Citrix Synergy Barcelona 2011: A review – If you tolerate this, your children will be next

Remember when you used to buy the magazines, buy the components, then use the components and the instructions in the magazines to build your own personal computer? Then install your own operating system. Then learn a programming language. Then write your own applications to run on your own computer? Then fix your computer because it blew up? Then bandage your hand because you soldered a component to your finger? Those days are likely gone but, back in October Intel reported strong PC and notebook sales, HP isn’t dropping its PC line. Your children may not tolerate building their own devices, but the PC will be a business device for at least the next to five to ten years.

What this also means is that for software companies focused on delivering applications and data to users, their solutions cannot be solely focused on virtualisation and the cloud: cannot be focused purely on thin and mobile. At  the same time, IT departments need to be more business aware, because the business is increasingly IT aware.

At the Synergy Barcelona 2011 event last week Citrix positioned themselves to deliver on just that. Some impressive cloud announcements gave a long term strategy view. There were a number of additional previews to highlight Citrix’s commitment to appeal to The Business, and not just be about IT departmental solutions. Citrix flaunted their ever growing portfolio of services to enable organisations to have a strategy for end devices that is about delivering access to data not just in a virtualised desktop, but in a manner appropriate to device and its location. Let’s take a ramble through some of them.


Citrix take on the Quest to get serious about Application Compatibility

One of the first key note announcements was  that Citrix had acquired AppDNA. AppDNA’s AppTitude  focused on tools to ease application migration and management allowing you to assess your application portfolio and feed into migration plans: a powerful tool. In this respect, Citrix was following Quest who had already purchased ChangeBase who developed a subtly different product.

While it is true that Citrix and Quest have got serious about Application Compatibility these tools offer a solution beyond the reduction of migration and deployment times. These tools  can be used as for BAU: as core tools to assess new applications for delivery into a virtualised environment – desktop transformation thus becoming a whole process, rather than an activity. However, AppDNA used to license their product per application. There was little clarification on how the application will into the standard/enterprise/platinum models that Citrix have.. and if it fits in any way to the SMB focused VDI-in-a-box. By maintaining ChangeBase as a separate product Quest offer a service to VMware View implementations, or pure Microsoft RDS – it will be a challenge for Citrix to offer the same opportunity for cross selling.

Desktop Transformation – Citrix take you from PC to Public, Private and Personal Clouds

With 2014 ever approaching, the Windows XP environment appears to have a limited shelf-life. But what about the PC it runs on? What should it be replaced with. It is a simple matter for many: another PC. The concept and requirements of VDI are too complex, or different from what they had before. In addition, there are still a great deal of legacy applications, or specific hardware required to access to data that is important to users

That is not to say VDI doesn’t have it’s uses. For those introducing hosted desktops many still view persistent desktops as offering the best performance and reduces complexity. A difficulty VDI has is not only “where to host the desktops?” but “where is the data?”. If the pipes that join the data and the applications are unreliable, the user experience is poor. The PC remains a prevalent model because application, data, and processing are all local to user.

In terms of delivering data to and managing the environment of PCs Synergy was a forum to show off what it was Citrix bought with their ‘ShareFile’ acquisition, the advances for an updated XenClient client hypervisor as well as introduce CloudGateway Enterprise services offering the ability to deliver applications and have data securely follow the user. Indeed, I was speaking to a leading UK consultancy who would rather ditch the term VDI in initial engagements and replace it with “agile desktop delivery framework”. I agree with their view. Businesses find they need to be able to provision access to data using a variety of devices, securing that device access as appropriate – not as a Gen-Y grooming exercise, but to drive productivity and meet business needs.

Citrix, as a software company delivering software should be in a prime position to offer integrated environment. In theory they have the tools with XenApp, XenDesktop, and XenClient. They have got Application virtualisation, profile management.

With XenServer and Cloud.com they have a platform to host this service in your own organisations network (your private cloud), services like CloudGateway will help manage or burst those services out beyond your network and consume (and manage) services in the Public cloud, but at the same time be able to accommodate personal devices – be they a corporate owned PC or a personal device in a secure fashion utilising Citrix Receiver and XenClient to deliver host data and applications locally – delivering a Private Cloud.

