Citrix Makes SDN Play, Partners With Palo Alto Networks

Citrix wants to make its NetScaler SDX application delivery solution the platform for enabling SDNs more software- and app-aware.

Citrix Systems is taking steps into the busrgeoning software-defined networking (SDN) space with the unveiling of the latest generation of its NetScaler SDX application delivery platform and a partnership with Palo Alto Networks to optimize their offerings to support emerging networking architectures.

Citrix officials Oct. 3 said the NetScaler SDX platform, which was rolled out last year to boost application delivery controller capabilities, can now support network services from third-parties, a move that will help drive greater application intelligence into existing and new SDN offerings.

SDNs essentially remove much of the network control and intelligence from switches and other hardware and move them into the software layer, with the goal of making networks more flexible, scalable and dynamic. They also can tend to drive down network infrastructure costs by reducing the need for expensive, complex switches.

The SDN trend is a natural evolution of the data center infrastructure that began with server virtualization and has since moved on to storage virtualization. It’s being embraced by a wide range of players in the networking market, including established vendors like Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard, which unveiled its SDN strategy Oct. 2. There also are a host of smaller vendors and startups, including Big Switch Networks and Vyatta.

In addition, data center solution players also are adding SDN capabilities to their portfolios. VMware in July bought Nicira for $1.26 billion, and Oracle bought Xsigo later that month.

Citrix officials argue that to make SDNs reach their full potential, they need to become more application-aware. Too many of the current SDN efforts focus on the Layer 2-3, they said. With the new capabilities in NetScaler SDX, enterprises will be able to create a unified application control layer for third-party Layer 4-7 network services, which in turn will help make current Layer 2-3 and newer SDN controllers more app-aware. Businesses will be able to take these app-aware policies across the entire network, they said.

“The dynamic nature of cloud services requires a new level of flexibility, scalability and programmability that goes beyond the capabilities of today’s data center networks,” Sunil Potti, vice president and general manager of Citrix’s NetScaler Product Group, said in a statement. “Software-defined networking has potential to deliver this, but if an SDN is not app-aware, it cannot deliver on its promise. The next-generation NetScaler SDX platform provides the application intelligence necessary to make emerging SDN deployments truly app-driven.”

Among the features in the latest iteration of NetScaler SDX are the app-driven control of the network, including AppTemplates for popular applications that are offered with integrated Layer 4-7 polices. This will ease configuration and embed application intelligence throughout the network, officials said.

Its AppFormations feature makes it easier to deploy applications by packaging network services, while AppFabric offers a common framework that third-party services can use to plug into the platform.

Citrix officials touted the support the new platform is getting from a range of other vendors, including Aruba Networks, BlueCat Networks, EMC’s RSA security unit, Trend Micro and Splunk.

In addition, Citrix also announced a partnership with Palo Alto Networks in which the two vendors will align their technologies to support emerging data center network architectures, according to officials with both companies. Citrix and Palo Alto will offer jointly validated solutions, starting with Citrix’s virtual application and virtual desktop offerings, XenApp and XenDesktop.

“Our partnership will provide the right solutions that, when used together, enable our mutual customers to build networks that seamlessly deliver any application, desktop and data to any user, in any location, while maintaining the very best performance, availability and security,” Greg Smith, senior director of marketing at Citrix, said in an Oct. 3 blog post. “When you’re able to do this at scale, that is what Citrix and Palo Alto Networks call a Cloud Network.”