Meet the New Citrix

by Paul Rubens

It's all about the cloud.

It wasn't so long ago that if you mentioned Citrix you'd be thinking about Metaframe, server based computing, application service providers (ASPs) and all kinds of outmoded practices. But the new Citrix is all about virtual desktop infrastructure, applications delivered from the cloud and all the latest cloudy thinking.

In fact, the old Citrix and the new Citrix are not so different: remote computing and VDI are nearly the same thing, and the main difference between the ASP of 10 years ago and the cloud service providers of today is virtualization. That and the fact that most ASPs never got any customers, of course.

Anyway, Citrix is bang smack in the middle of its Synergy jamboree in Barcelona. It's "the conference where cloud computing, networking and virtualization meet," apparently. And the message is unmistakably this: Citrix is serious about the cloud.

Before diving in, it's probably worth noting that Citrix also has a whole bunch of end-user products like GoToMeeting and ShareFile, which it conveniently lumps in to the "personal cloud" space. Synergy was the cue to make a number of announcements about these, but we'll skip over them because they are not really that cloudy.

What is interesting is the company's private and public cloud announcements, and the first of these was about what Citrix is calling NetScaler CloudConnector for CDN (cloud delivery network.) NetScalers, you'll recall, are appliances that combine load balancing and content switching, data compression, content caching, SSL acceleration, network optimization and security features. What CloudConnector for CDN brings to the party is a way of connecting to a company's NetScaler in its data center via a point of presence (PoP) offered by CDN service provider Cotendo. The combination of NetScaler and Cotendo should accelerate the delivery of content up to five-fold, while reducing bandwidth requirements by 95 percent and providing security using encryption between PoP and data center, Citrix says. To use NetScaler CloudConnector for CDN, which will be available in November, you'll need a $5,000+ option added to the NetScaler MPX, VPX or SDX appliance in your data center, and you'll need to subscribe to a service provided by Cotendo for $500+ per month.

Citrix also announced updates to its CloudBridge appliance, which provides a backdoor link between a private cloud and a public cloud. The updates aren't exactly earth shattering, but they do make using CloudBridge more convenient. They include:

  • A CloudBridge Citrix Ready certification program for cloud providers
  • An IaaS cloud catalog within NetScaler, containing pre-certified cloud providers that support CloudBridge and can be called on for additional cloud bursting capacity when needed
  • A "one sided" setup system so that enterprises can connect to external clouds from the CloudBridge interface

Showing that the company is also serious about the cloud at the heavy duty service provider end of the market, Citrix unveiled its CloudPortal product line. CloudPortal is not so much cloud technology as technology designed to help service providers turn the cloud into a business.

The two modules Citrix announced were:

CloudPortal Business Manager - a BSS/OSS (business support system, operations support system) for cloud providers, offering account and partner management, pricing and billing, customer management, and reporting capabilities. CloudPortal Business Manager is available now.

CloudPortal Services Manager - a management product, based on technology acquired from EMS-Cortex earlier this year, that supports popular business applications like Exchange, Office, and SharePoint. It allows service providers to provision and change services, manage users, delegate control, and administer customer accounts. CloudPortal Services Manager will be released in mid-December.

Citrix has also been busy turning CloudStack, the cloud platform it acquired with the purchase of Cloud.com, into a Citrix product. At Synergy it gave a few details about Citrix CloudStack 3, which should be available some time before the end of the year. Citrix will keep it hypervisor agnostic, with support for Hyper-V, KVM, OVM, vSphere and Xen, but it will include a cloud-optimized version of Citrix XenServer 6 built in to it. This will have the limitations of many hypervisors removed, with a high level of support for multi-tenancy and virtual switching, Citrix said. The platform will also have a high level of integration with Citrix's NetScaler product line, from its appliances right through to CloudBridge and CloudGateway, as you might expect.

Citrix is also a sponsor of the OpenStack cloud platform, and it has begun moving mature OpenStack technologies into CloudStack 3 with the introduction of support for Swift, the OpenStack object-storage technology for creating redundant, scalable object storage using clusters of standardized servers.

There were numerous other announcements as well, including:

  • CloudGateway - a "unified service broker" which aggregates and controls apps from private and public clouds and offers them on a self service basis--while providing services like single sign on, user provisioning and license management--to users on PCs, Macs, tablets, smartphone and thin clients using Citrix's Receiver client
  • HDX system on a chip - Citrix's HDX system for delivering high definition virtual desktops on a chip, which should enable sub $100 high definition zero clients in early 2012, Citrix says.
  • The planned acquisition of AppDNA, a company that has technology to help migrate applications to new platforms including Citrix's XenApp VDI

Anyone who is at Synergy in Barcelona can have no doubt: Citrix is serious about the cloud. The company is banking that--unlike application service providers--the cloud proves to be more than just a passing fad.

Paul Rubens is a journalist based in Marlow on Thames, England. He has been programming, tinkering and generally sitting in front of computer screens since his first encounter with a DEC PDP-11 in 1979.

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This article was originally published on Thursday Oct 27th 2011
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