2011 Year in Review: Presentation Virtualization

So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Perhaps you sit, coffee in hand with a vague recollection of telling your boss just exactly how you thought all of this year’s decisions could have been done much, much, much better. Perhaps you told your team they were awesome, I mean like truly, truly awesome: that you loved them, that you loved them so, so much. Perhaps you’re looking for solace after a quick check of Facebook has shown exactly how you got the bruises down your right-hand side and gives insight into where your left shoe went. Perhaps you’re finally getting a chance to finally watch all those on-line presentations you put off until it was quiet.

Another year over.

It has been a while since we last updated our Presentation Virtualization Solutions whitepaper. Has nothing happened in the market in 2011? On the contrary, there was a good deal going on for Presentation Virtualization in a year that saw a new benchmark setting XenApp release from Citrix, Apple remove terminal services functionality, RES Software launch their reverse seamless technology and Ericom their HTML5 client.

If we consider what we saw in 2011, what can we expect in 2012?

Presentation Virtualization (PV) allows the creation of virtual sessions, each interacting with a remote desktop system. The applications executing within those sessions rely on PV to project their user interfaces remotely. Each session may only run a single application, or it might present a complete desktop offering multiple applications. In either case, many virtual sessions utilize the same installed copy of an application. PV can allow users to access their sessions from their corporate or home PC, their iPad, their smartphone, their Apple Mac. PV can scale to support more users than a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure with less infrastructure – but, the users sessions are hosted on a  shared server OS rather than a dedicated desktop OS: for some applications, that can be a problem.

In September when we took A Look at The Horizon, we considered how VMware could offer a function where an application could be opened on your desktop at the office and then you could leave and continue working on the document via tablet or other mobile device. With PV services from the likes of Citrix, Ericom and Quest such a function has been available for some time. This is increasingly relevant: 2011 was a year of massive growth for the media tablet market. Android tablet shipments grew substantially, from 2.45m to 3.64m, an increase of nearly 50%. Apple’s iPad shipments grew from 4.73m to 9.3m, a 97% growth. Analysts IDC’s forecast the media tablet market was 17.5%, or slightly less than a fifth, as large as the PC market in unit terms.

If you’re pushing applications and data to devices outside of the network, to devices other than the traditional laptop/PC offering using PV’s facility to provide access to specific applications can present your users with a less cumbersome, more focused interface than presenting a traditional “desktop” view: especially useful on smaller form factor devices.

To this end, in November Ericom offered AccessCloud to ISVs and Cloud Hosting Providers, an initiative around Ericom’s PowerTerm Webconnect and their HTML5 client giving the option of delivering applications straight to users in a software-as-a-service model. In December, Citrix released their Mobile Application SDK which is intended to be a tool kit to write touch-friendly, mobilized applications that are hosted on Citrix XenApp and delivered to any device with Citrix Receiver. These mobilized applications are able to leverage a wide set of mobile device functionality including GPS, sensors, cameras, and device buttons in the same way that locally running, native applications do.

A Microsoft based PV environment lends itself well to delivering such features: perhaps more so than VDI. A PV environment lends itself more readily to a multi-tenanted service that hosted desktop solutions. The Microsoft Remote Desktop Service (RDS) CAL model used in PV perhaps more straightforward and cheaper than the an equivalent VDA license, which we discussed in Licensing VDI for Microsoft Desktops – is it rocket science?

In 2010 we wondered if Citrix’s competitors will make more not only of their lesser license cost, but of their consolidated management function and support for managing multiple environments – a feature still not available with XenApp/XenDesktop. The answer here was ‘not really’. While many offer similar functions against Citrix’s Flexcast model, as we discussed in Who can outmanoeuvre Citrix Flexcast, Citrix still remain the dominant leader in the market with their XenApp 6.5 release. What is important going into 2012 is to not only demonstrate reduced license cost, but easier management and fast deployment. Also, ready integration with firewall/VPN services to give secured remote access to applications and data.. Citrix’s Enterprise and Platinum feature sets forever burgeon, yet not all those features are needed. The licensing and delivery key is in concurrency, not in named users or devices – because concurrency offers the better cost savings in terms of licensing.

Of course, these solutions are based on delivering applications on Microsoft OSes – yet PV services shouldn’t be limited to Microsoft based solutions. While Aqua Connect still offer an impressive solution for Snow Leopard, Leopard and Tiger, Apple put VDI and Terminal Services to the Lions. In addition 2011 didn’t quite see Ulteo being in a position to offer a full release of their open source enterprise virtual desktop and application delivery solution, although the latest v3 release candidate got to see the summer.

The trend in 2011 was to properly realise that PV has not been replaced as a viable enterprise desktop service by VDI or DaaS, rather it is complemented.  With the release of Windows 2008 R2, PV solutions now sit on a core Microsoft OS that has had session-based services designed in.

For 2012? If we consider Citrix’s vision of delivering services across the private, public and personal cloud space what we’re actually left with is a greater demand for the ability to access data and applications in a variety of contexts. That can be – across devices (PC/laptop/tablet/smartphone). It can be through sharing applications and services (by offering application/data access to customers, or partners). Ultimately, this could be accomplished by redeveloping your applications, or making use of brand new applications. However, that is a long process. Presentation Virtualisation not only offers a viable workspace delivery/desktop replacement service – but can allow you to offer access to your applications beyond your network and help support a greater level of compute device choice.

A very merry Christmas, and a happy New Year – let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.

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