Citrix on Feb. 12 will throw its weight behind the growing application streaming/virtualization movement when it launches the long-awaited Tarpon technology in a major new release of its Presentation Server.
Citrix developed its own application streaming technology for use in Presentation Server 4.5, unlike heavyweights Microsoft and Symantec, which both bought application virtualization technology with their respective Softricity and Altiris acquisitions. Meanwhile, smaller players hope to ride their coattails as the market heats up, including Thinstall, which enhanced its Application Virtualization Suite.
Application streaming allows applications to be delivered on demand and run on the client in isolation mode without altering the machines configurations or Windows DLLs. That eliminates conflicts between different applications or different versions of the same application.
It addresses Presentation Servers "biggest weakness"—the fact that thin clients need to be connected to access applications, according to Zeus Kerravala, an industry analyst with Yankee Group. "You need to be periodically connected, not pervasively connected. With all the access methods they have now, this gives people a lot of choice for whatever access technology they want to use," Kerravala said.
Presentation Server 4.5 can dynamically determine the best application delivery mechanism according to the user, the application, the device or the network connection.
"Whatever the policy is, you can decide whether to do terminal services or take executables, stream them out, have them sit in an isolation environment and give access to the application whether connected or not," said Scott Herren, general manager of the virtualization systems group for Citrix, in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
"I saw that about a year ago, and Ive been waiting for it," said Citrix user Frank Norton, director of IT at Morrison Mahoney, a Boston-based legal firm. "It will assist us in taking small applications that we dont want to put on our image and throw it out to desktops that we need for temporary situations. Its going to allow us to keep a lockdown desktop but still provide the resources attorneys and secretaries need to help their clients," he added.
Thinstall, of San Francisco, allows users to package applications into a single executable file that can be run in user mode without having to install the application or change the local desktops registry and DLLs.
The companys new Application Virtualization Suite 3.0, launched Feb. 6., isolates application modifications to one directory; allows multiple, conflicting applications to run concurrently; and adds a persistent file-based virtual registry.
The aim of such technology is to eliminate application conflicts for users and to reduce the management overhead for IT administrators. Toward that end, Citrix added a new user performance monitoring feature in Presentation Server 4.5 that gives administrators a view of the performance of different applications that users experience.
The agent-based technology allows users to instrument the Presentation Servers ICA (Independent Computing Architecture) protocol stream to provide more granular visibility into the performance of each application. "You can have three or four different applications running, but e-mail has more latency tolerance, and CRM [customer relationship management] needs immediate response time, so you want different levels of performance inside a session," Herren said.
"For us, thats a huge win," said Citrix user Susan Paul, director of IT infrastructure at Fallon Clinic, in Worcester, Mass. "We have lots of monitoring tools, but we havent been able to look directly into a Citrix session. This really gives you insight into the client and applications running on the Citrix server and the interaction with the back-end database," she said.
Beyond those enhancements, Citrix also merged the previously separate code bases for its 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Presentation Manager, allowing customers to increase the number of users supported on a single server.
Citrix also added a new SpeedScreen Progressive Display function to boost the performance of graphics-heavy applications such as picture archiving and communication systems in health care and GIS (geographic information system) mapping. The new release is due March 1.