Citrix is one of the most well-known providers of VDI and mobile working solutions and is used in many organisations around the world, both in public and private sectors. There have been some big developments from Citrix in the last 12 months, some of which were introduced at Citrix's annual conference Synergy back in May of 2015. This article will highlight some of the major changes and new offerings Citrix has for customers.
XenApp and XenDesktop
There has been some confusion over the last couple of years around XenApp, Citrix’s product for virtualising applications. First Citrix removed the product name from its offering and started using XenDesktop solely (even though the functionality was still there under the hood). After a backlash from customers and partners Citrix brought back the XenApp name in version 7.5 which is still the case with the latest version 7.6.
Another big announcement from Synergy on the XenApp front is that support for XenApp 6.5 has been extended for another year. This means End of Maintenance is now December 2017 giving customers more time to migrate to the newer products. This doesn’t mean Citrix have stopped all development for XenApp 6.5 as a new feature pack has been released to enhance the current offering.
One exciting feature coming to the latest version of XenDesktop and XenApp is the introduction of FrameHawk. At the beginning of 2014 Citrix purchased a company called FrameHawk which they have recently incorporated into their latest XenApp offering. This new technology allows connections over unreliable networks to maintain a session back to the servers in the datacentre, even over connections with a 250ms roundtrip and packet loss between 5% and 50%. This is quite impressive and will make a huge difference to users on 3G/4G connections accessing Citrix hosted systems.
On a side note, another development from Citrix is the X1 mouse. A lot of customers want to be able to access applications from devices such as iPads but these apps may not be touch friendly. With a laptop a user could utilise a mouse or trackpad but with an iPad this is slightly more difficult. Now Citrix have released their own device that allows a user to connect a mouse up to their Citrix session via their tablet and use it like any other machine. It's still early days for this new product, which is available to purchase now, but it's an interesting concept and one to keep an eye on.
Some of the other key changes to XenDesktop/XenApp include:
- StoreFront 3 and a new Citrix Receiver
- Support for Skype for Business with Feature Pack 2
- Linux virtual desktops
- Feature Pack 3 for XenApp 6.5
- AppDisk – allows for individual applications to be containerised in a disk
- AppDNA integration
Citrix Workspace Cloud
One of the complications around deploying a new Citrix infrastructure is how to design and deploy the supporting systems, or the control plane, such as SQL services, Delivery Controllers and StoreFront servers. Citrix have realised this and now offer a cloud solution called Citrix Workspace Cloud. What this offers customers is a way to move the control plane from the datacentre to either a public or private cloud. Customers connect their Citrix application servers to the Workspace cloud and leverage the high availability and scalability provided. If there is a large spike in users connecting, it is the hosted control plane that will handle this initial connection, expanding to handle the load if necessary. This solution from Citrix does simplify designs and administration and could be very attractive to certain customers such as organisations looking to reduce their on premise IT footprint and move more resources to the cloud, or where simplification is needed to internal systems.
XenMobile 10 was shown off at Synergy 2015 and has recently been superseded by version 10.1. Both on premise and cloud versions of this Mobile Device Management solution are available, allowing customers to manage remote devices simply, and allowing for easy integration with other products and applications.
Citrix NetScaler is a very powerful product that does a lot more than just presenting Citrix services to the outside world. With multiple products and versions, these devices can perform a multitude of networking tasks and Citrix are increasing these features all the time. NetScaler 11 will be the latest version of the product and is currently still in beta testing. One of the new features is called 'NetScaler with Unified Gateway', which allows multiple resources to be consolidated into a single URL, allowing for a customisable landing page delivered to connecting users which displays the resources they are able to access.
So what does this mean to customers?
These latest developments from Citrix show that they are working hard not only to release new features and tools, but also to keep existing customers and their current implementations up to date. Competitors such as Microsoft and VMware are however hot on their heels and keeping ahead in the market is becoming an ongoing challenge, but this is leading to new innovations and technologies from all suppliers in the market.
Competition is also good for the customer in terms of pricing – potentially reducing the total cost of ownership of these products for all. It’s interesting to see support for XenApp 6.5 being extended, probably due to the number of users who have still not upgraded their existing installations to newer Citrix products. Overall the future for Citrix and its customers looks bright and exciting.