User Virtualisation is Dead?

There were a number of sessions at Synergy that highlighted that User virtualisation is not “profile management”. VDI needs User Virtualization, sure but does User Virtualization need VDI?

User Virtualization has the capacity to extend across device delivery boundaries because the user workspace, their applications and data are no longer bound to a desktop OS. The goal – greater autonomy for users to use devices. Citrix’s Ringcube acquisition will allow XenDesktop users greater autonomy in terms of installing applications: but that is not necessarily going to allow a transition of user data between devices.  AppSense have targeted user installed applications as well.

Such services raise the question of if you are extending across device delivery boundaries, how are you managing access, how are you ensuring the data is properly controlled? RES Software used Synergy to announce their new Automation Manager 2012 to complement the recently announced Workspace Manager Express a fully functional free edition of its flagship Workspace Manager.

Profile management is a great tool and VDI needs reliable profile management. But, in order to get best from range of devices desktop transformation require user management tools. Leaving services entirely in the hands of the users can lead to lost data, time and effort and increased cost. AppSense’s Harry Labana actively suggested more collaboration between vendors in the user virtualisation market to develop tools that looked beyond simply delivering data to apps in a windows environment and allowed organisations to focus on managing the users and their data, not the devices.

CloudGateway – Your Business Appstore?

Citrix announced the next stage of their CloudGateway strategy with a unified service broker that aggregates, controls and delivers Windows, web, SaaS and mobile apps along with follow-me data to any user on any device via the Citrix Receiver universal software client. The full versions should be available early 2012, betas and preview information are available from Citrix now.

CloudGateway Express replaces Web Interface – which is going EOL in 2014. CloudGateway Enterprise is similar to products already available from Centrix Software and VisionApp allowing you to aggregate all applications be they local, XenApp/XenDesktop based of hosted off-premise/in the cloud.

However, unlike other current solutions, CloudGateway Enterprise will have the facility to provide single sign-on and account management allowing you to manage and maintain access to services hosted in the Public Cloud. CloudGateway Enterprise will also offer “Follow-me data” and delivery of mobile apps – enabling greater blending between private/personal cloud services.

CloudGateway Enterprise offers organisations a way of managing the modern IT workspace across platforms. How successful it will be is too early to say – but both VisionApp and Centrix Software have carved a niche in large corporates with a similar model; it will be interesting to see how the suggested /CCU license fee for CloudGateway Enterprise will be justified.

Tools-as-a-Service

I saw interesting innovation for new tools on support and design of XenDesktop and XenServer instances. XenDesktop Accelerator Perhaps all the more interesting in that these tools blur the lines of what channel partners might consider to be their added value.  Does this hint at partners being refocused in their number or efforts?

Show me the Synergy

Synergy is about “coming together”. When Citrix started their focus was on older PCs and remote offices, coming together with the centralised data. This coming together of services is continuing as Citrix offer to deliver to the personal, the private and the public clouds.

In Barcelona, Citrix laid out its vision of the application and data delivery environment for the next generation. But in desktop transformation – you have to consider that the desktop doesn’t need to be overly transformed. In many deployments, you have to deal with “traditional desktops” these can’t be ignored: they need to be brought and managed together with virtualised services to deliver an agile desktop delivery framework.

Barcelona was confirmed as next year’s Synergy location. There were rumours that in 2012 the event would also take place at the same time as VMworld. RES and Appsense working together.. now Citirx and VMware? Should we look forward to the early April announcement of iPad 3 supporting Android – what a synergy that could be.

Andrew Wood (144 Posts)

Andrew is a Director of Gilwood CS Ltd, based in the North East of England, which specialises in delivering and optimising server and application virtualisation solutions. With 12 years of experience in developing architectures that deliver server based computing implementations from small-medium size business to global enterprise solutions, his role involves examining emerging technology trends, vendor strategies, development and integration issues, and management best practices.

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