Citrix has announced new unified management software for all its NetScaler products, including its ADC, gateway, and SD-WAN offerings. The management package is called NetScaler Management And Analytics System (NMAS).
NMAS includes an interesting component that lets developers or network operators create YAML-based files that can be consumed by a variety of automation and orchestration products, including OpenStack and Mesosphere, to automate instantiation of ADCs. More on that in a bit.
First, NMAS provides a unified interface for administrators to monitor, manage and troubleshoot all of Citrix’s networking products. That includes both the physical, virtual, and container versions of NetScaler ADC, as well as its gateway and its SD-WAN offerings.
(Note: Citrix says its container-based ADC, called NetScaler CPX and announced back in December 2015, is now available, but I haven’t been able to find a link to it yet. I’ll update this post when that changes.)
NMAS also includes an element called LogStream, which beefs up the rate and volume of data collection capabilities of the ADCs. The company says with LogStream, each load balancer can collect up to 10,000 counters every few seconds, track thousands of transactions per second, and gather general system events.
All this data can then be shipped to a data ingest engine running Hadoop for analysis and reporting. Data ingest can also happen on public cloud instances of the ADC, including AWS and Azure, and then be shipped to the reporting engine.
As mentioned, an interesting feature of NMAS is the introduction of what Citrix calls a Stylebook. Network operators use Stylebooks to compose policies and configurations for the ADC, which is assembled as a YAML file.
Citrix created Stylebooks to help network operations teams and developers take full advantage of its container-based ADC by making it consumable via third-party orchestration tools, though the Stylebook will also work with the VM-based and physical versions too.
The ADC ingests the YAML file, which then serves as a kind of universal translator to communicate policies and configurations to a variety of automation and orchestration platforms.
Citrix’s Nand Mulchandani, VP of Market Development, Delivery Networks, offered an example. In an interview, he said that OpenStack has a model that describes how load balancers should work. NetScaler parses the YAML file, and then communicates with OpenStack via a Neutron plug-in to translate Neutron’s service calls to the load balancer.
But if you move from OpenStack to Docker or Mesosphere, you don’t have to rewrite the policy and configuration components; the same YAML code will also work with other platforms.
“We’re trying to build investment protection so you can deploy that configuration on different orchestration engines, or on Azure,” said Mulchandani.
There’s a lot of competition happening at the orchestration layer as platforms such as OpenStack, Mesos, and Kubernetes aim to own the automated data center. Rather than try to compete with these projects, Citrix’s strategy is to make its products easily consumable by any number of them. I think that’s a smart move.
I think it’s also safe to assume Citrix will offer Stylebooks for other products in the networking line.
In addition, if you’re heavily invested in the NetScaler product family, a unified management interface makes a lot of sense.
Availability And Pricing
Citrix says NMAS will be available in the second quarter of 2016, which probably means June since May is almost behind us.
As for pricing, you’ll have to get in touch with Citrix. I’m not sure whether to read that as “It’s complicated so we need to talk” or as “We’re still figuring it out.” Either way, I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear from you.