Palo Alto Networks, Citrix Ally For Major Channel Offensive7:30 AM EST Wed. Oct. 03, 2012
Citrix and Palo Alto Networks on Wednesday confirmed a strategic alliance through which they will jointly develop products and channel strategies, as well as offer reference architectures for integrating their respective application delivery and network security capabilities as whole solutions.
It's a partnership designed to provide partners and customers what Chris King, Palo Alto Networks director of product marketing, called a "unified front." It's also a not-so-subtle bid to counter the market momentum of F5 Networks, which competes with both companies.
"I think the important thing here is that Citrix offers a holistic view of application delivery networking and we have a holistic view of network security," King told CRN. "It doesn't matter what type of application infrastructure, on-premise, virtual, what device the end user might be using. It can be delivered by Citrix and secured by Palo Alto Networks."
The two companies will do joint product development as well as offer reference architectures for combining Palo Alto Networks security products with platforms like Citrix NetScaler. Four such reference architectures are available already -- what Palo Alto describes as "validated joint solutions" for Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Lync, SAP and XenApp/XenDesktop environments.
Palo Alto and Citrix also plan to align their sales and channel teams to focus on partner enablement and solutions selling in the field.
"This way they can deploy something that we know works, because the companies have tested it and the partners know how to do it," King said. "This is not a situation where partners are spitballing. They know it's a comprehensive solution."
F5, which already dominates the application delivery networking space against Citrix, has in the past year significantly ramped up its market positioning as a security vendor. F5's been highlighting that the security elements in its BIG-IP ADN portfolio are some of its fastest growing lines and also touting competitive wins against the likes of Palo Alto, Juniper and other security players -- all on the message that its ADN and network data management tools are better equipped to counter application-specific cyber attacks than traditional firewalls.
As to whether the Palo Alto-Citrix alliance was formed as a counter to F5, King said, "you can draw your own conclusions."
"We have no confusion here over who does what," King said. "Our partners know who does network security and who is about applications."
Back in July, Palo Alto Networks had a blockbuster initial public offering. Earlier this year, it snagged former F5 global sales chief Mark Anderson, now Palo Alto's senior vice president, worldwide field operations.
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Solution providers are applauding Palo Alto and Citrix's joint reference architecture and roadmap approach.
"Any time multiple vendors look at documenting how their technologies interoperate, it benefits the partner," Vid Sista, director of the network and security practice for Houston-based Accudata Systems, told CRN. "Typically our customers are looking to us for this type of integration and configuration in their environment, so having the support and documentation from both vendors does help."
Accudata partners with both Palo Alto and Citrix, as well as F5, but Sista said he isn't viewing their partnership in specifically competitive terms.
"I don't see this partnership as a direct response to what other vendors are doing in the market," he said. "I think we'll continue to see synergistic partnerships as vendors look to complement their products to offer a complete solution for customers. As a partner, we typically approach solutions from a business perspective, and it definitely depends on customer needs and what business problems they're trying to solve. A customer will choose a solution based on several factors, which may include whether they have invested in that vendor or a complementary technology already."
Other partners said they see a market battle heating up.
"F5 has been making a lot of noise around security and not exactly staying quiet about how it's taking out Palo Alto and Juniper and the other guys," said the top sales executive at a nationally known partner of both Palo Alto and F5, who requested anonymity. "You have to think you're going to see more of this type of thing. F5 is the market leader in application delivery controllers, so it's natural for smaller market players to band together when it makes sense."
PUBLISHED OCT. 3, 2012