Citrix targets carriers with NetScaler

Virtualising the mobile network for the NFV world

MWC 2015 Citrix is taking a leap into carrier-grade network function virtualisation (NFV) with a new release of its NetScaler platform.

Let's take the numbers first: the two rack unit NetScaler MPX 25000 series is a 160 gigabit-per-second appliance. Citrix says it lets operators crank up the data plane of their SGi-LAN to 3.5 Tbps. The SGi-LAN describes the network that interconnects the mobile network infrastructure to the Internet.

As Citrix network sales manager Phil Caleno explains, there are a couple of spots in current infrastructure where scale becomes challenging.

In particular Caleno nominated carrier-NAT, which mobile carriers can't do without until they implement IPv6 in their networks; and applications where the carrier wants to make “data path selections based on application layer information like which handset you're using.”

In the latter case, a carrier might need to apply different optimisation to a video stream depending on the handset accessing the stream, and therefore want to direct the streams to different optimisation kit, as discussed here.

The NetScaler MPX 25000 application delivery controller (ADC) can deliver “many dozens of instances” running on a single 2U platform, Caleno said.

Citrix has based the ADC on merchant silicon rather than custom ASICs to keep a lid on the price, and the company says its NetScaler architecture lets operators migrate from physical to virtual appliances on the same platform.

“Whether implemented in this fashion or deployed as new, the NetScaler virtual instances offer identical functionality to the NetScaler MPX 25000 appliances,” the company's Mobile World Congress press release says.

As Caleno put it, “The software on the physical appliances is the same as the software on the virtual appliances”.

As well as the carrier NAT and traffic steering, the ADC can be applied to gateway load balancing in the data plane. In the control plane, it supports LTE DNS, SMPP, SIP and Diameter load balancing. ®

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