I’m a cynic by nature. Call it 22 years in the industry, not counting my misspent youth hacking on Apple II and MS-DOS machines. When I hear of new technologies, my default position is simple: I’ll believe it when I see it. It’s somewhat ironic that I also appreciate a good vision, especially when that vision addresses a real problem.

SDN was one of those technologies. I’ve been excited by the possibilities for years, but suspicious of claims that “we have SDN!” It’s a position that wasn’t unwarranted — there have been a lot of products that made bold claims that shouldn’t have been made. So when I see something that is real — a product that captures all the dimensions of what SDN really is — I get excited. In late 2012, we got a sneak peak at the Insieme vision and product plans. We met the engineers and architects, reviewed product plans and timelines, and we were impressed. Insieme was building a true SDN and they had the engineering chops to make it happen. For the first time, it really felt credible.

Fast forward to now and our patience has been rewarded. Cisco (who acquired Insieme in November, 2013) is releasing the APIC controller in the coming months (summer) to work with their Nexus 9000 switching fabric. The combination, called ACI, is a hybrid hardware/software solution that is a complete solution from the physical ports to a rich automation and telemetry stack that is ready to go out of the box. During that time, Citrix NetScaler has been hard at work with the ACI team to build a complete integration.

The integration between Citrix NetScaler and Cisco ACI goes across two dimensions: native networking integration and automation/telemetry integration.

The native networking integration is the underpinning of the virtual network. It enables the NetScaler to be dynamically stitched into any arbitrary part of the network based on need. For example, if an application is spinning up in rack 10, but the NetScaler instance needed is out in rack 100 and the ASA firewall is out in rack 140, the ACI fabric has the means necessary to weave the virtualized application server into the same network as the NetScaler and ASA using service chaining technology. By linking these elements together, the application perceives the resources it needs as being immediately adjacent (as if they were in the same rack) without having to physically move and reconfigure any infrastructure.

As you can imagine, this is immensely powerful. This networking integration allows for the network to be completely redefined based on application needs without having to reconfigure a single physical switch.

The automation/telemetry integration is equally powerful. This integration is done using a “device package” which is uploaded to the APIC automation module in ACI. The device package contains all of the necessary scripts for instantiating, configuring, and reconfiguring the NetScaler for wide range of use cases. Of particular note is the fact that the integration is not limited to Load Balancing as a Service (LBaaS). Services include SSL acceleration, remote access, web compression, and even disaster recovery (via global load balancing).

The result is a very real, very impactful integration that goes head and shoulders over what other vendors have done in the L4-7 space. In doubt? Check out the device packages yourself.

Citrix NetScaler is proud to be Cisco ACI ready. This is a real technology that meaningfully implements SDN using a hybrid of hardware and software. For anyone looking for a complete ports to software solution, it’s an interesting offering and one that we are proud to have invested over a year of effort to integrate with.