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Citrix’s NetScaler: The First ADC to Integrate with Cisco’s Nexus Fabric

Servers, Storage and Networking | Posted on April 28, 2014 by David Davis

On April 8th, Citrix announced a collaboration with Cisco that produced the first application delivery controller (ADC) with integration into the Cisco Nexus fabric. Read on to find out what this means for you, and why you should care.

For those who are unfamiliar with how application delivery controllers help you, see our post “4 Ways Application Delivery Controllers Enhance Your Application Infrastructure” and the Citrix PDF, “What is an Application Delivery Controller?” The simplest way to understand an ADC is to think of it as a solution to make your company’s applications run faster, more securely, and more reliably.

At the same time, ADC’s take some of the load off of the servers, allowing those servers to run faster and more efficiently. Even if you are completely unfamiliar with application delivery controllers, you may have heard about NetScaler, which is the well-known Citrix ADC.

Figure 1 – NetScaler remote services blade for Nexus 7000 series
Figure 1 – NetScaler remote services blade for Nexus 7000 series

What is “NetScaler in Nexus”?

First, the term “NetScaler in Nexus” is not the official terminology, put forward by Cisco or Citrix, to describe this product. Traditionally, if you wanted to take advantage of the application performance increases, security, and reliability that NetScaler offers, you would have to route application traffic through a software-based NetScaler appliance (called the indirect attach mode of deployment). While this deployment mode has been successful for many companies, there are significant efficiencies that can be gained by having NetScaler’s capabilities closer to the application network traffic that it analyzes and shapes.

Many companies use Cisco’s Nexus 7000 series network switches to switch their critical application traffic. Those switches offer Cisco’s Remote Integrated Services Engine (RISE)à. With RISE, specially designed remote services blade can be inserted into to the switch to “directly deploy” the applications provided by those expansion cards into the switch.

Figure 2 – Cisco RISE and Citrix NetScaler
Figure 2 – Cisco RISE and Citrix NetScaler

Besides the obvious benefits gained by having network-based applications closer to the network, there is additional functionally to be gained. Specifically-

  • Plug and Play Setup – applications like NetScaler can now be much more easily deployed. Cisco RISE automates Citrix NetScaler configuration and keeps network interconnect configurations synchronized. This simplifies the deployment process and reduces the risk of configuration errors. According to Citrix, the deployment of NetScaler goes from 45 steps to just 9 when deployed in Cisco RISE.
  • Optimization of Application Delivery – Cisco RISE makes applications more efficient and provides admins greater control through automatic policy-based routing (APBR). Because RISE can intelligently route only the right application network traffic to NetScaler which prevents NetScaler from potentially impeding performance for all applications.
  • Increased Availability – Cisco RISE allows NetScaler and the Nexus 7000 switches to work together to quickly and efficiently recover when network routes change. This greater efficiency leads to greater uptime for enterprise applications.

Finally, new functionality is added in the areas of network monitoring and support for multi-tenancy.

Who is the new NetScaler / Cisco Integration for?

Today, there are two Cisco RISE-supported appliances – Citrix NetScaler and the Cisco Network Analysis Module (NAM). However, in time, there will certainly be more RISE-supported appliances. Enterprise network managers/administrators should be aware of the new NetScaler /Nexus integration with RISE for two primary reasons:

  1. NetScaler can offer them (and their critical applications) the numerous benefits mentioned above. Undoubtedly, enterprises of all sizes can benefit from running critical applications with higher performance, greater reliability, and improved efficiency.
  2. Even if they aren’t ready to test or deploy NetScaler today, they should be aware of the benefits of RISE and that more and more network services will likely be integrated into Cisco network hardware in the future. Thus, if they are considering any new network performance, analysis, or monitoring applications in the near future, they should investigate whether or not the Cisco RISE integration capabilities might be able to help to make those network applications more efficient, reliable, and higher performances.

Why you should consider “NetScaler in Nexus”

Personally, I am excited about this new collaboration between Citrix and Cisco. Citrix has strong solutions for application management and Cisco has strong solutions for network switching, routing, and management. We keep saying that the IT department should be more focused on the company’s critical applications. With NetScaler, the IT department is finally able to focus on applications and, with the Nexus integration, do it more efficiently.

As an enterprise datacenter manager/admin (or one who represents any of the silos of the datacenter), you should be working to align your staff and expenses with the company’s most critical applications.

Next Steps

The Networking Technical and Solution Architects at Softchoice regularly assist customers by finding solutions that are the right fit for their organization. Contact your Softchoice Account Manager or tweet us directly and we’ll set up a short, focused conversation between you and our team of experts to understand your unique requirements.

To learn more, visit the Citrix Netscaler page for full specs, datasheets and 7 videos!

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