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What Does the Future Hold for NetScaler?

by Marius Sandbu, CTP, Norway CUGC

I’m guessing that most people were either at Citrix Synergy, or did like myself and saw the live stream directly. There were a lot of interesting updates and new product releases there. So in this blog post I wanted to elaborate on the updates coming for NetScaler and some of my own personal predictions on the platform.

Containers and NetScaler CPX

With the current trends where more and more services are moving away from monolithic systems, where we have more aspects or modules in systems that are interwoven and moving towards developing services using micro services, where we have each module running as within its own environment, be it a virtual machine or running as a container.

This is one of the interesting aspects for Containers, being able to almost instantly provision up a new instance of “something” based upon a template, but without the extra overhead that a virtual machine gives.

Now the issue with moving to this type of architecture is of course security and being able to automatically scale, since you are moving towards having all these different components running as their own container and in most cases they will need to communicate with another component, enter NetScaler CPX.

NetScaler CPX is a containerized version of NetScaler, which is a stripped down version of the NetScaler which is aimed at environments moving toward use of Containers, where we can provision multiple instances of the CPX to load balance between the different modules in a micro services architecture.

And since the CPX itself is a container we can easily scale out a new instance of the CPX to be able to load balance and to handle the incoming traffic. Even though the CPX is a stripped down version for the NetScaler, it can still be automated using Nitro APIs which will allow developers to easily automate deployment of different modules of the services combined with load balancing features in NetScaler.

And with the combined support for both Windows container ecosystem and Linux ecosystem in XenServer 7 it might become a fundamental virtualization solution for providers that want to combine both ecosystems, and of course you can then add NetScaler CPX to the mix.

Combining Insight and Management

Citrix also announced a new appliance (known as Management and Analytics Systems) which is a combination of Insight Center (Analytics) and Command Center which will give us the ability to do more automation using the orchestration module Stylebooks.

Also they have extended the feature set for Insight to contain more features on the security aspect, with Security insight which will give you more detailed information into how secure your services are and if they have any security violations based upon Application Firewall policies.

This management platform can be used to manage all your NetScaler infrastructure going from SDX, MPX to VPX and of course the CPX. It can also be integrated with other Cloud management platforms as well such as OpenStack and Mesos.

And it also gives the ability to do more application-based health servicing which allows you to get an easier overview of how services are behaving.

Citrix and Microsoft Better together

This was one of the key points that I believe that many still aren’t aware of even if they saw the keynote. Microsoft and Citrix are taking their partnership to a new level which will give a lot of advantages for the NetScaler. First, there was the announcement of integrating identity capabilities between NetScaler and Azure Active Directory. Many might not be aware of this but we can now set up Azure AD as a SAML iDP for NetScaler which can be leveraged as a SAML SP or vice versa, but I’m guessing that the statement during the keynote means that there will be more coming in that direction.

Another cool thing that was announced was something I took note from Brad Anderson at Microsoft: “NetScaler will be able to provide conditional access to on-premises apps and data based device and app compliance.  Microsoft will embed NetScaler capabilities into Intune App SDK which will enable apps to securely access on-premises assets without having to launch a VPN.”

I’m guessing that we will be able to publish Citrix resources externally using, for instance, Intune which will be automatically proxied via the NetScaler.

And that is a pretty strong statement from Microsoft that: “Finally, if you are an EMS customer, start getting educated on NetScaler.  You’ll be able to define conditional access policies in EMS/Intune in the 2H 2016 that NetScaler will enforce on a per-device, per-app and micro-VPN basis.”

And of course as I’ve mentioned in my previous blog, the NetScaler appliance in Azure marketplace has been updated to 11.54 build.

Moving forward

The NetScaler is going to play a more important role, both in terms of managing microservices/containers, bridging identity between on-premises and cloud-based solutions like Azure Active Directory and since more and more applications are becoming web based and integrating with Intune that’s just going be cool!

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