NetScaler VPX: HA for the Masses

3 08 2009

Not too long ago Citrix announced the release of their NetScaler code in a virtual machine format.  While I’m a little late to the party concerning the announcement I don’t think many people have given justice to the importance of this addition to the Citrix product line.

The NetScaler software, yes I said software as that is where the magic lies, is truly the Swiss Army knife of network appliances.  Wait, did I just call it an appliance after calling it software?  Well yes, but it’s hard to compare it to anything else in the market place without placing in the context of hardware.  While the hardware aspect of the technology is important, ultimately it is just a vessel for the functionality rooted in the code.  That is precisely why the release of the VPX edition is so important.  (The purpose of this post is to focus on VPX but click here if you need a rundown on the general features and benefits of NetScaler).

But to understand the importance of this release you really have to break it down into a few aspects.  First, the ultimate downfall of a lot of Citrix environments resides directly with resource uptime or a lack thereof.  Companies who cannot afford a dedicated, hardware load balancer a lot of times rely upon manual intervention during a critical system outage or they use sub-par measures to ensure availability such as DNS Round Robin load balancing.  While these tactics are arguably better than nothing, they leave much to be desired and a lot of times give the system a bad reputation with users due to an interruption in service.

Even when an IT staff gets a hardware load balancer approved, the project can fall apart for a lack of support from the network team or vice versa.  I have seen it all too many times…when the true benefits of a technology such as NetScaler are not realized because the IT organization cannot decide who should manage the appliance.  The network team points the finger at the server group because the appliance has a ‘Citrix’ logo, and the server group states that it is a network appliance, etc, etc.

I feel that the VPX edition of NetScaler will work to change the adoption of dedicated load balancing in the server/application world and allow organizations to improve service delivery to the business as an ultimate result.  This acceleration of adoption will come from the fact that no specialized hardware will be required.  The appliance can be hosted as part of the virtual infrastructure facilitating faster integration and a reduction of cost in implementation.  This should hopefully also help to speed adoption by breaking down barriers between the different IT silos.

Of course the biggest, current caveat is the fact that it will only run on XenServer.  Citrix has made commitments that there are plans to allow for multi-hypervisor support.  To me this is goal #1 as if you have an ESX environment you remove the benefits of using it over the hardware edition due to the fact that at least a couple of physical servers would need to be allocated or purchased for the setup of a separate XenServer resource pool.  Once this is addressed I feel that VPX will be an extremely crucial and much more common addition to not only SBC/VDI environments, but IT resource delivery in general for all organizations.

More information as well as a link for downloading a tech preview can be found here:




3 responses

5 08 2009
Nick Bond

Hi Matt,

nice blog, I agree with everything you say here. The arrival of a virtual ADC appliance really is a ground breaking event.

Unfortunately, you have your details slightly wrong. The Zeus ZXTM VA was released at the tailend of 2006! 😉

It has more functionality than the hardware Netscaler, and can be deployed into any virtual environment.

You are right about this type of product changing how organisations approach the delivery of their online applications. We have seen over the last few years, a move towards application functionality being deployed into the network, on the back of ADC technology.

Take a look at the product, you can download it at no cost and use if for a year from here:


10 08 2009

Hi Nick,

Thanks for the post and for bringing the Zeus solution to my attention. I will be sure to check it out.


6 08 2009
John M. Smith

Nice post, good to systems folks revolting against the “CISCO/NETWORK MAFIA”

I love my Network guys but this technology should have never been in their hands in the first place.

Can’t wait for the production version with a usable Cipher!!!

Good luck…fight the battle


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