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What You May Have Missed From Citrix Synergy 2013

By Randy Becker, Consulting Architect, LogicsOne

Citrix held its most important event of the year for customers and partners at the end of May. I have been attending these events for many years and this had to be the largest attendance I have ever seen. I was told that 60% were first-time attendees. There was plenty of excitement, and those of you who know Mark Templeton know that he tied in great classic rock to the event. The theme was “Going Mobile,” and what else to lead things off but The Who’s classic “Going Mobile.”

So what were the highlights of the event? Mark talked about two CEO meetings he recently attended. These meetings were focused on DOS and MAC. Yes, DOS and MAC are back, but in a very different way. DOS = Don’t Add Stuff and MAC = Moves Adds and Changes. DOS focuses on doing more with what you have and leveraging technologies that reduce complexity. MAC is reduce the number of and costs associated with moves, adds and changes.

I would say that the predominant message of this conference was providing the mobile workforce the tools (applications) they require to perform their job. This is not a new message; this has been the pervasive message from Citrix for many years. The real twist here is that customers are now really able to work and perform their jobs with devices like tablets from Apple, Samsung, and others. It is my opinion that delivering Windows applications to these devices still has its limitations. It isn’t that they don’t work; it’s that the application may not be conducive to a touch pad device. Citrix offers their Mobility Pack to address some of these limitations, and I have customers successfully using Windows applications delivered by XenApp and XenDesktop to iPads.

So what does all this mean? Well, for one, Citrix recently acquired Zenprise, an MDM solution. Zenprise sits in Gartner’s magic quadrant with Mobile Iron and Air Watch. We have had a lot of fun with this one, and yes, Citrix performed a find and replace on the Z and substituted with a X. This acquisition puts Citrix in a unique position when combined with the rest of the product suite. XenMobile is the complete solution set that Citrix is marketing as an all-inclusive MDM solution.

I think two of the challenges Citrix is going to face with XenMobile are the overlap in existing products, mainly their existing MDX solution set and the complex implementations associated with MDM solutions. The challenge here will be to keep the best of both products and provide an integrated console. I would expect the overlap and integrated console will be addressed in the near future. Don’t get me wrong, I have attended a number of training sessions and I was able to easily build my own XenMobile MDM environment and enroll my iPad and iPhone and push some apps down in an afternoon hands-on session. When I was done, I was even able to perform a selective wipe and remove my corporate managed apps with ease. Citrix spent a little time up front to get the APNS cert squared away. Apple doesn’t make it easy for large corporations to manage Apple devices.

Project Excalibur, now XenDesktop 7, is the most significant release we have seen yet to date, to be released in the June timeframe. Included in this we will now see the integration of XenDesktop and XenApp in one platform. This is a major product change, and the end of Independent Management Architecture (IMA), replaced with XenDesktop’s FlexCast Management Architecture (FMA). This will mean a clean install for XenApp customers, again. To combat the whole XenDesktop is complex, Citrix did an amazing job reducing consoles and simplifying the install. I never minded the extra consoles; it just amazed me that it takes so long to integrate them. As Mark Templeton said, two consoles, eight clicks and 20 minutes and you have a working environment. I’m a strong advocate for proper planning and design, so this is fine for a POC. Spend the time up front before the “20 minutes” to install. Now the two consoles are not 100 percent accurate if you want Provisioning Server (PVS), and I almost always recommend that you include this in your delivery solution.

The two primary consoles are Desktop Studio; this is where you perform all of your configuration and Desktop Director, the place you go to manage and support your users. The interface to Desktop Director ROCKS! We continue to see Citrix develop support tools that makes everyone’s lives easier, including the users. XenDesktop also allows for easy publishing of single applications on desktops, so if you need backward for forward compatibility this is even easier than before.

XenDesktop 7 also has better integration with high-end video adapters from NVidia and two new K adapters for two different purposes. We are now seeing that you need Graphic Processors for even Knowledge Workers in VDI using standard office applications. This is different than the need for high-end graphics cards for software like Solid Works and AutoCAD. Two different requirements and two different cards and solutions that can be integrated, check out these cards from NVidia.

Web Interface is now dead with the release of XenDesktop 7. It has been replaced with StoreFront. Customers should be focusing on moving to StoreFront even for existing deployments. No big changes here for the end users. On the back-end there are significant changes in terms of flexibility and scale. To make it easy for users, one can download Citrix Receiver and all they need to know to get setup and access to applications is their email address. This auto provisioning is amazingly easy, and I highly recommend that this be included in any implementation.

There was some significant news on the NetScaler front. A new code update, HDX Insight, an additional high-end model and an expansion of the partner solutions running on NetScaler SDX. SDX is physical hardware, with a hypervisor using virtualized NetScaler instances with dedicated hardware to each instance. Partners like Palo Alto and BLUECAT will be able to leverage the SDX platform. More to come on these announcements but we can all see where this is going. Cisco and Citrix have formed a very strong partnership including the NetScaler as a Cisco Validated Design (CVD). Cisco is now using the NetScaler as their go to Application Delivery Controller (ADC) and XenDesktop on Unified Computing System (UCS). Customers are also going to be able to add HDX Insight for the NetScaler; this will give additional monitoring visibility into all traffic flowing through the NetScaler including High Definition User Experience (HDX). For those of you not familiar with HDX, think of HDX protocol as ICA on steroids.

One announcement that didn’t get much attention is the Mac Desktop Player. I think this is part of XenClient and allows for the checking out of a Windows desktop. Almost everyone that has a Mac uses some type of virtualization layer to run Windows on a Mac now. I assume we will see more information on this once it goes into tech preview.

In summary, some key takeaways:

All in all, a successful event!

Randy Becker.

Randy Becker

Randy is responsible for GreenPages’ overall cyber security strategy, including developing comprehensive policies and procedures to protect critical applications while ensuring business agility and velocity. With more than 30 years in the IT industry, Randy has strong expertise in cyber security and risk management; security operations and optimization; infrastructure modernization; and hybrid cloud architecture, design, and implementation. Randy is also a HITRUST Certified CSF Practitioner (CCSFP) which ensures clients have access to the highest level of expertise related to privacy, security, compliance, and risk management.