Citrix puts XenApp, XenDesktop in the cloud

LAS VEGAS—Citrix Systems Inc. announced at its Synergy conference this week a whole sky’s worth of cloud products, including a virtual NetScaler, cloud versions of XenApp and XenDesktop, and a partnership with Amazon Web Services.

XenApp and XenDesktop will be available as a pay-as-you-go cloud service as of now, and the new Citrix Service Provider program will allow service providers to offer hosted software services to users come June.

“A lot of clients are interested in the cloud already,” said Synergy attendee Robert Tessanne, a senior systems architect and engineer with Red Level Networks in Novi, Michigan. “That way, they don’t have to go out and create a whole data centre, especially if they only have a few servers and don’t have a big IT staff.”

Large, distributed staffs—complete with many mobile workers—will also be the big beneficiaries of application delivery from the cloud, according to keynote panelist Basit Saeed, director of infrastructure with Deloitte. “We can’t have people just sitting in the office—they have to get out and visit and gauge and get quotes from our data centre. We use a SSL VPN and have 47,000 unique users. We also have to think about globalization into cost-effective areas like India and China: how do I enable them and leverage expertise where it sits?” he said. “It wouldn’t be cost-effective to take the data to them, nor would it be good to bring experts to it. For productivity, we have to follow the sun, so app delivery is a critical component.”

Also being introduced is a partnership with Amazon and its Web Services—the new Citrix C3 Lab, which will combine Amazon EC2, Amazon S3, and Citrix Cloud Centre to allow users to build cloud projects, and is available immediately.

Citrix could be posed for cloud success, according to analysts. And the main asset? Xen itself. “A lot of cloud providers are going toward it because they want to offer their own different platform (and can build it on Xen),” said Forrester Research principal analyst Galen Schreck. “By making the underlying platform free, they’re enabling these multi-tenant environments. Unlike the other, wouldn’t cost a fortune on a competitors’ platform. It requires an infrastructure that is essentially free or readily available.”

And where there’s Xen, there might be fat management contracts. “They’re trying to seed the market with as much underlying stuff as possible, but then they want to have the management structure on top,” Schreck said. “And, ultimately, this is stickier since that’s where IT will build.”

The cloud came to NetScaler MPX as well. The company’s popular appliance got a virtual makeover, with the release of NetScaler VPX. It is due in the second half of 2009. This will run NetScaler as a virtual workload (and on any virtualization platform). Working in conjunction with Citrix Cloud Centre, this would allow IT managers a shot at multi-tenancy.

“This is different because most use custom hardware and proprietary software. Everybody is trying to rush to multi-tenancy,” said Rob Whiteley, principal analyst with Forrester Research. “This completely changes provisioning on the back end, and cloud computing can take this to a whole new level.”

This would often require larger and larger hardware boxes, but the two-tier Citrix approach follows the “tenant” instead, said Whiteley. Now, with the cloud involved, cloud providers and customers can meet in the middle via a virtual appliance and surpass any competing hardware interoperability issues, he said.

This would, however, require a little finessing from the IT manager when it came to budgeting. “Companies have to account for it as it is going to suck up resources—it’ll tax more on your server than a dedicated appliance would,” according to Whiteley.

XenServer recently became free, and now the new iteration is being released in June. XenServer 5.5 will have enhanced enterprise search capability and consolidated storage.

Also being released in June is Citrix Essentials 5.5 for XenServer or Hyper-V. This add-on will offer dynamic load balancing and expanded storage integration via the Storage Link feature.

“This will create a linkage between virtualized servers and whatever storage systems you have, allowing it to take advantage of the native storage arrays,” said Wes Wasson, chief marketing officer. The new Citrix Ready Open Storage Platform project has worked with leading storage vendors to certify that this link would be as seamless as possible; partners include Brocade, CA, Dell, HP, Hitachi, LSI, Microsoft, NetApp and Symantec.

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