Cisco, Citrix forge ADC alliance

Cisco will recommend NetScaler after discontinuing ACE development

Cisco will reference sell Citrix's NetScaler application delivery controller as part of an expanded relationship between the two companies to address cloud and mobile opportunities.

The NetScaler ADC will replace Cisco's Application Control Engine (ACE) product in cloud-based application performance requirements. Cisco recently announced that it would discontinue further development of the ACE product after losing more than half of its market share in ADCs over the past four years to F5, Citrix and other players.

It was speculated this week that Cisco would sell the Citrix products in an OEM capacity as a prelude to perhaps acquiring the NetScaler assets from Citrix. The companies would not comment on that speculation but said the reference sale arrangement is instead a prelude to a deeper NetScaler integration into the Cisco product line.

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The companies also plan to integrate Cisco's collaboration products with Citrix's CloudGateway and Xen Desktop virtualization offerings; and Cisco's ONE programming environment, Unified Computing and Nexus data center switches with Citrix's CloudPlatform orchestration engine and XenServer products.

The developments expand on a partnership the two companies forged two years ago and reinforced last year, with Cisco supporting Citrix XenDesktop on its VXC 6215 thin client and VXC 4000 software; and enhancing its WAAS WAN acceleration appliance to support high-definition Citrix XenDesktop HDX virtual desktops.

NetScaler will be referenced sold by Cisco into accounts where application acceleration is required for cloud networking. Cisco and Citrix intend to jointly integrate NetScaler with other Cisco network and security services, such as WAAS and the Adaptive Security Appliance firewall.

The companies also intend to integrate Cisco's Nexus 1000V virtual switch with Citrix XenServer to enable enterprise and service provider customers to build clouds based on the products.

Cisco officials say the company will continue to support existing ACE customers but recommend NetScaler where requirements cannot be met by ACE.

Deeper integration of NetScaler into the Cisco product line could involve a common management platform for NetScaler and Cisco cloud and Unified Fabric products, such as physical Nexus switches and fabric extenders, and MDS SAN switches.

Cisco's decision to discontinue development of ACE has led to speculation of greater sales for F5, Citrix, Radware and other ADC vendors. Indeed, several have trade-in programs specific to ACE customers.

But Cisco officials say ACE customers are not looking to one particular alternative vendor or another; rather, they are looking for a set of requirements and Cisco's confident that they'll migrate to NetScaler due to the "shared vision" it has with Citrix.

On the mobile side, meanwhile, Cisco and Citrix intend to develop "mobile workstyle and BYOD" products that give mobile users a unified way to securely access business applications, data, voice and collaboration services from any device. The joint solution, when developed, will link Cisco collaboration technology, including tighter integration of the Cisco Jabber client, with the Citrix Receiver self-service mobile access client and Citrix CloudGateway for enterprise mobility management. The joint solution will also include Citrix ShareFile for secure, cloud-based "follow-me data" services across any mix of user devices.

Citrix will also incorporate Cisco's MediaNet video technology into Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp. To secure mobile workers, Cisco and Citrix will link Citrix Receiver, Citrix Access Gateway and CloudGateway with the Cisco's AnyConnect client, ASA firewall and the Identity Services Engine.

Integration of Cisco ONE et al. with Citrix CloudPlatform is intended to augment orchestration of public, private and hybrid cloud environments.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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