October 17, 2012
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), in its latest attempt to battle F5, is going to resell application delivery controllers (ADCs) from Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS).
The deal is the centerpiece of a wide-ranging partnership between the two, being announced Wednesday morning in Barcelona at Citrix's Synergy event for customers and partners.
Neither company is saying so, but it could set the foundation for a deeper partnership or perhaps even a merger.
The plan is for Cisco sales reps to strongly recommend Citrix's appliances and for the companies to jointly develop roadmaps for their Layer 4-through-7 technologies. Cisco discontinued development on its own ADC, the Application Control Engine (ACE) line of cards for the Catalyst 6500, in September.
The announcement is part of a wider Cisco-Citrix partnership. Cisco's UCS, for instance, will be integrated with CloudPlatform, Citrix's cloud orchestration platform. And Citrix's XenApp, which connects users to cloud-based applications, and XenDesktop, a virtual desktop technology, will be supported in Medianet, Cisco's network architecture for supporting video and other high-touch traffic.
Why this matters
The partnership gives both companies a chance to unseat F5 Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: FFIV) as the ADC leader. Citrix hasn't been able to do it yet, and Cisco hasn't come close.
"This will be the first real competitive threat F5 has had in a long time," says Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst for ZK Research .
What's more intriguing is that Cisco could eventually decide to buy NetScaler outright. Analyst Ittai Kidron of Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. brought up that idea in a note published Monday.
Cisco ought to go even further, though, just consider buying Citrix, Kerravala says.
He's got a lot of reasons why. Citrix is an infrastructure provider just like Cisco, dealing in applications infrastructure rather than switching and routing. It would add to Cisco's virtualization portfolio at a time when Cisco's virtualization partner, VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW), appears to be encroaching on Cisco turf by acquiring Nicira.
Citrix could help Cisco in the carrier market, too; CloudPlatform counts at least a dozen major telcos worldwide as customers. And their products don't overlap. "It would open up a world of new buyers for Cisco," Kerravala says.
Moreover, one reason Citrix couldn't make headway against F5 was the Citrix channel.
"The typical Citrix reseller tends to focus on the Xen types of solutions [virtualization for the enterprise], and NetScaler gets kind of dragged along," Kerravala says. Cisco, on the other hand, has an excellent sales channel but hasn't had an ADC product that knocked customers' socks off.
F5 would seem to have a lot to lose if Cisco can boost Citrix's sales. But then again, F5 has been broadening its reach into new areas, such as security and deep packet inspection. It's also gotten into Diameter signaling for LTE, through the recent acquisition of Traffix Systems.
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