In Barcelona, Spain at the Citrix Synergy conference, Cisco and Citrix announced an expansion of their current partnership, built around desktop virtualization, into three new areas including:  cloud networking, cloud orchestration, and mobile workstyles. The expanded partnership will include a significant investment in people and resources to develop the technology, provide integration, and validation of joint technologies, fund customer support efforts as well as joint go-to-market programs.

While the general announcement focuses on what will be accomplished in each of the three target areas of cloud networking, cloud orchestration, and mobile, it is the how that is most intriguing.  To achieve this goal Cisco is swapping out its own ADC (application delivery controller) product, ACE, in favor of the Citrix NetScaler solution. In case there was any doubt, check out the link that once and for all puts to rest any questions regarding the fate of the Cisco ACE product line. The web page is titled “Welcome Cisco Customers”.  You will note that Cisco will “continue to fully support existing customers of its Application Control Engine (ACE) product line”, but the future is clearly with Citrix NetScaler.

The plan is for Cisco and Citrix to jointly integrate the Citrix NetScaler application delivery controller (ADC) to coexist with other Cisco network and security services, such as Cisco Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) and Cisco Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA). But wait – WAAS? That is Cisco’s WAN optimization platform. What does this mean for the future of Citrix’s own WAN optimization platform Branch Repeater? Now here lies an area of contention. Both companies have WAN optimization products that fit the branch, datacenter, and mobile client.  If WAAS becomes the defacto datacenter solution, which appears to be the intention, then it seems logical to want to use the same code base for the branch and mobile WAN optimization clients. Citrix does not break out individual product revenue, but in looking back through various SEC filings even though the Branch Repeater is considered part of the NetScaler product group it is unclear how much of that revenue it is generating on its own. Previous references dating back to 2011 indicate that Branch Repeater revenue was at best flat and other references give the impression that the product was struggling to find purchase among the Citrix buyer base. Citrix has a good product team supporting the Branch Repeater, but if it comes down to the numbers and balancing the Citrix/Cisco partnership against time to market demands, then it is hard to imagine the companies juggling the resources necessary to keep both sets of products current moving forward.

The SDN Catalyst

Clearly there is a trend afoot among not just networking vendors, but all IT infrastructure players and the catalyst is SDN (software defined networks). SDN, even in its infancy, is a disruptive initiative. It threatens the status quo; therefore vendors are looking to solidify their position and figure out how to best position themselves to ensure their ongoing relevance in the market. Companies are eyeing emerging SDN-oriented companies and gathering them into their fold, with Cisco grabbing vCider and VMware snapping up Nicira. More will follow. Vendors are reviewing their own portfolios and jettisoning efforts that are not making headway, Juniper Networks just killed off their own WAN optimization controller, announcing an EOL of the WX/WXC solution in favor of reselling and promoting the Riverbed solution. Riverbed has been slowly and carefully expanding its value proposition and solidifying its position in the datacenter, expanding into ADC and application-aware network performance management.  It is interesting to watch which companies are developing closer ties, like Cisco and Citrix, and those which might be drifting farther apart, like Cisco and VMware. It marks an end to the status quo.

This is clearly a group effort, kind of like watching a bike race with each team jostling for the ideal position, but with the best results coming from working in tandem. That is not to say there won’t be some wheel suckers in the mix, however this is not a one-man race, but an evolution of the network, as we know it. It will take time and the power of the collective minds of many smart individuals to make the shift from concept to reality.  We have a long way to go and it looks to be a very interesting ride.

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