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.