Today istockanalyst and Network World speculated that Cisco would acquire the Citrix Networking (formerly ANG) line of products. Since the acquisition in 2003, Citrix has tried to brand itself as a Networking company AND a virtualization company. I recall talking with my Sales Manager and hearing her tell me how she needed to try to sell Netscalers to our incumbent Networking team where I was working at the time.
I have often referred to Network teams in organizations as the “Cisco Mafia” and explained to her that talking to the Network team about anything that was not F5, Juniper or Cisco may not bear a great deal of fruit. I recall several battles just to get my Netscalers implemented because I was “Load Balancing” on something other than Cisco and F5. I explained to them that what I had was a “Layer 7 switch” and that calling it a load balancer is a misnomer. The Netscaler is so many more things than just a load balancer.
Why this might be a bad thing?
Well, that depends, if this is a true acquisition meaning CISCO now “owns” Netscaler I worry what happens to the innovation after the acquisition. The fact is Cisco struggled in this space, at least to beat out Citrix and Big IP. I think this is due largely to the “Networking” mentality and Cisco’s inability to innovate beyond layer 3-4. I am NOT down on Network engineers and I have mad respect for their abilities but I have to point out that the ADC is its own hybrid skill set. Discussions such as Context Switching, XML Cross Site Scripting protection and URL Rewrites are not every day conversations for the guys running your Network. As the ADC has matured, the hybrid skill set needed to support it has also broadened. This has become a bit of a challenge in what seems to be (at least as a grey haired IT guy seeing next generation come in) a world of “specialists”. Can Cisco continue the innovation that exists with the market leaders in this space? If they could, why are they phasing out ACE? Are they even interested in it? If it is true that this will become a 2 billion dollar market, that may be the case. If not, does the Netscaler become another CSS or ACE? The reality is, a lot of companies have the “if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em” mentality but my worries are what will happen afterward. $2 billion may be all the motivation they need.
Why this might be a good thing?
If this is truly an OEM agreement this could be fantastic for Citrix. I remember when Citrix first started selling Netscalers and I think one of the misunderstood dynamics by the Citrix brass was that they were sending their sales staff into just another meeting. “These aren’t my people” I recall one SE saying. I have fought more than one battle over Netscalers that would not have been necessary had they sported a sleek green Cisco bezel on them. The fact is, when enterprise networking is discussed, as stated, Citrix is the “kid doing his own thing” for those of you who grew up watching Sesame street. They are generally not in the conversation like Cisco, BigIP and Juniper are. Server sales vendors will always be outsiders to networking groups. Oddly, the UCS seems to be widely accepted by server teams but for some reason, it just isn’t the other way around.
Cisco partners and sales engineers can offer a bridge to these Networking groups. The biggest challenge is going to be how they sell it. It isn’t quite as easy as just putting a Cisco bezel on the Netscaler. You still have a great product in F5 and Cisco sales engineers will need to be able to go toe to toe with the current market share leader in that space. Ultimately, not having a stranger in the room may be just what Citrix needs to seize the lion’s share of what is predicted to be a $2 billion dollar market.
Thanks for reading!