Citrix Enhances Cloud, Desktop Virtualization Portfolio

Company has aggressive plans for replacing traditional PC environments with virtual desktops and bridging enterprise data centers with the cloud.

Citrix Systems has unleashed several products at its Synergy partner conference in Barcelona.

The announcements came with aggressive plans for replacing traditional PC environments with virtual desktops as well as bridging enterprise data centers with the cloud. The company says it has made progress towards the goal; it aims to lower the cost of virtualized client devices and desktop virtualization solutions. The company also announced personal cloud technologies and advancements that will link data centers to public and private clouds.

"We do believe the industry is in the midst of a profound transition from the PC era to the cloud era," said Wes Wasson, Citrix's senior vice president and chief marketing officer, who spoke with reporters via a conference call.

Citrix made several desktop-virtualization and virtual-desktop-infrastructure (VDI) announcements, which focused on the company's Desktop Transformation Model that it released earlier this month. The company believes that it can simplify desktop virtualization deployments for organizations and make them more cost effective using the Desktop Transformation Model and tools, best practices, and a dedicated partner ecosystem.

"We believe we have now seen that crossover point with our customers this year, where the upfront first-year capital costs of virtual desktops for the first time ever are the same as physical desktops," Wasson said.

Citrix announced product improvements, some based on technologies from recent acquisitions.

Pending regulatory approval, expected this quarter, the latest acquisition will be Schaumburg, Ill.-based App-DNA, a Citrix partner best known for its migration solutions such as AppTitude, which helps IT assess its organizational readiness to move from Windows XP to Windows 7. AppTitude can also be used for assessing application virtualization or VDI deployments.  

"They [App-DNA] have a phenomenal technology that lets you take all of your existing applications, put them through this tool and quickly determine what those applications are ready for," Wasson explained. "It's really focused on migration. If you're changing operating systems or initiative virtual environments, it lets you get a very quick snapshot of what percentage of your apps will move over very seamlessly into these new environments."

AppTitude, currently available via App-DNA's sales channels, assesses potential installation and runtime issues and provides some remediation for compatibility issues. It also lets IT pros package their apps using different formats, such as the Microsoft Windows Installer (MSI), XenApp, or Microsoft App-V.

Citrix claims it has enhanced the costs of desktop virtualization thanks to three improvements. First, its FlexCast delivery solution in XenDesktop uses personalization technology that Citrix acquired in its August purchase of RingCube; the technology creates "personal vDisks" that store applications, data, and settings for each user. Common applications are stored separately in the data center. This arrangement allows IT pros to manage "a single instance of Windows and each corporate application for all users," according to Citrix's announcement, while also enabling personalization.

A second cost enhancement claimed by Citrix is a new HDX Ready System-on-Chip program, which may lead to low-cost devices, as described below. Third, Citrix is claiming overall desktop virtualization cost savings via innovations from its partners, especially at the hardware level.

HDX Ready System on Chip

Citrix unveiled a system-on-chip (SoC) design, called "HDX Ready System on Chip," that promises to extend virtualization technology to various devices -- not just to desktop computers. The company's High Definition User Experience (HDX) technology, which supports low-bandwidth connections and wide area connections with high latency, is being incorporated into silicon by hardware partners using the ARM architecture. Citrix is also planning future support for x86-based silicon. Citrix worked with Texas Instruments and NComputing on the reference architecture, which uses "off-the-shelf components," according to the company's announcement.

Wasson claimed that the Citrix's SoC design will lead to "the worlds' first truly high-definition zero client that breaks the $100 cost barrier," which is expected to happen next year. Products may start appearing on the market in "early 2012."

The HDX Ready System on Chip will support thin clients for PCs, smartphones and tablets. However, it may also enable thin-client support on nontraditional devices, such as keyboards, set-top boxes and monitors.

"Why not just put an HDX chip in the monitor and it effectively becomes a PC?" Wasson asked. "Why not do it in a phone [or put] them into smart keyboards? We also think there will be new classes of devices that perhaps we haven't thought of as well."

The SoC has support from a number of vendors, including Dell, Devon IT, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Huawei, LG, VXL and Wyse Technology.

