In-Depth

13 Reasons to Consider Citrix

An analyst spends a day asking questions and getting answers.

I was recently invited down to Santa Clara by Citrix for an analyst briefing. I went with a limited agenda: to focus in on its infrastructure products, specifically its hypervisor (XenServer) and cloud (CloudPlatform) offerings; and to find out the general direction of the company.

I hadn't heard a lot from Citrix about XenServer since its last major release (6.0), back in March  2012. They've had a few minor releases since then, but still seem to have been relatively quiet. However, after chatting with the folks at Citrix, I'm convinced they're solidly behind XenServer as a virtualization platform to deliver their technology.

XenServer 6.5 is due to be released in the second half of this year, and although nothing in the tech preview is earth-shattering, it looks like it will be capable of serving up Citrix products in an efficient manner. The company seems intent on delivering a complete end-to-end systems based on their technology. They have all the pieces to do this: XenServer and CloudPlatform for infrastructure, XenDesktop and XenApp for application services, WanScaler for efficient transportation across networks, and HDX for display of desktops or applications at endpoint devices.

The Cloud Story
Now on to their cloud story. In mid-2011 Citrix purchased Cloud.com, the originator of CloudStack. The code is open source and has been donated to the Apache Software Foundation, and is the basis for Citrix's cloud product, CloudPlatform. Citrix claims it has more than 250 customers doing real stuff on CloudPlatform, including marquee customers like Autodesk, SoftLayer and Alcatel-Lucent.

Not only does Citrix have real customers, they also have real partners, including Vision Solutions for cloud-based disaster recovery; BigSwitch for software-defined networking; Trend Micro for security; and dozens of others that provide solutions for CloudPlatform. With all the buzz around OpenStack, CloudStack has simply been overshadowed by OpenStack. But CloudPlatform is a viable product in Citrix's arsenal.

Now the question of Citrix's direction. The answer is easy: applications. Specifically, applications that can be delivered as efficiently as possible, where and when they're needed. All the managers and marketers at Citrix I talked to were app-centric; they all circled back around to how they can positively affect human and business outcomes with Citrix products delivering apps.

They also mentioned three of their latest acquisitions:

  • FrameHawk, for secure, performant application delivery to mobile devices
  • Virtual, that emulates Android or iOS environments on x86 servers
  • ScaleXtreme, which manages the lifecycle of enterprise applications and infrastructure across virtualization and cloud environments. This has some interesting tie-ins with Workspace Services.

It will be exciting to see how these products get folded into Citrix offerings.

Citrix Workspace Services
Many pundits, including myself, feel like Citrix Workspace Services (CWS) is the future of XenDesktop and XenApp, and is therefore the future of Citrix. CWS is focused on moving the management plane for your desktop and applications servers up to the cloud. However, this doesn't mean moving your servers up to the cloud (unless you want to): it means taking the management for Citrix's various products up to the cloud. By doing this, you can log into your cloud-based portal and plug in your resources (XenDesktop and XenApp, ShareFile and so on).

These resources can come from anywhere, including your own on-premises servers, your colocation facilities or, yes, even from the big cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Azure. The resources don't need to come from a single source, and you can mix and match them to achieve your business goals and objectives.

You can deliver content with strict corporate governance rules from your servers, and deliver other less sensitive applications from a low-cost public cloud. By abstracting the management away from the delivery, you can have a true software-defined workspace and supply the resources for the workspace that best meet your needs, whether it's security, corporate governance, uptime or cost. Overall, CWS offers the flexibility to make the right choices for your applications.

Now here's a list of 13 things Citrix staff wants you to know. These responses come from the folks I met with during our one-on-one meetings on the last day of the event, where I posed the following question: "What three messages would you like to get out about Citrix?" I tried to capture the essence of what they told me, but these aren't exact quotes, so please don't take them as such.

    Gunnar Berger, CTO, Desktop and Apps
  1. Citrix has a great Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPs) story with PVS RAM caching. On XenApp RDS workloads and Windows VDI workloads, it can reduce IOPS to les than 1 IOPS per virtual machine (VM).
  2.  There have been some very exciting leadership changes at Citrix, and the rate of change at Citrix is insane.
  3. Citrix has very engaged customers; they are the best ambassadors of Citrix technology.

  4. Alicia Rey, Sr. Director, Integrated Product Marketing
  5. A perspective around our unique story of integrations; we are getting better throughout all of our offerings.
  6. We have unique benefits in our software defined workplaces; it starts from the outside in, from business initiatives, and then our technology becomes a strategic enabler of that. You design the workplaces, the spaces, the way you share and communicate.
  7. We have a focus on security and experience, and we know that security is an enabler and inhibitor to tech purchasing. If you are going to change the way people look at security, you have to radically improve experience; IT is only as good as what the people they serve think of the tools.

  8. Steve Wilson, VP, Cloud Software
  9. XenServer is still very much alive, and a huge opportunity where it makes sense. And it makes sense in a lot of different places.
  10. CloudStack is a great product that has real customers doing real stuff.
  11. Keep an eye out in Q1 of 2015, when some interesting stuff from Citrix's recent acquisition will be coming out.
  12. David Henshall, CFO/COO
    I even had a chance to spend some time with David Henshall, CFO & COO, who is a really nice guy with a great sense of humor and, as it turns out, grew up about 15 miles from where I did (small world). He gave the following thoughts (he gets a bonus thought because he ran Citrix during Mark Templeton's leave of absence).

  13. Citrix has the market-leading technologies for delivering mobile work place apps and infrastructure; combined together, these create strategic solutions for solving customers' real-world problems.
  14. Citrix created the market for application virtualization; has 20 years of experience delivering the best user experience across devices, networks and locations; and is demonstrating new technologies that will further extend the lead.
  15. New engineering leadership is accelerating the pace of innovation across the company.
  16. Citrix believes that end users are people, not just workloads.

Citrix has always been focused on moving people away from the desktop as a device, to applications as a service that can be delivered anywhere; indeed, that focus there is still very evident.

As to the question of whether XenServer and CloudStack are still viable products, I'd argue the answer to be an unqualified yes. In his closing remarks, Mark Templeton stated that the company is "Citrix Systems," not "Citrix." I interpreted this to mean that it can, does, and will continue to deliver end-to-end solutions, from the aggregation point (data center) to the consumption point (your device).

In sum, I got my questions answered, I met a lot of great people (more companies should try and emulate Citrix's culture), and will certainly be keeping a close eye on Citrix as they move forward.

About the Author

Tom Fenton works in VMware's Education department as a Senior Course Developer. He has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 20 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 10 years focused on virtualization and storage. Before re-joining VMware, Tom was a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, were he headed their Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on Twitter @vDoppler.

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