Citrix still at forefront of Mobile Device Access for VDI

Citrix have long had a strong reputation for allowing access to their virtualization offerings – they are unique in providing a range of clients that can be installed on a variety of devices enabling access to VDI services – be the Presentation, Application or Desktop Virtualization.

Citrix have released an updated version 2 of their Receiver for the iPhone, but if they are to keep ahead of the competition, is delivering VDI access to the all powerful iPhone the best device to grab a CIO’s attention with?

New features of the Receiver for iPhone v2 include:

  • Integration with Xendesktop 4 – allowing access not only to XenApp resources as with v1.
  • Improved support for two factor authentication – with support for SMS Passcode, a two factor authentication service that sends one time passwords directly to your. cell/mobile phone.
  • Better performance – previous versions had been slightly sluggish.
  • Security Enhancements – including support for secure 128 bit encryption and password policies.

Citrix also provide a Windows Mobile client and have a technical preview available for Android and are working on enabling access for Blackberry devices.

In terms of mobile access solutions can be reassuringly expensive – while RDP access is built into Windows Mobile, for the iPhone you’ve solutions from Mocha and Jaadu who have RDP and VNC clients, Wyse have PocketCloud app for iPhone allowing access to RDP and VMWare View services and a number of vendors who offer solutions that require VNC or their own software installed in your desktop environment – such as RDM+

A key driver for implementing VDI is to improve business agility: to best enable your users to access the data they need, when they need it, where they need it. Providing access for mobile users is a logical extension of this  – especially if in utilizing their phone/email client you can remove the need to supply a costly laptop.

Yet, while Citrix‘s iPhone development moves apace the iPhone does have a number of disadvantages. As an iPhone user I’ll admit, the battery life is poor – although the newer 3G is better than the previous version its still won’t last more than a couple of hours of use. As user of Receiver, the iPhone’s small screen size, even with panning and scaling and new gestures is cumbersome at best – the iPhone’s lack of keyboard reduces the screen real estate. The usefulness of an iPhone in a email/IM/web is splendid – but as a tool for interacting with applications – poor.

And indeed – is the iPhone a business device? Its undoubtedly a favourite with tech-savvy users – but as a secure business device? It has no management tools, and it’s latest release allows a myriad of bluetooth connectivity and easier inter-device access. Security is the foremost issue separating the iPhone from Research In Motion’s Blackberry line-up or Palm’s Treo and Pre smartphones, which CIOs and IT managers have shown greater comfort deploying, due to the more rigorous data controls and authentication features. RIM, for instance, have a far greater presence in banking and government organizations.

As we’ve said, Citrix are working on Blackberry client indeed, its still possible to pre-register for the technical preview by visiting Citrix‘s website.

Blackberry are investing time and effort in support for the devices such as Celio’s Redfly. This device effectively provides a larger screen and keyboard for your Blackberry or Windows Mobile. While the current version is functional new API’s later this year will give more than simple screen redirection to improve the screen resolution and enable video. The Redfly’s simplicity is perhaps its most enticing aspect for an organization wanting to improve user’s access outside of the office – they’re easy to pair, you don’t have to worry about “which one is mine, which is yours”, they have no data retention issues, and they don’t require a build and management in their own right. With an external keyboard and screen combined with device’s secure access – corporate laptops and netbooks could well become unnecessary devices.

As organizations look to deliver great agility by utilizing VDI to deliver workspaces, being able to connect from a corporate mobile device will give an advantage over having to manage different remote access devices.

While Citrix’s Receiver for iPhone is an interesting development the iPhone’s failings for security will hinder its wide adoption for business. A mobile solution that can utilize an external keyboard and screen – such as Celio’s Redfly,  will be a more useful solution for businesses allowing access to remote applications and workspaces while reducing the number of devices that need to be actively managed.

Despite the failings of the iPhone as a corporate devices Citrix‘s ability to deliver mobile clients – for no additional cost – will continue to help drive demand for Citrix VDI solutions such as Xenapp and XenDesktop.

1. The lack of keyboard.For some quick browsing/reading emails etc that is no big deal. But to type for a while on that thing is a major pain in the ass. No matter what you say regarding this I will not agree. I use my iPhone all the time at home on my wireless to read/post on Twitter, read some of my emails and the usual web browsing. But when I need to post a lenghty reply or write something decent I go to my computer. Even a small Netbook (I tried a Gateway one with AMD CPU and 11″ screen and it was superb) provides a MUCH better experience.

2. Screen Size.Yep, great screen for watching porn and movies on a plane. But Jesus Christ, it sucks balls to read Excel spreadsheets, any decent Word/PDF document and so on. Yes, it is better than nothing but again, try reading a word document on it over a Citrix session for one hour. Sucks. Pinching/rotating is neat but becomes a major PITA after 20 minutes. Am I the only one that can see this?

3. Battery