Virtualization, optimization and streaming are the future for Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Citrix Systems Inc. The access technologies company used its annual iForum user conference in Las Vegas this month to outline how it views the future of the access market and to release several new products.
Citing statistics from IDC in his keynote address, Citrix president and CEO Mark Templeton said while client server applications still make up the bulk of total applications, Web applications are the fastest-growing. He added the total number of applications IT managers need to deliver is continuing to grow.
“There are new possibilities for computing systems today, with connectivity, new devices, Web services and Web architecture,” said Templeton. “You’re dealing with a more heterogeneous set of applications when it comes to application delivery.”
To address this challenge, Citrix has broken the market down into three areas: client services, Web applications and desktop applications. The company has developed a product to deliver each category.
In the client server space, Templeton said the best approach is application virtualization, and here Citrix’s answer is their legacy product, Citrix Presentation Server 4.0. The company released a 64-bit version they say will allow each server to support three times more users. It can also coexist with 32-bit technology, allowing users to migrate at their own pace.
“[It] raises the bar by maximizing server performance and scalability, and in turn driving costs associated with application deployment and management,” said Scott Herren, Citrix’s group vice-president and general manager, access management group.
Gartner analyst Mark Margevicius said server-based computing requires a network infrastructure to support it, as well as redundant servers and licensing costs, making it capital-intensive.
That makes 64-bit “a wonderful thing for server-based computing,” he said, because it will make costly server upgrades unnecessary.
Herren also gave attendees a peak at technologies Citrix is working on for Microsoft’s Windows Longhorn Server, as part of Project Constellation. The features include graphics acceleration to bring application virtualization to users of medical and mapping applications, on-demand system configuration, autonomic load management and session recording. They will make their way into Citrix products in the coming years. “It brings client server application virtualization to a whole new category of technologies and applications,” said Herren.
While virtualization may be the way, wider adoption has been held back by a lack of common standard APIs interfaces to manage virtualized environments, said Darin Stahl, lead research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-tech Research Group.
“The Constellation announcement would seem to provide a path to address [this], so we’re really pleased with that,” said Stahl. “I think focusing on [Longhorn] could provide the trigger point for IT shops still seeking understanding of how virtualization fits into their long-term strategy.”
For Web applications, Citrix has NetScaler, a hardware product it acquired through its acquisition in June of San Jose’s NetScaler Inc. A hardware device that sits in front of the server, all traffic into and out of the server passes through NetScaler, which uses caching and compression to speed the traffic and offload work from the server.
At the conference, Citrix released NetScaler Application Switch Standard Edition, a version designed for the small and medium-sized business market.
“It’s not just for the big guys anymore,” said NetScaler founder B.V. Jagadeesh, now group vice-president and general manager of Citrix’s application networking group. “[NetScaler] is the only product that delivers a best access experience…regardless of application infrastructure.”
And on the desktop applications side, Citrix is looking to bring video streaming technology to desktop application delivery. Templeton said a streaming model promises to eliminate application compatibility issues by delivering each application in an isolated environment.
Info-Tech’s Stahl said the benefits of application streaming in distributed IT environments can’t be ignored, predicting wider adoption in the next 12 to 24 months.