As businesses quickly move to make the datacenter more agile, the application-centric automation and virtualization of both hardware and software infrastructure becomes increasingly important.

Cisco’s Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) supplies the critical link between business-based requirements for applications and the infrastructure that supports them. The Citrix NetScaler application delivery controller (ADC) connects infrastructure and applications and makes their configuration available to the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) through integration.

Citrix NetScaler and Cisco ACI enable datacenter and cloud administrators to holistically control L2-L7 network services in a unified manner, through seamless insertion and automation of best-in-class NetScaler services into next-generation datacenters built on Cisco’s ACI Architectures. A NetScaler ADC leverages the Cisco Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) to programmatically automate network provisioning and control on the basis of application requirements and policies for both datacenter and enterprise environments.

Requirements for an Application Centric Vision

Cisco APIC addresses the two main requirements for achieving the application centric data center vision:

  • Policy-based automation framework
  • Policy-based service insertion technology
  • Policy-Based Automation Framework

A policy-based automation framework enables the Cisco APIC to dynamically provision and configure resources according to application requirements. As a result, core services such as firewalls and Layer 4 through 7 services can be consumed by applications, and these services can be made ready to use in a single automated step.

Being application-centric, the APIC allows the creation of application profiles, which define the Layer 4 through 7 services consumed by a given datacenter-tenant application. A NetScaler ADC provides L4-L7 services such as load balancing, application acceleration, and application security.

Integration between the Cisco APIC controller and the NetScaler ADC is achieved through a NetScaler device package. Imported by the APIC controller, the device package enables REST-based API integration and allows the APIC controller to perform detailed feature-level configuration of the NetScaler.

ACI Enables Policy-Based Service Insertion

The Cisco APIC solution automates the steps of routing network traffic to the correct services on the basis of application policies. L4-L7 resources can be dynamically provisioned and configured according to application requirements on a per tenant basis.

The Cisco APIC offers APIs or a graphical drag-and-drop GUI for easy creation of L4-L7 Service Graphs that specify network traffic routing. Any of the L4-L7 ADC features available in the NetScaler device package can be included in a Service Graph definition, allowing comprehensive NetScaler integration with the Cisco APIC. Policy-based service insertion automates the steps of routing network traffic to the correct services as specified by application policies. The automated addition, removal and reordering of services allows administrators to quickly change the resources allocated to an application, without the need to rewire and reconfigure the network or relocate the services.

For example, if a business decides to use the load balancing feature of a modern ADC, administrators can simply redefine the policy for the services that should be used for the related applications. The Cisco APIC can dynamically distribute new policies to the infrastructure and service nodes in minutes, without requiring manual changes to the network.

Once created, a Service Graph can be assigned to an Application Profile and contracted to a data center tenant, thereby defining the network traffic flow for that specific application and tenant.

Benefits of Using Citrix NetScaler ADCs in Cisco ACI

The unique Cisco ACI and Citrix NetScaler joint solution improves data center operations and application deployment, using the Cisco APIC as the central policy-control and management station and Cisco ACI service-insertion technology to direct traffic to the appropriate service nodes.

The main benefits include:

Central point of network control with ADC service policy coordination and automation: The Cisco APIC acts as a point of configuration management and automation for NetScaler ADCs (both MPX appliances and VPX virtual appliances), tightly coordinates the ADC service delivery with the network automation, and provides end-to-end telemetry and visibility of service-aware applications and tenants.

Scalable and elastic architecture for NetScaler ADCs: Cisco ACI defines a policy-based service insertion mechanism for both physical and virtual ADC appliances, providing full lifecycle service management based on workload instantiation and decommissioning.

Investment protection: Cisco ACI and Cisco APIC are fully compatible with existing ADC networks, preserving existing service operation models and using open standards protocols.

For More Information

Deploying NetScaler ADCs in Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI)