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Citrix Open Cloud Access and Cloud Gateway: What's the difference?

Citrix NetScaler Cloud Gateway will replace the Open Cloud Access brand and give customers much more for their money.

Citrix announced a new offering called Citrix "NetScaler Cloud Gateway" during Citrix Synergy 2011 in San Francisco last month, and it sounds a heck of a lot like the existing "Open Cloud Access" offering. So what's the deal?

First, let's look at Citrix Open Cloud Access, which was announced at Synergy in Berlin in November. As part of the Open Cloud suite of products, the Open Cloud Access component extends on-premise user identities out to external cloud application and SaaS providers. (Imagine using your corporate Active Directory account to log on to SalesForce, Box.net, etc.)

Open Cloud Access is pretty impressive. The biggest downside is that Open Cloud Access is a $50,000 add-on to Citrix NetScaler Platinum devices (which themselves are very expensive). So, while a lot of people (like Gabe Knuth) think that Open Cloud Access is cool, it's cost-prohibitive for all but the largest organizations.

Fast-forward to Citrix CEO Mark Templeton's opening keynote during Synergy last month, where he talked about something called "NetScaler Cloud Gateway," with features that sound almost identical to Open Cloud Access. What gives?

The short answer is that NetScaler Cloud Gateway is replacing Open Cloud Access. In fact, the entire "Open Cloud" brand is going away. All of the Open Cloud networking components has been rebranded under "NetScaler," and all of the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) components of Open Cloud have been moved under something called "Project Olympus." (Although, who knows if that's the final name?)

The good news about Citrix NetScaler Cloud Gateway is that (1) it has more features than Open Cloud Access, and (2) it's a lot cheaper! The bad news is that it isn't out yet.

NetScaler Cloud Gateway features
When it is available, NetScaler Cloud Gateway will have all the core features of Open Cloud Access, including the ability to extend internal user identities out to external cloud providers, single sign-on and account provisioning (where possible).

Cloud Gateway will also introduce a SLA-type service for external SaaS and cloud providers. Admins will have a dashboard where they can literally see how fast SaaS providers' services are working, availability percentages, and similar metrics. This will give IT departments a simple ability to see whether cloud providers are holding up their ends of their commitments. Cloud Gateway will also offer license-tracking abilities to ensure that customers aren't buying more licenses than they're using. And finally, Cloud Gateway will integrate with Citrix Receiver, including cloud-based data services like DropBox and Box.

The other major new aspect to Citrix NetScaler Cloud Gateway is that it's much cheaper than the Open Cloud Access. (Remember the "NetScaler" part of the name is just a brand. It doesn't mean that you literally need a NetScaler appliance.) In fact, there will be standalone versions of the Cloud Gateway which will be available as virtual appliances (based on the NetScaler VPX virtual appliance platform), as well as physical appliance-based versions and partner-hosted versions which will allow partners to sell "per-user" Cloud Gateway-as-a-Service subscriptions.

The only catch with the NetScaler Cloud Gateway offering is that it's not going to be available until Q3, giving competitors like VMware's Horizon App Manager a chance to get a foothold in the real world. (Although to be fair, both these technologies are very green, so it will probably be a few years before either catches on.) Stay tuned!

Read more from Brian Madden

Brian Madden is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as an opinionated, supertechnical desktop virtualization expert. He has written several books and more than 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Madden's blog, BrianMadden.com, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. He is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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