In the beginning, there was APP

As they say, in the beginning, was the APP.  The app needed to communicate.  And the network was born.  And in the network lived services that the APP needed.  And it all multiplied.  With many apps, interacting with many services.  This blog is about the genesis of the next-generation of NetScaler SDX, our consolidated service delivery networking platform for software defined networks (SDN).

Why: Solving Many x Many

Every app relies of application networking services.  For key capabilities like availability and scalability, optimization, acceleration, offload and security, they rely on load balancers and advanced application delivery controllers, firewalls, data leak prevention and numerous other application level services operating in the network.  Many Services.

Enterprises operate several dozen or more of these applications, in multiple data centers and in the cloud.  These are apps like Oracle, Microsoft Sharepoint, Exchange, Citrix XenDesktop, SAP and many others.   Many Applications.

This many-many scenario imposes several drawbacks.

  • Complex, Disjointed Application Control: The many-many scenario leads to complex, disjointed application control. The configuration and policies for each application networking service needs to be injected for every application.  Similarly, the operation of these services needs to be coordinated and managed across multiple application stake holders.
  • Complex and error-prone topologies: Each application relies on a specific topology of services.  How are the services put together or chained.  These topological relationships end up getting embodied as part of the individual service configurations.  Having to maintain and operate distinct topologies for many different applications, or having to create and recreate these topologies frequently makes this problem complex and error-prone.
  • Multiple Moving Parts: Having many services also introduces many moving parts.  A proliferation of boxes, with their own unique high-availability or redundancy models and requirements – eg. firewall-sandwiches?  Some try to simplify this by using fewer but larger shared services installations.  But that ends up sacrificing self-service, delegated management and operational benefits, in an attempt to reduce the number of moving parts.
  • Unable to realize benefits of SDN: With emergent changes in the way networks are designed, with technologies like OpenFlow, Cisco ONE and broadly, with SDN, we now have the tools and the ability to program the network.  To tailor it intelligently.  This intelligence refers to the having a grasp on what the application requires from its network, and to express those requirements to the programmable network.  But this intelligence is neither readily isolated nor identified in a complex many-many scheme.  It is implicit and hard-wired and not available to illuminate the transport network or new SDN technologies.

How: An Application Control Layer

NetScaler SDX allows one to unify a wide-range of best-in-class application networking services in a seamless application control layer to drive app intelligence into existing transport networks and emerging SDN technologies

  • Simple, Unified Application Control: By providing a unified control layer, NetScaler SDX simplifies and streamlines application control.  With turnkey AppTemplates for popular applications, and the ability to integrate L4-7 policies to ease configuration, the process of deploying a new application becomes radically simplified from a policy and control perspective.
  • Simple, Prescriptive Topologies and deployment: NetScaler SDX allows for defining the complete networking policy and topology of an application and automating network configuration.  AppFormations simplify initial deployment by programmatically pre-packaging the network services necessary to support common use cases, and the topology between for common use cases.
  • Multi-tenant, Consolidated Delivery and Orchestration: With fully-isolated multi-tenancy applicable to all application networking services, NetScaler SDX enables consolidation.  AppFabric provides a common underlying multi-tenant framework for best-in-class third party services to seamlessly and securely plug into the platform.   With integration with leading cloud orchestration platforms, application orchestration and automation can now include its network services with equal agility and ease.
  • Intelligent Life: Through the unification of these application networking services, NetScaler SDX can now make the entire network app-aware.  The broader networking industry has embarked on a new paradigm with SDN to decouple control and design flexibility into the core network. SDNs promise to make the network itself programmable, thus making today’s largely static networks more agile and scalable. However, current SDN technologies focus almost exclusively at L2-3 layers, are not app-aware, and thus miss the opportunity to truly deliver on the promise of SDN. To make the whole network more dynamic and flexible, the unified application control layer of the next generation NetScaler SDX platform can be used to drive app intelligence into the programming of emerging SDN infrastructure.