Citrix Uses Docker Containers to Deploy ADCs

Most IT organizations today are still in the process of converting physical devices into virtual appliances that can run on standard x86 servers. That approach not only reduces the number of physical systems that need to be deployed, it also serves to help make IT operations teams more agile. Now, however, it’s only a matter of time before most of those appliances start showing up as containers.

One of the first examples of this trend is coming from Citrix. At the recent Citrix Synergy 2016 conference Citrix demonstrated NetScaler CPX, an instance of its application delivery controller (ADC) delivered as a Docker container.

NetScaler CPX can be provisioned and deployed using the Docker command line just like any other container,  which enables IT organizations to invoke ADC functions within the context of a microservices architecture. IT organizations can make use of the same NetScaler code base across physical appliances, virtual machines and, now, containers. The latter capability is critical because it enables developers to implement ADC functionality within their applications without requiring assistance from the IT operations team.

Citrix and ADCs

Citrix doesn’t plan to stop there. The massive amounts of data passing through NetScaler ADCs can now be aggregated in a big data repository called the NetScaler Management and Analytics System (MAS). That log data then will be used to automate any number of network and system services at levels of unprecedented scale.

The implications for deploying ADC and other types of networking appliance as containers could be profound. The networking industry as a whole is pouring millions of dollars into developing network functions virtualization (NFV) software designed to run on virtual machines. The future of networking, however, may very well wind up being determined by appliances running inside containers deployed on bare-metal servers.

Youcef Laribi, a principal architect for the NetScaler team at Citrix, told conference attendees that, given the more granular nature of microservices, it’s crucial to find a way to manage all the inherent complexity associated with managing all those services. The end result, he said, is an ability to create an IT environment that is resilient enough to deal with all the rapid changes take take place naturally when employing microservices.

As yet, most internal IT operations teams are not prepared to cope with the rise of containers in particular and microservices in general. But given the rate at which developers are embracing containers, it’s only a matter of time before microservices become the dominant enterprise IT architecture. In fact, it’s arguable that developers now have become the most dominant influencer of what products and technologies ultimately get deployed.

In the meantime, traditional IT vendors such as Citrix can take comfort in the fact that ADCs might prove to be more relevant than ever in a new age of cloud-native applications, also known a mode two applications within the context of a bimodal IT environment. The challenge, of course, will be figuring out not only when and where to deploy ADCs as containers, but, just as significantly, how many will be required.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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