VDI-in-a-Box 5

Citrix announced a new version of its desktop virtualization product for small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). VDI-in-a-Box 5 includes technology incorporated from Citrix's acquisition of Kaviza. Citrix closed its Kaviza acquisition back in May. The VDI-in-a-Box solution is considered by Citrix to be complementary to its flagship XenDesktop desktop virtualization solution, which is designed more for enterprises.

VDI-in-a-Box 5 is a virtual appliance that uses Citrix HDX technology, with support for three hypervisors, including Microsoft Hyper-V, VMware vSphere, ESX and ESXi, plus Citrix XenServer. Citrix claims that VDI-in-a-Box 5 reduces infrastructure costs, such as the need to manage servers and storage area networks. The product leverages direct attached storage architecture instead.

Citrix has opened up its channel partner community to provide VDI solutions to SMBs. Dell is now offering a VDI-in-a-Box solution to customers. Wyse Technology rolled out "zero-framework clients" for use with VDI-in-a-Box. Wyse claims that its C10LE and Wyse R10L thin clients will just work with the solution.

Personal Cloud

On the personal cloud side, the company revealed plans for integrating its new ShareFile acquisition, announced last week, with its widely used Citrix Receiver app and its GoToMeeting conferencing service. Like online storage and document sharing services such as Box.net, ShareFile lets users store and synchronize documents across multiple devices.

By integrating ShareFile with Receiver, the latter will become a single point of access for data, applications and desktops, Citrix said. It will enable a concept that the company calls "follow-me data." Citrix intends to blend this notion of data accessibility across products and make them available to third party ISVs, Wasson said. It will be available by year's end.

A new feature coming to GoToMeeting called Workspaces will allow data from ShareFile to be accessible from a meeting, enabling secure file sharing. "It will allow a very natural, file-based discussion," Wasson said. Citrix will release Workspaces in the first half of next year.

Cloud Management

Citrix also laid out plans for delivering its CloudGateway product. Launched in May, the company said it will ship within the next three months. CloudGateway is a tool that gives IT controls over how data and applications are made available to end users. It supports functions such as single-sign-on across all apps, user provisioning and deprovisioning, SaaS compatibility, and the ability to see service levels across all apps and providers.

The company also elaborated on how it will deliver CloudGateway. It will come in two versions: CloudGateway Enterprise and CloudGateway Express. The enterprise edition will support Windows, Web, and SaaS-based applications, while the express edition will be offered free of charge to users of XenApp and XenDesktop in an effort to entice users to upgrade to the enterprise version.

Looking to extend data centers and private clouds to public clouds, Citrix launched the NetScaler CloudConnector which linnks the enterprise network to external resources.  NetScaler CloudConnector allows for a combined fabric Citrix claims delivers two- to three-times improved optimization.

The first deliverable from this new product line is NetScaler CloudConnector for CDN, which extends data centers and private clouds to content delivery networks. The first CDN supporting the new connector is Cotendo.

Citrix also upgraded its CloudBridge product, an offering that sits in the data center or private cloud and provides links to public cloud services. A new infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) catalog will include a list of cloud providers that are certified by Citrix, where customers can tap their offerings for additional capacity as needed.

Cloud Provider Perks

For cloud providers, Citrix issued its debut of CloudPortal and CloudStack 3. CloudPortal targets providers that want to offer their customers some self-service capabilities. It is offered in two editions. CloudPortal Service Manager provides support for Windows-based clouds powered by XenApp. It also supports cloud-based Exchange, Office, SharePoint, Lync, and Web hosting. CloudPortal Business Manager provides operations support for cloud providers.

CloudStack 3 is representative of the first version of the cloud operating environment that Citrix gained when it bought Cloud.com earlier this year. CloudStack supported all of the major hypervisors; CloudStack3 adds a "cloud-optimized" version of XenServer 6 in addition to integration with NetScaler appliances and support for the Swift, the storage technology that is the basis of OpenStack. OpenStack is a rapidly growing open source cloud operating environment that Citrix has said it plans to support.