Citrix: What’s New at Summit?

Citrix Summit kicked off for partners yesterday with a number of announcements. Although the conference is focused on partners, many of the announcements have a downstream impact on enterprise users.

Two key announcements associated with XenApp/XenDesktop relate to the licensing of Comtrade technology for monitoring as part of the Platinum edition and application-related functionality in the upcoming v7.8 release. Please note that v7.7 was released in late December, so announcements focused on v7.8 are based on the release that will come late in Q1.

XenApp/XenDesktop 7.8 promises to focus on applications. It will include AppDisk, which is an application layering technology, as well as a new version of AppDNA that will support compatibility testing with AppDisk. Further, improvements related to App-V and publishing applications will come in this release.

Setting up XenApp and/or XenDesktop is relatively painless at this point, because the installer does its magic with minimal initial configuration. Of course, the deployment then needs to be refined with configurations such as policies, the VDAs need to be provisioned, delivery groups need to be designated, and so on. NetScaler Gateway and applications, on the other hand, are still the most complex aspect of a virtualization environment, and this upcoming release takes steps to simplify the latter.

Integration of applications has long been a key issue for Citrix administrators because of the wide range of applications that exist. While application integration hasn’t reached perfection yet, the application-related features of the new release promise to take steps to address this pain point.

In addition, Citrix announced licensing Comtrade technology for Citrix components and availability for XenApp/XenDesktop Platinum subscribers. The Citrix components include not only XenApp/XenDesktop, but also XenServer, StoreFront/Web Interface, Provisioning Services, Citrix License Server, NetScaler, and CloudBridge. Essentially, all Citrix components can be monitored with the Comtrade management packs for Microsoft System Center Operations Manager (SCOM).

The relevance of this announcement will largely depend on whether an enterprise uses Microsoft Systems Center Operations Manager. Organizations that have invested in SCOM and are actively using it can add the respective Citrix management packs without charge as part of Platinum. To take a step back, this means that an organization has to have Systems Center Operations Manager implemented, it must be in daily production use, and the Citrix administrators must have access to it. Unfortunately, this may not be the case for the majority of Citrix implementations.

Many enterprises, especially those that make use of the Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor, start off with great intentions as far as the implementation of SCOM is concerned. After a time, for those organizations that use a hypervisor other than Hyper-V, use of SCOM sometimes decreases. Because SCOM encompasses so many aspects of the IT infrastructure and is complex, skillful administration and monitoring is often handled by a few individuals. As with any monitoring tool that addresses Citrix components, if those individuals who are looking at the dashboards or receiving alerts don’t have a full grasp on the specific items that are relevant, key issues will not be properly addressed.

If, however, SCOM is a long-term IT directive and effectively maintained by skilled personnel throughout an enterprise, including individuals with Citrix expertise, then the Comtrade announcement indeed is a value-add for Platinum edition subscribers. That means that three ifs—successful SCOM implementation, long-term maintenance, and Citrix expertisemust be fulfilled.

At the Summit conference in Las Vegas, several other announcements were made, including news about the sale of CloudPlatform to Accelerite and the release of XenMobile 10.3, as well as tech previews for new versions of XenMobile and Workspace Cloud.

Ironically, this conference for Citrix partners was held subsequent to another week of layoffs at Citrix. Not nearly as drastic as the November layoffs, this employee surplus event was much quieter and affected fewer people. In addition to making a personal impact on these individuals, the layoff diminished by a small percentage the pool of people focused on delivering new Citrix technologies. For those who still work at Citrix, there is in some cases an undertone of fear, but in others a newfound sense of enablement due to the removal of gatekeepers and layers of middle management, which has had a positive influence.

It is clear that Citrix has entered into its next generation as it morphs into a technology company that is taking steps to regain focus, even though there have been a few casualties along the way. Understandably, the generation of Citrix may not get everything perfect, and it appears that 2016 will be a pivotal year.

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