Citrix Systems, a software company with a long history of reorganizing, announced in January that it had entered into an agreement to be acquired by affiliates of two private equity companies, Vista Equity Partners and Evergreen Coast Capital Corporation (an affiliate of Elliott Investment Management).
With the $16.5 billion, all-cash deal now complete, Citrix reported Friday that it has gone private and merged with Tibco Software, a data integration and analysis software company owned by Vista since 2014.
Citrix, founded in 1989, has rebranded before, but under the new agreement, the Citrix application delivery and security product portfolio is changing back to its original name: NetScaler.
Citrix acquired NetScaler in 2005 and eventually aligned most of its networking portfolio under that name — only to drop the NetScaler product names in 2018, just a few days after its Synergy user conference.
NetScaler, however, never really went away; the name just changed to Citrix ADC, which became the underlying technology of the Citrix application delivery and security product portfolio.
The New Stack talked to Abhilash Verma, new general manager of the NetScaler application delivery and security business unit, about the merger, which he said was decided upon by Vista, Evergreen, and Citrix’s board. He discussed why the NetScaler name is coming back, and what the merger means for developers.
Previous to Friday’s news, Verma was the vice president of product management for app delivery and security at Citrix and had been with the company since 2004. (This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.)
The New Stack: What are the motivations behind the decision to go private and merge with Tibco? And why now?
Abhilash Verma: The idea was to bring together Citrix and Tibco in terms of a common set of enterprise customers and use cases, not as much for going toward common product synergies.
People often think about the product synergy in Citrix and Tibco, and I look at it and say, there’s so much customer synergy.
Tibco has the top 98% of the top 500 global companies. Citrix has the same sort of customers. If you expand the customer set to 10,000 enterprises, we have a common set of customers.
So it just makes sense for us to be together in driving the go-to-market from the customer point of view.
Why go back to the NetScaler name?
Over the years, we’ve been getting a lot of feedback.
As we go through this transition of being a private company from a public company, we felt that this is a really good time to bring back the brand our customers and users trust and believe in — and lead with that brand to provide distinct value.
What are the advantages in terms of serving developers and software engineers?
There are three big brands we’re talking about bringing together. Citrix is a brand associated with the VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] technology space. NetScaler is associated with load balancing, application delivery and application security. Tibco is associated with the message bus infrastructure and enterprise business application space.
I would say all three brands do connect to the developer ecosystem.
Many companies use the Citrix VDI as the remote agent for their developers and service engineers to connect to work. So when we think about VDI, we do care about how developers can interact with the ecosystem. Applications that cannot leave the data center, or the data which cannot leave the data center, sits behind VDI, and there we have the tools and technologies which pull together the developer experience.
Abhilash Verma, general manager of NetScaler. (Photo courtesy of Citrix Systems)
For Tibco, there are a lot of applications that get integrated in the DevOps ecosystem. Tibco has the API Gateway and API lifecycle management product suite, which I’ve heard are close to where DevOps is.
The NetScaler ecosystem developed around two personas. One is IT, and the other persona is DevOps.
The way we look at the journey now is that every enterprise company is re-architecting its apps. When I say re-architecting, it’s not really that every app will become cloud native, or that all monoliths will become microservices.
There’s re-architecture from different points of view. There’s re-architecture from the agility point of view, from the move-to-cloud point of view, and then re-architecture from the view of how we can make good decisions and become more cloud native or true microservices.
We have seen that our end users look at NetScaler as a product that is very close to the application ecosystem because you make a lot of application decisions on the proxy.
A lot of business use cases are implemented by developers with a proxy like NetScaler, which is why the NetScaler brand and the NetScaler proxy become really important to developers.
Are there any significant changes coming to your NetScaler application delivery and security tools? If so, what are the new features/functionalities, and what impact will that have on how they are used?
There are three key pillars of value we are going to focus on as we bring back the NetScaler brand.
The first pillar is what we call cloud and application delivery. We sit in front of a lot of enterprise applications that are moving to the cloud at a rapid pace, and we frontend a lot of internet-facing applications.
For cloud application delivery, we want to make sure we are the proxy that is known for providing the best performance, low latency and dynamic scale.
Scaling is a big challenge in this new world, with the microservices or the cloud native architectures where you do autoscaling rapidly for application services. We are going to make scaling really dynamic and make autoscaling a native function of the proxy, so our customers don’t have to worry about how the proxy would adapt to the scale of traffic.
