Citrix and Cisco share a common vision of an application driven datacenter where infrastructure is highly elastic and can quickly respond to an application’s needs.  Our collaboration has advanced that vision with joint innovation around application delivery services with joint deliverables that have produced deep, high-value integrations around three pillars: cloud, mobility and networking including the NetScaler 1000vPath.

Today we are announcing our support for OpFlex, a new open, standards-based protocol led by Cisco.

Let us talk about what motivated the need for OpFlex, how Citrix is involved in this initiative, and the benefits of this approach for customers and the industry at large.

The situation today

To truly realize the fully-automated, application-driven datacenter vision requires an industry-wide transformation.  And that, in turn, requires an open- and standards-based approach.

Now, usually, standards are a Good Thing.  However, imagine you bought a feature-packed smartphone, and as soon as you activated it on the network, everything but the basic voice call functionality became hidden or disabled.  All because there were ‘less smart’ phones on the network, and the ‘standards-based’ interoperability degenerated into a lowest-common-denominator support.  Such a standard would be a “Not-good Thing.”

This type of scenario has long been the situation in the world of standards-based automation.  Customers are being forced to make an unpalatable tradeoff between completeness of automation and richness of functionality in their networks.  Similarly, vendors are having a tough time innovating without breaking automation.  Lack of workable standards has turned automation into a shackle at odds with innovation.

OpFlex and Citrix

This changes with the introduction of OpFlex.  OpFlex makes it is possible to build standards-based network automation without having to settle for the lowest common denominator.  The declarative approach of OpFlex provides customers with a standards-based approach to policy, yet still preserves the ability to deliver advanced vendor-specific capabilities.  Customers can now enjoy rich functionality in their networks, and vendors are able to deliver innovative and cutting-edge features while retaining interoperability.  OpFlex enables leading hypervisors, switches and L4-L7 services to self-configure using application policy.

From the Citrix perspective, opening the ACI policy engine (APIC) to multi-vendor infrastructure is a logical next step to open source datacenter operations, and aligns with our strategy.  We are participating in the standardization process with Cisco within the IETF standards body.  As the standard is forged, we intend to integrate the technology across our Citrix XenServer, Citrix NetScaler and Citrix XenMobile product lines. Here’s the details on how that integration would potentially look:

  • OpFlex allows NetScaler to extend and enhance the deep and differentiated product integration that has already been developed between Cisco APIC and NetScaler.  NetScaler will be able to directly render OpFlex policies.  Similarly, with OpFlex, NetScaler device policies in ACI will allow APIC to incorporate unique features of our ADC platform, and take advantage of these for dynamic configuration, provisioning and monitoring or health scoring.
  • OpFlex integrates with the industry standard open vSwitch that is built into XenServer.  This enhances the current capabilities of the vSwitch extending the benefits of OpFlex to the Xen virtualization platform.
  • We are also closely working with Cisco on the OpenDaylight project – the leading open source SDN controller in the industry.  An APIC-compatible group-based policy model will become part of OpenDaylight.

OpFlex is a win for customers.  With its open and policy-centric approach, it has the potential to deliver much greater distributed scale, a multi-vendor ecosystem with advanced vendor specific capabilities, and a completeness of automation in a standards-based framework that hasn’t been seen before.  Vendors win when customers win.

I am excited.