Yesterday, Citrix made us laugh, made us cry, and, occasionally, made us groan in awkward agony during the opening keynote of Citrix Synergy Barcelona 2012. The highlight of the show, for me, was Excalibur, which answers years of wishing for a combined management and backend for XenApp and XenDesktop. Honorable mention (and, understandably, Jack's favorite part) goes to the mobile application platform that leverages Cloud Gateway and Citrix Receiver. There were other technologies shown, some good and some seemingly pointless, so lets break them down. You can also hear Shawn Bass, Jack Madden and I break it down in our podcast recorded after the keynote yesterday.
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Excalibur is Phase 1 of Project Avalon (read about it in Brian's Synergy Live Blog from May in San Francisco), and the primary reason to be excited about it is that it finally combines XenApp and XenDesktop into one management console and a single backend architecture–XenDesktop's FMA (Flexcast Management Architecture). What's interesting, though, is that Citrix doesn't mention XenDesktop and XenApp when talking about the features of Excalibur. They use the more generic terminology for those datacenter-hosted desktops, Server Hosted Session-Based desktops instead of XenApp, and VDI or hosted desktops for XenDesktop. I asked about whether or not that meant the product names are going away and was told that was "to be determined."
Also included as part of Excalibur is Profile Manager, Storefront (which is officially replacing Web Interface), and Edgesight. All of these will be deployed via one install, rather than downloading individual components and installing them in the proper order (hooray!). While Web Interface isn't supported, Citrix has confirmed that it will still work in some capacity, but features and performance are not guaranteed.
One thing to note is that Excalibur does not have support for 32-bit terminal server environments. The reason for this is that the way a terminal server is deployed is by essentially putting a XenDesktop-like VDA on a server OS, rather than installing the XenApp components. In this way, Excalibur is a lot like Dell Quest vWorkspace, treating servers and desktops as the same thing. There are not 32-bit server VDA packages for those OSes, and Citrix believes that customers would be better suited using legacy XenApp platforms until support for the OS has reached end of life, or until you can migrate away from the application. Whether or not that philosophy changes is up to the customers wishes, so if that's something you want to see, let Citrix know.
FMA has some major differences from IMA, most of which are welcome changes. One thing that Shawn Bass brought up in our podcast was that FMA doesn't have the concept of zones, which for XenApp servers are important for spreading around intra-server communication, configurations, and scalability. It's probably the main thing to keep an eye on moving forward, although you have to think that Citrix has addressed this or feels that it won't be an issue.
Excalibur is being launched as a Tech Preview on November 1, so stay tuned for a look at what it's all about.
CloudGateway / Mobility
Jack Madden has the complete write-up of Citrix's CloudGateway and mobility announcements on ConsumerizeIT.com, so check that out to get an update. What I'll say is that it is becoming quite clear that Citrix is putting a significant amount of resources into it. There is no doubt that Citrix sees this as their future, and that we in the desktop virtualization space need to start learning more about CloudGateway and what it can do.
Most organizations have some overlap between their desktop application management and their mobile application management, and as time goes by the two strategies will merge into one vision that has been dubbed End User Computing. So, read Jack's article, and brush up on your CloudGateway.
XenClient Enterprise support for Ultrabooks
I have this one in here because I didn't realize that XenClient Enterprise didn't already have support for Ultrabooks. The reason for this is that Type 1 hypervisors (client or server) are at a disadvantage when it comes to hardware releases. They're always playing catch-up, and in this case the lag was due to Sandy Bridge. Citrix had to wait until Ultrabooks and other Sandy Bridge-based systems were available before designing components to support them, a problem that all Type-1 hypervisors have when it comes to new hardware.
ShareFile StorageZones Connector
StorageZones were announced in May, so nothing is new in that regard. What is new is that there is a Tech Preview of the StorageZones Connector, which is an on-premise solution that integrates into your existing file shares, making them available via ShareFile clients. This is an important piece for ShareFile integration with customers because it means that you don't have to move your data into the cloud to use ShareFile, something that a lot of companies have an issue with.
While you don't get all the features that the SaaS-based ShareFile gives you (geographical awareness, collaboration, etc…), it does complete part of the mobile data puzzle.
Someone please give me a reason to care about Podio
I tweeted something to that effect during the keynote, and then asked it of Shawn in the podcast. The answer across the board was silence, and I'm still left wondering what the point is in the grand scheme. Why would Citrix get into this space just to leave it as-is? Podio looks cool, I just don't get why Citrix has them, or why a company would go through the arduous process of abandoning current processes and applications to switch to them.
GoToMeeting via Kinect?
Like last year's Receiver for Facebook, Citrix had a doozy of a demo this year in the form of GoToMeeting HD Faces via Microsoft Kinect camera. The idea that was demonstrated was that Kinect could be used to identify people and separate them from the background, placing them in to a virtual workspace where they could all work together.
I can't get past how ridiculous it seems that this would be important to any organization. It was a cool, gee-whiz demo, but it took up time in an already-too-long keynote. My hope is that that's all this was, because I can think of a lot of things that developers could be working on besides virtual workplaces for meetings. Maybe I'm just getting old…
After this show, it's quite clear that Citrix is putting a lot of effort into mobility, and it's safe to say that in 5 years this event and Citrix itself is likely to look vastly different. Still delivering the same things, but this is not your father's Citrix. We'll take the next step in May when Synergy heads to Los Angeles (well, Anaheim).
Stay tuned for the videos we shot at the show, and for follow-up discussions on these topics. We have a ton of article ideas for the next few weeks, and we'll drill deeper into many of the things discussed here. In the meantime, let us know what you think in the comments.