Citrix adds the ability to ‘VM host’ legacy apps

Citrix Systems Inc. is giving IT administrators the option to “VM host”the apps they stream down to end users with an update to its XenApp virtualization delivery tool.

The company said XenApp 5 Feature Pack 2, which is available now, will allow users to take an application and move it to a PC — either physical, blade or virtual — and have it act as a server.

“So instead of running on a XenApp server on terminal services, it’s running on a PC,” said Bill Hartwick, senior director of product marketing in Citrix’s XenApp product group, adding that the new functionality works especially well for old legacy apps that might not be compatible with a multi-user terminal services environments.

Hartwick said this new delivery capability will help get companies to 100 per cent compatibility and give them the ability to deliver any application with XenApp.

“If you can’t run it directly hosted, or you can’t run it isolated in the data centre and stream it out to the endpoint, this is a third option to deliver that application out with XenApp,” he said.

For app streaming to work, legacy applications often need to be customized to work properly in the virtual environment. This latest upgrade aims to give IT shops an easier way at continuing the life of legacy applications and delivering them virtually to the users that need them.

For the many IT shops considering the prospects of migration to Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7, XenApp could be a killer use case for endpoint virtualization, according to Andi Mann, vice-president of research for Enterprise Management Associates Inc.

“To start with, the ability to run applications in a dedicated desktop VM removes a huge burden for compatibility testing that administrators would have to perform — across many different builds — because XenApp can run apps on a real XP desktop system and not just a server build like Windows Server 2003,” he said, adding this will allow users to have a Windows 7 desktop, but still run apps on an XP virtual machine.

He said this also means that administrators might even be able to skip the application roll out step altogether. “They can provide a bare Windows 7 desktop, and let users access their applications from XenApp,” Mann said. “This again reduces the administration workload tremendously.”

Chris Wolf, a senior analyst covering virtualization for the Burton Group Inc., said that the XenApp and presentation virtualization will continue to have a strong role in IT and the choice users should be able to have in accessing the apps they want, when and where they want them.

“We all agree that virtual desktops are a large part of the future, but XenApp remains a large part of application delivery in the present,” he said. “Citrix continuing to more tightly integrate XenDesktop and XenApp is a very good move. Citrix also gains a competitive advantage through XenApp, as it gives them more ways to deploy applications to user endpoints.”

The ability to use both XenDesktop and XenApp together, he added, will be especially useful for Citrix-based shops. “For example, a user may use a XenDesktop to access applications while at his office, and then use Citrix Receiver on his iPhone to access his applications via XenApp while on the road,” Wolf added.

The only drawback of XenApp, according to Mann, is that enterprises will need to have a good strategic plan going in. Users will end up losing most or all of their personalization — including application options — and a lot of data transfer will be required to load endpoint application files into a server-hosted environment.

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