Citrix wants IT shops to mash up their desktops

SANTA CLARA, Calif.  Citrix Systems Inc. says the desktop will soon become a mash up of services, transforming IT leaders into aggregation specialists.

For Harry Labana, vice-president and chief technology officer of Citrix’s desktop and application virtualization, this means the chief information officer will transform into the chief aggregation officer. The primary responsibility of this redefined role is to provide governance and compliance for managing both externally and internally hosted services.

“If the services are better on the outside, that’s what I’m going to use,” he said, indicating that he frequently goes outside of the Citrix environment to use services like DropBox to move big presentations.

Labana said that as desktops become services, apps go from being installed to on-demand, data goes from distributed to “follow me,” the network goes from corporate to public, and servers go from physical to the cloud.

Ultimately, Labana said, enterprises need to get out of the “protecting devices” game and into the “protecting data” business. “Who wants to be in the business of device management anymore,” he added.

This shift requires the centralization and consumerization of IT services, which in turn means embracing the concept of BYOC (Bring Your Own Computer) as well as adopting more public cloud-based services.

Simon Crosby, chief technology officer of Citrix’s data centre and cloud division, said the idea of the cloud for enterprises really means “no IT.”

“If you look at a big cloud like Amazon’s Web Services, there’s nobody inside it,” he said, adding that the biggest barrier to cloud is people and not technology.

Crosby said that users won’t find their favourite back-end enterprise applications on AWS, but “if they pull out their smart phone, they’ll find every single app is on there.” He added that the “consumer-centric” cloud which is open and compatible is growing far faster than the “IT-centric” cloud.

With consumers now using three or four different devices to access corporate data, IT departments will be left with an impossible management job unless they embrace the new distribution model, Labana said.

Along with the use of public and private cloud technologies, desktop virtualization will play a key role in facilitating this new mashed up desktop. But Labana said many desktop virtualization projects are scuttled by the fact that IT shops often approach the project as they would a server virtualization rollout.

He advised organizations to dedicate a team of staff specifically to desktop infrastructure as opposed to shifting server virtualization experts to the task.

Currently, through products such as XenApp and Citrix Receiver, the company feels that its desktop virtualization customers can deliver an environment where users isolate consumer and enterprise behaviour on the same device. Citrix also said its IT shop customers can rollout apps to its users regardless of the endpoint device.

Case in point, the company said it already has a version of Receiver in the works for the newly announced, but-not-yet-released WebOS tablet from HP. The company has even traded in the “thin client” buzzword in favour of the “thin device” term.

At a Toronto virtualization event last year, Alex Topitsch, director of advanced solutions at Woodbridge, Ont.-based IT services firm Soroc Technology Inc., said many of his clients are treating 2010 as a “business case year” for desktop virtualization. He said the benefits for clients include a more secure environment, better uptime for desktops, stronger data protection capabilities, and if done correctly, a financial benefit.

“The technology was a lot more mature than server virtualization when it first came on-board,” he said, adding that day one benefits include a consolidated and efficient desktop operating environment.

For 2011, Labana said, enterprise IT needs to give up control and move out of the way when dealing with device endpoint management and app delivery.  He predicted that whether enterprises like it or not, by 2015, a greater number of hosted virtual enterprise desktops will be delivered as a service by a service provider, as opposed to an IT department.

Users don’t care where the services are coming from, Labana said, they just want the ones they need and they want them on their device of choice.