Cisco, Citrix to fix outsourcing service levels

Cisco and Citrix teamed up last week in a technology alliance designed to allow application service providers (ASPs) to enhance the performance of applications running via the Internet.

As part of the Cisco Hosted Applications Initiative, the joint technology development agreement will allow ASPs to deliver additional services and levels of guarantees when hosting applications via a Cisco networking infrastructure and Citrix thin-client software.

The technology uses a combination of Cisco's Network-based Application Recognition (NBAR) and Citrix's ICA network-traffic protocol, which lets ASPs redeploy client/server applications for the Web. Using the two in tandem, enterprises and ASPs can improve performance as well as classify and prioritise application use.

Citrix will support the NBAR technology in forthcoming application server products. The end goal of the technology alliance is to improve quality of service (QoS) in delivering applications via a network. QoS has been a sticking point in delivering hosted applications.

NBAR can look deeply into an IP packet and route it based on its content, such as a URL, not just its IP header. This gives service providers more control in prioritising network traffic and maintaining an agreed-upon QoS, as well as other crucial features.

"[Electronic] commerce doesn't just need QoS. It also needs security, load balancing, and caching that can be turned on in a synchronised way," said Peter Alexander, vice president of enterprise marketing at Cisco Systems.

The technology is aimed primarily at ASPs, but large enterprises running global networks will also be able to take advantage.

The partnership between the two companies is an example of a growing trend in the ASP marketplace as companies look to high-powered partners to gain a foothold. The Cisco Hosted Applications Initiative was started in April 1999 and is designed to create a community of partners in the ASP space.

Cathleen Moore contributed to this article.

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