Citrix Summit and Citrix Synergy 2012 Recap At-a-Glance

Citrix once again held their annual Summit (partners conference) and Synergy (customers conference) together in San Francisco the week of May 7-11, 2012.

There’s a great many public blog posts about what went down at Summit and Synergy, and I encourage anyone interested to take a google around at some of the opinions and reviews of other industry analysts and attendees at the conferences. I’ll keep my recap as a general review of what was announced and what I got out of the conference.

1. Cloud, More Cloud:

While last year’s focus was on “Desktop transformation”, or the road to VDI, this year’s conference was decidedly themed around enablement of cloud technologies. Citrix (as with some other vendors) has seen that VDI has not overtaken the world (or has not lived up to its marketing hype and forecasts) and has incorporated the concept of virtual desktops into a more general cloud computing strategy. This is a smart move considering that the “year for VDI” has still not happened, and doubts grow as to whether it ever will. The desktop has become a ubiquitous part of the overall cloud strategy and rightly so – it’s less important as it once was, and is considered now more of a container for what users REALLY want, which is their applications. Citrix has given CloudStack over to the Apache Foundation as CloudPlatform, an Open Source cloud orchestration system. It was touted at Synergy as the way for customers to build their own Amazon (EC2)-like clouds. It will closely integrate with Project Avalon (See #3 below) and will initially ship with API’s for Amazon EC2 for instant integration with EC2’s public cloud capacity and resources.

2. Mobility:

This really goes hand in hand with cloud technologies, and Citrix’s perennial theme of “any application from anywhere on any device” or the “3 PC era” that we heard last year. The focus goes back to the apps. Citrix has decidedly focused on the delivery of applications (yes, and desktops still) via cloud infrastructures, and the trends of consumerization, BYO initiatives, etc. all lead to the enablement and incorporation of mobility technologies to allow users to interact with their applications on their most preferred devices, whether that be an ultrabook, thin client, PC, smartphone, or tablet. I was glad to see them push SDK’s that encourage application developers to adapt and code for mobility natively as opposed to continual shimming and display refactoring that sometimes don’t persist from device to device or through device platform lifecycles. CloudGateway 2, Citrix Receiver, the Mobility Pack SDK for XenApp 6.5, and the Citrix Online products all have significant updates for this year to enable mobile application management. Citrix Receiver gained some significant upgrades and capabilities that really enable the entire Citrix application delivery platform to be a “one stop shop” front-end for organizations.

3. Orchestration via Project Avalon:

One of the biggest announcements was around Project Avalon. This is arguably Citrix’s largest cloud enablement project to date and uses the XenDesktop and CloudStack underpinnings to shift applications, desktops, and user resources into public, private, or hybrid clouds. I’ve heard scaling numbers of up to 1 million users. This is a huge opportunity and enablement platform for organizations to start, continue, or enhance their cloud offerings and integration. Seamless elasticity and agility are key features here – the ability to have a choice to easily provision applications or desktops to a user or groups of users on demand on whatever resources best fit the need and are available makes onboarding, transitions, and flexibility much easier and faster. Automation and optimization will be key features here as well.

4. AppDNA:

The app-compat technology itself in AppDNA isn’t new, but the Citrix acquisition has really enhanced it and brings significantly more marketing and integration into the rest of the Citrix stack. This is perhaps one of the most significant tools in the Citrix toolbox as companies look for an easy way to assess readiness, compatibility, and remediation for lifecycle events such as migrations to Windows 7/8, Windows Server 2008R2, x64 compatibility, SaaS readiness, XenApp/RDS readiness, and App-V/Citrix Streaming readiness. I could literally write a ton about this and I plan on using it heavily to not only assess application readiness for XenApp 6.5 and Windows OS’s, but also to help application development build the desired remediations into their software and build an assessment or health-check practice that can be offered as a revenue-generating service for internal and external customers. I’ll be posting our experiences with AppDNA here on this blog. Stay tuned.

5. Acquisitions and other Cool Revelations at Synergy:

In traditional fashion, Citrix announced their past year and previously unannounced acquisitions, which were notable. Obviously AppDNA was one.

Podio, which is a very cool collaboration technology platform which after playing with it could arguably replace Sharepoint and Outlook for many teams, is a recent acquisition that I think we’ll see a lot from. Its Facebook-like interface is familiar and really lets groups and teams work socially, in a natural and truly collaborative format. I’ve got a beta and will be trying to convince my team to test it out.

Citrix confirmed at Synergy their acquisition of Virtual Computer, whose NxTop client hypervisor product was a competitor to Citrix’s own XenClient client hypervisor. This should be a good thing for both companies, as XenClient traditionally lacked the robust and mature management tools that Virtual Computer had with NxTop. I think they did it less to eliminate competition than to boost its own XenClient and get it to where it should be to be included in the FlexCast model. I think Citrix has realized through the market response and actual VDI deployment trends that the market for client hypervisors has more legs to it than does traditional VDI in the long run. I think there’s significantly more opportunity in client hypervisors and Citrix was wise to get theirs where it needs to be finally.

Citrix seems to be heavy on promoting VDI-in-a-Box (formerly Kaviza), and rightly so. I see it as significantly more important to what growth there will be in the VDI market by enabling simpler, less costly but still feature-rich virtual desktops without the complexity and cost associated with traditional VDI rollouts. They should arguably be leading most VDI sales conversations with VDI-in-a-box as an entry to VDI so companies can spend less to familiarize themselves with it at a much lower cost and risk, and then get right what they need to get right before expanding. Citrix made it easier for them to do that if and when they’re ready by creating a VIAB to XenDesktop license upgrade program – if only there was a clean migration path for the technology. We’ll see if they can execute on that part and make it an end-to-end enablement process, which would be significantly more palatable to many who have been reluctant to start VDI initiatives due to cost, ROI, complexity, supportability, etc. This should be especially true for VIAB’s intended market, which is the SMB space (and which incidentally is where 99% of ALL US businesses are categorized).

ShareFile was big also. It was referred to as “Dropbox for the Enterprise”. We’ll see. Good features, but I think pricing is still not on target, and adoption might be slow. With most companies having huge investments in physical storage by the way of SAN, or even cloud storage for that matter, I’m not sure how well ShareFile will fit in just yet. Pricing I saw was pretty high also on a per-user or per-GB basis to justify doing that before I totally exhaust all my existing, expensive SAN storage.

RemotePC was pretty cool too – it’s like “GoToMyPC” (connectivity via HDX to a physical desktop) that can be brokered via XenDesktop. Some say we could have been doing this since the beginning of XenDesktop, but this is a little different. Could aid in enabling VDI or as an adjunct to VDI for some use cases, or to get around SPLA. Heh heh.

HDX System on a Chip (SoC). They showed some cool new Wyse zero client and an impressive all-in-one HP thin client that uses Power over Ethernet (PoE) and consumes only 13 watts for the entire thing (which is integrated into a 24″ HD LCD display). Pretty cool, and I could see those taking off, even in healthcare. Should be lots of new hardware forthcoming with this technology built in.

So that’s my take on Synergy 2012. There was a ton more information and education in the breakout sessions and in networking with the huge collective braintrust milling about the Moscone Center last week, as well as a good bit of still-NDA stuff that is pretty exciting. Stay tuned for more of that as it comes out of stealth mode.  Stay tuned also for more posts diving deeper into the technical details of many of the technologies mentioned here like AppDNA, Receiver, Podio, CloudGateway 2, XenDesktop, and of course XenApp.

Click here to access the link to Citrix’s Synergy 2012 Newsroom page where you can find all the official announcements from this year’s conference…

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