There is a question facing many organisations as the clock ticks down on the support life of the desktop warhorse Windows XP: what, and how do we move on? But, it isn’t just about the desktop OS. An increasingly common answer to “where do you want to go today” is “all over, and not just using this PC“. There is a drive to use a cloud-based applications, share resources beyond the corporate LAN: and not just with a piece of kit constrained to a cubicle.
To help companies with these challenges Centrix Software have enhanced and streamlined their portfolio. Although 5.3 may seem like a minor point revision there are key changes in the end-user computing analytics product Centrix Workspace iQ, and Centrix WorkSpace Universal a workspace delivery platform which provides unified access to applications, desktops and content from any device and any location.
When we first took a look at at Centrix WorkSpace iQ we reviewed how it is designed to give organisations a complete overview of their IT resources and how they are being used across the estate. In the latest release, Centrix Workspace iQ gets enhancements to extract IT intelligence on users, assets and rationalization opportunities in faster time with improvements to management reporting in the form of improved automation of document generation and usefully the ability to relate application, device and service requirements to business groups rather than simply authentication groups. There are also new features that can help enhance a Windows 7 migration experience by providing automated Windows 7 hardware compatibility assessment and reporting on IE6 usage.
As well as a revamped admin and user interfaces, WorkSpace Universal 5.3 gains features to support the compliant use of Software-as-a-Service applications and dynamic application provisioning in private cloud environments namely Cloud pass-through authentication and Content launch policy control.
For ease, and to give my loyal reader a chance to do something else in a day, we’re going to split the analysis of these Centrix’s releases into two separate articles. Right here and now we’ll focus on WorkSpace Universal and what the new authentication and content launch functions can bring.
Isn’t a Workspace Delivery Platform just a Portal?
Your average user rarely thinks in terms of their “desktops” as being an operating system, they think in terms of their desktop being “the place where all their stuff is that they need to work on“. An issue with “Portals” is that the expectation is often that all the applications and data needs to be contained within a web service. This may be a long term goal, but businesses are often not in a position to work like that today. You’ll likely have a range of applications and data types that need to be delivered. At the same time, there will be an on-going demand to introduce new services, new data and new applications.
The goal of a workspace delivery platform should be to improve end-user efficiency and enable flexible working; provide a single end-user interface to access applications from any device, from any location. Importantly, it should be able to aggregate multiple delivery technologies; it shouldn’t just be about giving access to web services. There needs to be a catalogue of available applications, so a user can search for new applications if their requirements change and there needs to be an automated request system for authorisation and provision of those new services.
A workspace delivery platform needs to present information and applications from a range of environments; and it needs to be able to provide a dynamic framework to request and deliver new applications; and offer an insight into usage; and work on a range of browser; oh and to all of that on a range of end devices. I know, that’s a lot of ‘ands’. A workspace delivery platform should be more than just a view.
New Features in Centrix Workspace Universal
In 5.3 Centrix Workspace Universal has two new key features in addition to enhancements in usability across platforms for users and admins alike:
- Cloud pass-through authentication – SaaS solutions will require authentication of users to use them. Typically they are not free, so there will be a charge (likely on usage). It is very likely the data they hold will be important. How do you ensure that your corporate users have access to these services? Your users will have to provide a set of credentials to the SaaS provider, and it is likely that these will be different from their corporate account credentials. WorkSpace Universal 5.3 provides pass through authentication to SaaS applications, automatically supplying the required credentials to SaaS providers on behalf of users. This minimizes management overheads for the IT teams and lowers help-desk costs. With the 5.3 release, Centrix have focused on providing this facility with Active Directory Federated Services: a sensible move given the majority of corporate environments are going to be using AD as their primary authentication method.
- Content launch policy control – as users are used to ‘launching a document’ rather than opening an application to access their file, this can present a problem to organizations adopting a virtualization and SaaS infrastructure. Now, users of products such as Citrix XenApp may recognise the concept whereby local files can be automatically loaded into published applications: a useful feature for sure as it addresses this ‘launching a document’ issue – but the client-server content redirection can be quite rigid in its ability to associate files with an application. With the new Content Launch Policy Control Centrix are looking to allow organisations the ability to set a more flexible policy by which content, documents and files are dynamically associated with an appropriate application from a variety of provisioning options (be they local, virtual or SaaS).
Do you need a Workspace Delivery Platform?
In Windows 8 Microsoft have dramatically changed the desktop interface: gone is the start menu. To an extent, this has been driven by the fact that Apple’s iPhone and iPad changed the interface model. Presentation and delivery of applications and data became far more intuitive – and consistent. Users are far more likely to switch between different devices, at the same time expecting a consistent view of what it is they are working on. The PC isn’t dead, but the days of a single device centric delivery model of applications and data are ever shortening.
More importantly, if your workspace can deliver a range of services to your workforce wherever they are, can it be extended to offer those self-same services to your partners, to your customers. Enabling IT not only to support existing services and product delivery, but grow new ones.
Centrix have been in the Workspace Delivery Platform for some time, Workspace Universal is not a new offering but it is having fresh impetus. Centrix’s previous competition was the likes of VisionApp’s CloudCockpit and the market was typically focused on large enterprises. Yet, with the growth in demand for SaaS application provision and access from a variety of devices, new players are coming into the arena – Citrix with their CloudGateway for example.
Centrix have an advantage at the moment in that their approach is not simply to consider ‘cloud services’. Their portfolio considers not only the assessment of how to transform an application delivery environment, but a way of evaluating strategic IT decisions that affect the cost of delivering applications services to users and then help in managing that environment once it is deployed.