Citrix is touting the ability of the new version of NetScaler to dramatically reduce data centre costs, as more and more businesses look to the cloud to deliver their enterprise applications.

"We are hugely excited about the new version of NetScaler," said Damian Saunders, manager of the application networking group (AGN) at Citrix. "The new version brings some features that haven't been seen in widespread use before."

Citrix's NetScaler is designed to speed up the delivery of web applications. It is an inline device that sits in the data centre, between the server and the gateway to the Internet. It is a premise-based solution, with no client footprint.

Citrix claims that it can cut the cost of deploying web applications such as Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle E-Business Suite and SAP by 50 percent. "We stuck with the claims that we can backup," insisted Saunders, pointing out that the claims were based on feedback from the beta programme of the new version.

Saunders also told Techworld that there are 350 new features in version 9 over previous version (8.1).

"To be honest, it has been the hardest press releases to write, as we couldn't possible include all the new features this version contains," explained Saunders. However he highlighted four key features of NetScaler 9.

This includes the ability to simplify the deployment of applications, as NetScaler 9 is equipped with AppExpert Templates. These templates feature pre-configured deployment details for widely-used web applications. Settings such as caching, compression, and firewall settings are already included, so the installation can be rolled out with minimal manual intervention.

Citrix has also improved "application fluency", as IT managers now have the ability to set SLAs (service level agreements) for different classes of users, thanks to the new AppExpert Rate Controls. What this means in practise that legitimate users can be assured of access to their applications, but traffic from spiders, web scrapers or botnets can be rejected to redirected elsewhere.

Citrix has also tightened up on XML security, after extending the web application firewall to provide better protection for SOA and web-based applications, areas previously vulnerable to hacker attacks. 480-bit encryption is offered (mostly for government and some enterprise use), but Saunders says this high level of encryption is not standard on the box, although it can be utilised if needed.

There other major area of improvement for NetScaler 9 is the efficient allocation of network and server-based resources, thanks to a utility that manages changes and extensions to currently deployed web applications. AppExpert Service Callouts integrate logic from external applications into NetScaler policy decisions. Support for IPv6 has also been included.

"This is a sector (web-based applications), that despite the economic downturn, is still in double digit growth," said Saunders. "There is a currently shift in large businesses, where they are looking at their infrastructure, which is still essentially dumb infrastructure. What is beginning to happen now is that customers we work with, are looking at their network as a programmable platform."

"Companies are not looking at widespread networks, as they already have the reach they want, but they are now seeking to increase the capability of their network," added Saunders.

NetScaler 9 will be released to the web on 26 November for existing NetScaler customers with a valid maintenance agreement. It will ship to new builds at beginning of January, 2009.

Pricing for the box starts at £37,000 ($54,543), while a top end deployment can cost up to £370,000.

Citrix brought NetScaler for $300 million back in June 2005, and in May this year, it teamed up with Akamai to offer global application optimisation, combining Akamai's internet-based web application acceleration (WAA) service with Citrix NetScaler in customer sites.