Citrix NetScaler Update Aims to Simplify Web-Based Application Deployment

Citrix NetScaler Version 9.0 is an update intended to simplify the deployment of Web-based applications throughout an enterprise by offering IT managers templates for applications such as Microsoft SharePoint or other types of Web-based applications such as CRM and ERP software from Oracle and SAP. With templates, Citrix Systems says NetScaler can cut down the time it takes to deploy an application through the company's network while allowing the IT department to better allocate resources for these types of applications.

Citrix Systems is releasing Version 9.0 of its NetScaler software, which aims to accelerate the time it takes to deploy Web-based applications throughout an enterprise by offering a template for applications such as Microsoft SharePoint and Oracle's Siebel CRM software.

While NetScaler Version 9.0 has been at the beta stage for some time, Citrix is planning to announce the full public version Nov. 12 and the software is slated to go on sale starting Nov. 26. Earlier in 2008, Citrix released new versions of its MPX-series Web acceleration appliance that now use multicore processor technology to help boost computing resources when there is heavy network traffic.

While the latest version of NetScaler is intended for traditional enterprises, such as financial services companies, Citrix does intend to use NetScaler, along with its Citrix XenServer and XenDesktop, to form a new suite of products that will eventually allow the company to deliver and accelerate cloud computing services.

Although NetScaler Version 9.0 has a number of new features, Sanjay Uppal, vice president of Citrix's Application Network Group, said the most significant new feature is called AppExpert Templates.

These templates allow for easier and faster deployment of Web-based applications, Uppal said. The templates show an IT manager all the policies, computing resources and security tools needed to deploy an application within a company's network.

For example, Uppal said many customers overprovision the number of physical servers needed to deploy Microsoft SharePoint within an enterprise. With AppExpert Templates, Citrix determines what computing resources are needed to run SharePoint during different times of day and offers guidance on how to set up policies and what security tools are needed to secure the application once it's deployed inside the network.

"When the IT managers wanted to set up these applications, they essentially had to become experts in SharePoint or with Siebel," Uppal said. "Now, with the templates, at a click of a button they understand all the policies that come with these very complex applications, and we also allow the IT manager, through the AppExpert Visualizer, to visualize the application and allow them to deploy it through the company network."

While Citrix will provide prebundled templates, the company will also post templates for different applications to a community board, the Citrix Community Web site, where IT managers can download new templates and make suggestions on other templates or post their own for different applications.

Robert Whiteley, an analyst at Forrester Research, wrote in an email that this latest version of Citrix NetScaler and its use of templates will help those networking administrators understand and make better use of the applications that are now being widely deployed throughout an enterprise.

"Very few networking professionals have the native skill set to understand how applications behave, the business and transaction logic behind these apps, and the intricacies of how to optimize them all," Whiteley wrote.

"Of all the features that Citrix announced, I think the AppExpert templates are the most critical," Whiteley added. "These codify the best practices for the necessary application skills and put them in a workflow that's more intuitive. We see many IT organizations emphasize ease-of-use and more advanced management tools as a top-five selection criteria and a key to closing the skills gap."

There are several other features that Citrix is including with Version 9.0 of NetScaler, including ways to better manage the risk of Web services and XML-based applications by providing tools that inspect and secure XML traffic.

Editor's Note: This article was updated to include comments from an analyst.