Citrix spent a lot of time talking about future technologies at this year’s iForum. I was able to see full demos of some of these technologies, while others were only discussed in concept. Some of these technologies will make it into Presentation Server 4, while others are in earlier stages of development and won’t be released for some time.
I'd also like to point out that this is not a full "feature" list of MPS 4. I'll provide a detailed look at all of the features of MPS 4 in the next few weeks. (After I get a chance to play with it in the lab.)
Citrix’s future technologies include:
- Smart Access
- ActiveSync via ICA
- TWAIN imaging device ICA redirection (scanners, cameras, etc.)
- Performance management technology licensed from Aurema and RTO
- Audio enhancements in preparation for VoIP
- EMF-based Printing
- Windows 64-bit support
- Application Isolation Environments
- Virtual IP addresses
- ICA Session Recording, Archiving, and Surveilling
- Hardware Appliances
Smart Access is the marketing name that’s been given to a set of technologies that detects certain characteristics of a client device and then customizes the level of access that client device has based on those characteristics.
For example, a corporate-managed laptop connecting from the inside network might be able to connect to an ICA session and have client-drive mapping enabled. However, if that same user connects from a non-managed client, client drive mapping might be disabled. Or, if a user is able to authenticate with two-factor authentication they might get access to sensitive applications, but if they can only authenticate via a username and password they might only get access to basic applications.
This technology will be implemented across the MetaFrame Access Suite. However, its exact use will depend on the specific product. For example, the next version of MetaFrame Secure Access Manager will introduce more “traditional” portal capabilities such as document stores. Smart Access will actually change the actions a user can perform on a document. Connecting from inside the firewall on a corporate managed PC? You get full control. Connecting from a non-managed PC? Local saving is disabled. (Citrix acquired the foundation of this portal content protection technology when they quietly bought Motivus earlier this year.)
For ICA sessions to Presentation Server, Smart Access can enable or disable certain published applications or certain virtual channels based on client device characteristics.
It’s important to note that while all this Smart Access stuff is based on policy configuration, the exact characteristics of a client device are dynamically determined at connection time. This means that a little snippet of code physically executes on the client device to determine its traits. (Is it managed? Current antivirus? Hotfixed?)
This technology sounds very similar to the software sold by Citrix partner WholeSecurity. It also sounds a lot like Microsoft’s network access quarantine technology that’s being added to Windows Server 2003. Citrix claims that their Smart Access will integrate with and complement both of these, although they declined to provide specifics.
ActiveSync Support for Presentation Server
MetaFrame Presentation Server will fully support ActiveSync via ICA sessions. ActiveSync will be able to run on the server in multiple sessions at the same time. From there users will be able to synchronize their PocketPC mobile devices over ICA, even if the devices connect via USB. Citrix also expects to add full PnP support here.
TWAIN Imaging Device Support
MetaFrame Presentation Server will also support TWAIN-compliant imaging devices via ICA, enabling remote support for local scanners and cameras. To do this, Citrix will add a TWAIN virtual channel to ICA. Once this is in place, you’ll then be able to use an imaging application on a remote Presentation Server to acquire an image from a local scanner. Since this support is built at the TWAIN level, you’ll only need to have the scanner drivers installed on the client device.
Performance Management Additions to MPS
I wrote an in-depth article about this a few days ago, so there’s no need to repeat it here. The bottom line is that Citrix licensed CPU workload management technology from Aurema and virtual memory optimization technology from RTO Software. Both of these technologies will be built in to a future version of MetaFrame Presentation Server.
Presentation Server Audio Enhancements
Several Citrix folks spent a lot of time talking about new audio capabilities that were being incorporated into Presentation Server. They’re extending the current basic support for bi-directional audio so that it can support real time audio applications with the ultimate goal being able to support soft phone VoIP apps. Citrix is also implementing adaptive audio buffering and making other changes that should improve audio quality and support over latent networks. They’re also adding support for the advanced volume control panel and audio mixers over ICA.
Citrix is completely re-writing the printing engine for MetaFrame Presentation Server 4. I wrote about this in-depth here.
Citrix acknowledged that they’re working on a 64-bit version of MetaFrame Presentation Server, although they wouldn’t say when we could expect it. (Of course this is geared towards the 64-bit extended support with AMD Opteron or Intel EM64T processors. This is NOT the same thing as Intel Itanium.)
They hinted that it will be out around the same time as Windows Server 2003 64-bit, which is currently slated to be released at the same time as Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 sometime in the first half of 2005.
Application Isolation Environments
This technology, abbreviated “AIE,” lets you install side-by-side applications into their own “isolation environments” on a single MetaFrame server. Each application’s registry keys, files, DLLs, objects, etc. are written to a special subfolder. Citrix engineers in the tech lab showed us how you could install Access 97 and Access 2000 together on the same server, each within its own isolation environment. You can also publish applications so that they run with specific AIEs.
Citrix claims that this AIE technology coupled with the performance technology from Aurema and RTO will mean the end of siloing.
This technology is somewhat similar to Softricity’s, although there are several major differences. I’ll put together a more in-depth article about this next week.
Virtual IP Address Support
Future versions of MetaFrame Presentation Server will allow users to have virtual IP addresses, so that each user on a server could have their own IP address. This is great for legacy applications that identify user sessions based on IP address or for applications that create virtual internal loopback adapters (like VoIP soft phones).
New Product: GoToWebinar
Citrix Online will soon be announcing a new product called GoToWebinar. This service should provide everything a little guy like me needs to host a webinar, including support for thousands of attendees, event recording, archiving, and playback, web-based registration, attendee self-service, and simple web-based administration.
I personally am very excited about this. I’d love to do webinars, but all the services I’ve found that offer them have been way too expensive.
Focus on Compliance
Citrix is also going to focus more on the compliance space by helping companies meet the compliance regulations set forth by things like HIPAA, US Patriot Act, and Sarbanes-Oxley. (Obviously these are all US-focused.) One of the compliance technologies they’re putting in place is the IRIS project.
ICA Session Recording, Auditing, and Surveilling
Citrix “IRIS” project (ICA Recording ICA Surveillance) will provide a policy-driven way to record ICA sessions. It will also collect metadata such as the duration, username, and applications that were accessed. (An open API will allow ISVs to extend their applications so that they can also write events to this IRIS log.)
Citrix is building this technology for the compliance space, and that means that the session log files must be collected, transported, and stored in a secure and tamper proof manner.
Citrix is building new logging technologies for session recording. So far, they’ve managed to squeeze a full day’s worth of work down into a 30MB playback file.
They’re building this technology so that it can scale to enterprise environments. They plan for it to be reliable and scalable while minimizing performance impact.
Citrix CEO Mark Templeton discussed mechanisms of delivering software to customers. He said that no longer is it, “software as a CD, or software as a service. We also have to look at software as an appliance.” My feeling is that a Citrix Secure Gateway device would make the most sense here. Perhaps it will even support more protocols than HTTP and ICA, making it more of a traditional SSL VPN?
Future Presentation Server Roadmap
Of course Citrix didn’t come out and say any of this, but I think through talking to enough people I’m able to provide the following roadmap.
The next version of MetaFrame Presentation Server is codenamed “Colorado.” It will probably be called something like “MetaFrame Presentation Server 4” and released in the first part of 2005.
Beyond that, the next version is codenamed “Ohio.” I have no idea what it will be called in real life, and it will probably be out in late 2005 or early 2006. Several people have suggested to me that feature releases are going away, so Ohio might be called MPS 5. However, this might also be the timeframe that they combine all of the four Access Suite products together and sell them as one, so it might also be called “MetaFrame Access Suite 2006” or something like that.