What value will Citrix add to Longhorn Terminal Server? Project Constellation reveals their thinking

Constellation is the codename for a set of technologies that will extend and enhance Presentation Server (or Citrix’s “application virtualization” technologies as they phrase it) in the next several years.

The most exciting announcement for me at iForum 2005 here is Las Vegas is that Citrix announced something called “Project Constellation.” Constellation is the codename for a set of technologies that will extend and enhance Presentation Server (or Citrix’s “application virtualization” technologies as they phrase it) in the next several years.

We learned a few weeks ago that Longhorn Terminal Services will have seamless windows, published applications, a web interface, an SSL gateway, and several other technologies that previously required Citrix. So what value will Citrix add with Presentation Server when Longhorn is released? This is what they directly addressed by announcing Constellation. In fact, Citrix even went so far as to say that the Longhorn Server platform transition will “create more opportunity for us to virtualize applications.”

Before we look at features, it’s important to mention that Constellation is the codename of a set of upcoming technologies. It is not a product per se. Some of these features may be part of Presentation Server and some may be standalone or add-on products. That determination will not be made until these technologies are closer to their release dates.

Constellation technologies include:

Autonomic Load Management. If you thought Citrix had intelligent load balancing before, then you would think this is “very intelligent” load balancing. These autonomic load management technologies will use intelligence to beyond pure server performance metrics to figure out which server a user should connect to when they want to run an application. These capabilities learn users and their usage patterns and then look at who the user is and what resources they typically require when they logon. That way the system can figure out how a user will most likely stress a server and point them towards the most appropriate one.

End-user Experience Monitoring. Citrix will build technologies that go beyond simple server performance metric monitoring. They will add capabilities that can understand what the experience is like from the user’s standpoint.

System Health Monitoring. This includes technologies that not only check to ensure that basic critical Citrix services are running, but that also have some intelligence to make sure that the entire Citrix ecosystem is healthy and can deliver the application experience that users want.

Policy-based Session Recording. This is the Project IRIS technology that I’ve written about in the past. The short version of IRIS is that it allows ICA sessions to be recorded, logged, and looked at for security and compliance purposes. For example, you could set a policy that starts recording a session or send an alert after if sees a certain sequence of keystrokes.

Hot Updates and Dynamic Scaling. I actually didn’t get any details on this technology, so please email me or post to the comments if you heard anything. My assumption would be that this would allow certain updates to be applied to a server without having to kick off users.

Extreme Graphics Acceleration. Citrix is now realizing that more and more people want to use Presentation Server for intensive graphics applications such as 3D CAD, GIS, engineering, and medical imaging. They will extend some of the work they’ve done with Boeing and really focus on how they virtualize these applications with Presentation Server. This may include remoting OpenGL or DirectX calls, supporting server-side specialized graphics processors, or having more intelligence in the display protocols to prioritize various parts of the screen.

Citrix is not necessarily waiting for Longhorn to release these technologies. All of these technologies will begin to appear in the next 1-3 years.

While we’re discussing what value Citrix will add in the Longhorn timeframe, I should point out that I believe that their current SmartAccess and Workplace Control capabilities should also be included in that list.

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Thanks for the update Brian,

I noticed the note on the iForum Live Updates about “Project Constellation” but couldn't see much more, other than the intriguing comment about Ocelot?

Would I be right in thinking that this almost sounds like Microsoft and Citrix are working in partnership with this? I mean it almost sounds like Citrix have announced what the future of Terminal Services is going to be like?

Or is all of what “Project Constellation” is about purely concerned with extending TS in Longhorn only, is it going to backwards compatible with Server 2003? And ALL of this is the new Feature Set that Citrix want to start waving in our faces as to what it *could* be like?

PS: Was there any mention about VMWare during any of their discussions on virtualisation? Love the ESX ATDG BTW!

There wasn't any indication that Microsoft and Citrix were working together with Constellation or Ocelot.

The Constellation technologies will probably be out before Longhorn, and there is certainly nothing that would indicate that they would be Longhorn only.

The Constellation technologies appear to be real projects within the company, not just some random vision.

There was no mention of VMware in any of the discussions that I heard.

Hi Brian,

did find any info about what "bladerunner" is about ?
In a citrix/microsoft breakout security session the Citrix guy was asked as to if/when Citrix would have a WU/SUS/WUS like solution. The Citrix guy indicated that they were working on something, but it was hard to do it right, especially in a secure way, and that they wanted to get it right before putting it out there. While he didn't actually say anything about when, it "felt like" he was talking a couple of years out.

I understood that they had firm projects for constellation, all of which were being displayed to some degree in the tech lab. Templeton also mentioned a "watch this space" for other upcoming announcements.

So Brian is totally right, plus there are teasers out there suggesting that more was to come for constellation and before LongHorn. Want my guess?

The re-rendering software like Sproqit(TM) and other vendors at the iForum will be in the next release as well. Not just regular office app re-rendering but maybe something more like Konquerer + RSS + streaming.

This would make sense because Microsoft is always really interested in many partners whenever they are trying to push into a space they want (I hear the bugle blowing "Taps" for Palm).


BTW Brian .. it was really great to finally meet you.
I saw this in the tech lab at iForum. Bladerunner is a new application publishing option. Instead of just apps and desktops, citrix is going to allow you to publish windows xp desktops running under vmware or ms virtual server. The engineer I spoke to at the tech lab said that some customers wanted to use this technology to provide software development tools to programmers in India. I guess developer tools don't run very well on terminal server, and with a "true" Win xp environment dev tools work as expected.
Actually it was VMWare workstation and Virtual PC. At least that was what they told me.....twice.
yes, you are right...that was a slip on my part.


yes, you are right...that was a slip on my part.

it may have been slip because that's what you would assume it would be. I was surprised to find out it wasn't the server products. That's why I asked twice to make sure I heard correctly.
I guess it is somehow related to the VMware ACE story...
One other feature that I haven't seen mentioned (or I missed it), is that Citrix was showing a preview of Ohio (next version of Metaframe). The CMC will finally support full auditing and you will be able to control the ICA client through Group Policy.
Yeah, Ohio seemed kind of lame to me.. I want to gather more data on it before I write about it.

For example, you can control ICA *client* settings via Group Policy, but not PS Server settings!?!

There are tons of settings that are controlled on a Citrix server via the registry.. why in the world isn't Citrix addressing this?

Luckily Jeroen van de Kamp has his TrueControl ADM templates, but geez, I can't believe these are still needed in 2005.

Considering all they would talk about is the GPO stuff and the auditing, it was lame. I hope you were able to get more information from them because the guy I talked with wasn't talking.