be most interested in the advancements offered by NetScaler.
"This announcement should get a lot of folks interested in looking at the different methods by providers," he says. Some customers like hardware-based chassis, which give them control over the ADC. Others prefer a software-licensed model, like what NetScaler is, which provides additional capacity on demand. Overall, Skorupa expects innovations to continue in the space. When one provider offers a new set of features, it leapfrogs ahead and many times those are then incorporated by other providers.
Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social media. He can be reached at [email protected] and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.