Monday, 26 March 2012

”Citrix? Whew!” Or?

This is a translated and modified version of the post ‘”Citrix? Usch!” Eller?’ (in Swedish) published originally in TeleComputing News No 1 2012.

A good cons and pros post about VDI I also want to recommend is ‘The Pros and Cons of Using Virtual Desktop Infrastructure’ published on PCWorld by Logan Harbaugh.


Several times I‘ve heard comments like ”no, we don’t want to use Citrix, it’s slow and works bad” or ”we know your services are great but don’t say Citrix, it’s a bad word in our company”. I’ve been thinking about this attitude a lot of times because my experience is not the same, rather the reversed.

Now you might think ”well, what else could he say”, since TeleComputing is sort of equal to Citrix solutions and environments. But if you read my posts and comments on twitter, my blog and other sites you will see that I don’t praise things which shouldn’t be praised or keep my mouth shut when I think something is weird or wrong. I like virtual desktops. Citrix has for many years made good and functional virtual desktop solutions possible.
Are Citrix = Whew! and what’s causing the comments I mentioned earlier? Though the comments; Are TeleComputing doing the right choice when choosing Citrix products as part of our solutions? Well… but yes, my opinion is that TeleComputing is doing the right thing. The concept, based on Citrix, that we’ve been offering since the start (ASP era) have built our success. The experience is most probably, without being rude to anyone, rooted in;
  • System is not correct installed, configured and tuned
  • Use of old versions
  • No load balancing
  • Communication links not correct dimensioned
  • Connecting device is too old.
A fact is that all these ingredients are important to succeed. Like in other situations short cuts doesn’t work if you want to produce good and reliable IT solutions. Even the physical thin client needs to be modern and good enough. You should not look on virtual desktops like an alternative to be executed on lousy (old) hardware, versions or configurations. You should look at it as a modern alternative to traditional solutions.
Basic brief how it works:
  • Everything essential is installed on units which reside in a datacenter. So; all your applications are ”stored” in the datacenter.
  • The user access the virtual desktop via the connecting device from a central server in the datacenter.
  • When the user is logged in the user works on the central server in the datacenter. Activities (mouse- and keyboard activity (click, text etc)) the user preforms transmit over the communication to the central server which performs ”asked” actions and send them back as “pictures”, or rather a streaming video, to the user device for the user to view.
  • It’s only a virtual computer the user use on the local device. The user only “looks” on what’s happening on a server in the datacenter.
The most basic metaphor I can come up with is the alternative to go to a video store (we don’t do this anymore…do we? Ok, I admit, I do. ;)) and rent a movie and bring it home to watch. Compare this with watching a movie on TV. (If you want to decide when and what to watch you should choose an on-demand solution.) The movie is projected by the broadcasting company on your TV and you don’t need a DVD or BlueRay. What happens happens somewhere else.
Trivia 1: If you don’t want the responsibility to manage the solution: buy it as a Service from a MSP or in the cloud.

Why is Citrix, or rather the method, that good to deliver desktops and applications? Bullets:
  • User becomes device independent. The user can access the IT environment basically from any type of device (PC (Win, Mac), thin client, pad, TV, phone…). Meets the trend BYO (Bring Your Own), which will be commodity and not trend in the end. My opinion is that Virtual desktops are the absolute key to success in a BYO-program. Mobility is outrageously great.
  • Closely connected to above bullet is that you can connect with devices from home, internet or somewhere else which you normally not relate to the company.
  • Applications installed locally on the device which connects and work with a central system (client server) can be moved into the datacenter. This means they will not be affected by latency caused by geographic distances and bandwidth limitations.
  • Applications can be centrally updated for all users, which will save a lot of time in management and no local work on the devices.
  • An unsuccessful upgrade or update (a faulty patch, version) can easily be replaced with a new or the latest working version.
  • Compatibility problems is not a problem or can be avoided; the application itself is independent from the operating system on the connecting device.
  • Today no limitations in audio and video transitions really exists.
  • Security. The data resides in a secure datacenter which is continuously backed up. From a starting point no data resides on the device.
Now a days even solution with offline availability exist, so now it’s even possible to work when not connected. Technique is build up by Citrix Application Streaming and Microsoft App-V. TeleComputing haven’t released this yet but are analyzing the possibility.
Components like licenses and production environments exist and you need skill to do it good etc. All these are costs, no doubt, but they will fall below the cost for bandwidth, support, management and decreased efficiency and productivity in a more traditional solution. Overall a virtual desktop solution becomes more cost-effective.

TeleComputing’s new multi-tenant managed services platform in our concept OnDemand (*Puh!* that was hard to say…) offers the service Virtual Desktop and is what it says: a virtual desktop as a service (DaaS). It is based on Citrix XenApp 6.5. With correct dimensioned communication links and modern thin clients we support video and audio. Customers are able to use Microsoft Lync as a service for videoconferencing and collaboration. You would even be able to play games but most probably no one wants to pay for that power. The service publishes a Windows 7 GUI (Aero), which in the future will be replaced by Windows 8. During the connection you can connect printers and other USB devices without a log off log on procedure. Basically; Citrix XenApp 6.5 is a really competent product. XenApp itself has been competitive many versions back.

XenApp is just one of the Citrix products TeleComputing use and support. The infrastructure and platform segment gets support from NetScaler to optimize performance and load balancing. Our consultant group works in XenDesktop (VDI) projects and are analyzing how XenClient can be a functional reality. During 2012 we will study how to implement CloudBridge.

Together with federation services we can unite cloud- and TeleComputing services. This makes us able to deliver an ITaaS from several sources (hybrids) which for a long time will be the future for many companies.

A Citrix salute? Yes, sort of, but prime focus is; Citrix is not at all = Whew! It’s really good sh…

Trivia 2: Did you know TeleComputing runs the 3rd largest Citrix platform in the Nordics? Well, we do.

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