“The industry is moving from the PC era to the cloud era” is a common expression heard in the halls of Citrix these days. Certain parts of the industry are moving much faster than others. And the part that is moving the fastest is the apps themselves. By this I don’t mean “apps are moving to cloud datacenters.” Well, actually many of them are running in cloud IaaS data centers, but that’s a side-effect of the larger trend.

Rather, what I mean is that today we expect the apps themselves to behave like a  cloud-based service. We want to access them at any time, from any device, any where in the world. And we always want the apps’ content current and up to date. Which means the apps pretty much always need to be online and connected. And of course, we want them to be fast.

It’s these last bits that indicate the shift. Because once an app is always available,  always connected, and thus always up to date we stop thinking of it as an “app” and start thinking of it as a “service;” something that’s always “just there” and that we can take advantage of whenever we need. And this isn’t just the cool social media, gaming, new media, etc. applications that were accessing from our iPhones/Androids/tablets. It’s also many of the SaaS apps we use for work… that we also happen to access from our iPhones/Androids/Tablets, etc. In fact, many of us are starting to see “the desktop” (and it’s data) as just another service that can be accessed anytime, from anywhere, on any device.

This transition from “PC era apps” to “cloud era services” is driving fundamental changes to the underlying delivery infrastructure we rely on to ensure availability, performance and security. Historically, if we think about application delivery infrastructure, it can be roughly split into two types:

  1. on-premise products – like application delivery controllers or WAN optimization devices
  2. off-premise services – like content delivery networks

Generally, these two different solutions have been like “two ships that pass in the night.” They each did their thing, they didn’t really get in each other’s way, but nor did they do anything to help each other out. However, we think that fully optimizing the delivery of cloud era services will increasingly require the two different solutions to work together. This is exactly what we alluded to when we announced working with Cotendo last June, and what we’re doing with NetScaler CloudConnector, which we announced at Synergy Barcelona today.

NetScaler CloudConnector provides a “hybrid” networking solution, spanning both on-premise NetScaler devices and off-premise managed services. In essence, what a NetScaler CloudConnector does is extend the presence of NetScaler from the four walls of the data center all the way out to the Internet edge. By doing this, we effectively put the power of NetScaler within a few milliseconds of the end-users of whatever cloud era service NetScaler is fronting.

Accelerating the performance of a cloud era service provides a case in point:

  • The service has users all over the world, so utilizing a CDN to get as close to the Internet edge as possible makes sense
  • However, since we want the content of the service to be as current and relevant as possible, the service likely uses things like personalization and location-based services to drive dynamically generated content
  • Dynamically generated content is generally thought to be “at odds” with a CDN, since traditionally what a CDN does is cache content at the edge. Dynamic content is pretty hard to cache.

The NetScaler CloudConnector for CDN addresses this fundamental issue by setting up a secure and highly optimized connection directly between the data center and the Cotendo acceleration points-of-presence (PoPs) at the Internet edge. Coordination between the CDN and on-premise NetScaler infrastructure allows for the use of sophisticated symmetric techniques such as advanced TCP optimizations, compression and data deduplication to run between the data center and the Internet edge. This allows for all that dynamic content that can’t just be cached to be accelerated to the Internet edge nonetheless.

More strategically, having a coordinated presence at both the Internet edge and within the data center sets the stage for a set of hybrid networking services that do more than accelerate mobile or web services housed w/in the data center. For example:

  • By optimizing the connection between the data center and the PoP closest to a SaaS-provider’s data center, the same hybrid service can be used to accelerate employee access to SaaS applications
  • Having NetScaler security capabilities like high-speed SSL offload, VPN termination, and web application firewall at the Internet edge opens a host of hybrid security services
  • HDX protocol awareness combined with NetScaler security capabilities present some interesting options hybrid networking solutions for optimizing delivery of desktops virtualized using the HDX protocol

Of course, on premise infrastructure and off-premise managed services will continue to operate independently of each other. But we believe that hybrid networking services set the tone for what will be “best in class” delivery infrastructure in the coming cloud era.