Gartner predict that by 2010, end-user preferences will decide as much as half of all software, hardware and services acquisitions made by IT.

And perhaps that was the driver for Citrix’s release of the Dazzle Technology Preview which “puts the personal back into computing”.

Dazzle, according to Citrix, is the first self-service “storefront” for your enterprise applications giving corporate employees 24×7 self-service access to the applications they need to work. Dazzle is billed as offering a rich, intuitive user experience that requires no training. If your users have DirecTV, BBC iPlayer or Apple iTunes they’re good to go. The capabilities this puts your administrator’s hands are to “over-publish” the businesses application set and be able to provide the end user the core applications they need to be productive, but then offer a way to request applications beyond can be seen as an enabler to the business.

Yet, Citrix have a Web Interface service that gives access to published applications in a web browser: the web interface allows straightforward access to users. Citrix also recently issued their Workflow Studio Framework. It would have been an interesting exercise to combine these two to offer an application request capability.

From an application delivery process businesses have a number options:

  • Business user has a requirement for an application that can be met be an application already supported – how do they know about/get access to that?
  • Business user has a requirement for an application that fits the business requirement, yet the business doesn’t yet own/support – how do they get it?
  • Business user has a requirement for an application that can’t be met by an application and some development/customisation is needed.

There’s a need to do business analysis here. Talking to the business user to understand their requirement; understanding if there’s a fit with what you’ve got and if not, what you’ll need.

Sadly, this is often a long-winded process. The process needs a structure to understand the requirements but this in turn saves a lot of time in making sure of a correct application fit, and that in turn saves money. That process gives the business a focus, sets an expectation on delivery. Best fit, training, licensing, server requirements, data requirements, testing, validation; all get thought through.

Granted, virtualisation can help with technical issues of application integration and performance – but not the actual ‘does this do what we need?’.

Where does such an analysis model fit with a “store front delivery method” such as Dazzle? Is it simply that users browse through the apps that a business has got? The user then has to work out that the application is a good fit for them; how do they do that? Each user? In each department? How does license procurement get collated? What is the workflow for charging back to their business unit? What happens when none of the existing applications fit? Does the new application integrate with existing data? Where does that existing data sit?

Dazzle does indeed “look cool”. It sounds cool that your web interface/deployment interface can look like an iTunes storefront – but as a business tool, what is it giving that is useful and worthy of deployment?

Unless.. it’s being suggested that Dazzle will plug into some wider, externally based application deployment mechanism that can offer more applications than your business currently supports. But even then .. who manages that process, how does that process work?

I’ve heard say of a word – ‘marketecture’ – which I think Dazzle epitomises. ‘Marketecture’ is the ‘delivery’ of a service that has no requirement; it architects an answer without a question; it might have a goal, but no one is entirely sure what it is. This isn’t a case of Ford’s ‘if I’d asked what they wanted they’d have said a faster horse’ this is a case of being sold a load of magical beans.

Can a business be in a position where they pick any application because they can? No, because it’s not just about delivery and application integration. By all means build in an approval process for an application request. It’s shown to have been useful to be better able to integrate a secure web delivery method for applications that have been tested. Having a licensing and billing function built in is a requirement – because a number of third party tools have been developed to fill that space.

There was an open forum session on at Pubforum, a technical conference, in Dublin as to where Citrix should/would go.  There was plenty of talk about focusing on ‘core’ product (XenApp) – improving policies/management; better integration with the XenDesktop; more reliable USB interface; CD Writing; better audio;  even the ability to move sessions (and I know how hard that is); better branding opportunities for the WI; improving the Mac/Java/on-win32 ICA clients .. No one *no*, and let me emphasise this here, *one* was asking for a web based shop front to deliver their applications.

Microsoft are about to release an updated Terminal Server, that mirrors a lot of features of Citrix XenApp *now* – Citrix have 5-6 years to work on features, as they have been doing for a long time, to justify the license cost.

An application store front should be nowhere near the top of that list.

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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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