We will be very focused on the critical optimizations for protocols like TCP. 5G is, in some ways, already here and 5G has its challenges. We have been working on looking at how we can enrich the 5G experience, so we will focus on things like TCP optimization and at a massive scale.
We do a lot of work around optimizing the HTTP3 or QUIC Protocol, and with that, we will deliver the best experience for all internet-facing properties.
As an intelligent proxy, we have really good insight and visibility inside the Kubernetes ecosystem. So, we’re going to help our customers develop new applications or transition existing applications — the monolith applications to the microservices apps — running on different kinds of Kubernetes distributions, whether on-prem, hybrid cloud or public cloud.
“We are going to make scaling really dynamic and make auto-scaling a native function of the proxy, so our customers don’t have to worry about how the proxy would adapt to the scale of traffic.”
— Abhilash Verma, general manager, NetScaler
The second pillar we’re going to focus on is data and insight. Being a proxy is good, but it doesn’t excite us anymore, and we believe that it wouldn’t excite our customers if we are just being a proxy that’s processing packets in and packets out.
NetScaler has always made a lot of data-driven decisions because we parse the entire payload when it goes through NetScaler. Over a period of time, we have developed a lot of insights and analytics around cloud delivery and application performance for enterprise apps and end-user experience.
We believe that as a proxy, we are in a sweet spot where we see both the client and server sides of transactions and can provide in-depth insights and visibility into application performance and user experience.
We also have a product that brings us insights from the DNS end of the ecosystem, so we understand the state of the internet in a really in-depth way. The innovations will happen based on these analytics, like how we do self-healing for networks and applications based on the insights we are collecting in the runtime.
Can you share an example?
We call it the “find the needle in the haystack” problem. What if you have a large environment with thousands of servers, and suddenly one of the servers slows down? By the time an operations person looks at it, it’s already too late, and the user experience is impacted. But as the proxy, we know what an average server response time is.
What we can do today is find that problematic server, and we can take it out of the server pool dynamically without the operator doing anything to the device, and that’s what we call “self-healing.”
There are several such use cases around network performance, application performance and internet performance that we have built, and we’re going to double down and build more of those use cases.
We are using machine learning modeling behind the scenes. To detect the anomaly out of millions of transactions and connections going through the system, it’s not easy without ML.
We believe that our customers require the data and insights, and more importantly, our customers require the ability to make a change before the damage is done.
The third pillar is going to be security. One key use case we handle today is “secure access.” We provide secure access for the Citrix VDI apps and for Citrix’s zero trust access solution.
The other use case is where we ensure the secure delivery of applications by taking actions like web application firewall (WAF), bot protection and API security.
We believe we will be working closely with the application owners, developers, and DevOps because a lot of WAF, application logic, and API security constructs are created along with the application stack today.
In this time when a lot of companies are being acquired or merged, our readership worries about vendor lock-in — about a company that makes a key part of their tech stack no longer supporting that product. What can you say to IT decision-makers about how this might affect the app delivery and security tools that Citrix makes?
It goes back to who you are as a company and your core belief.
If you look at the NetScaler brand, we have believed for many years in providing our customers a way to avoid vendor lock-in.
The way we do our licensing — we call it pooled licensing — it’s flexible capacity. You buy, let’s say 10 [gigabytes] of capacity. You can deploy the capacity on hardware today. Tomorrow, you can move the same capacity to software. The day after tomorrow, you can decide to move the same capacity to AWS and then to Azure, and we never charge you extra.
We believe in promoting real hybrid multicloud use cases and adoption — and in not enforcing vendor lock-ins. That is the way we have developed the business and our licensing, and we are going to continue with that.
We want to partner with our customers in IT, so they are free to take their workloads to the infrastructure they believe is the best for them.
What are NetScaler’s future plans?
We will align all the things we do with one of the three pillars of value I mentioned earlier: either being the proxy providing superior performance and low latency, the proxy providing a lot of data and insights into application experience and user experience, or the proxy which embeds security.
We are a platform that believes in bringing security and insights along with scale and performance, without compromising on any one of our core values.
All of our new developments and value adds will be linked to one of these three pillars.
Additionally, we will be investing in our NetScaler developer community to make it a comprehensive resource for DevOps, platform teams and other NetScaler users who want to advance their knowledge of application delivery and security best practices.
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