Citrix Systems is looking toward 2009 as the year that its vision for cloud computing and desktop virtualization will come into much sharper focus, with product suites that allow enterprises to build new types of virtual infrastructures.
In the next year, Citrix plans to offer new software suites that will give enterprises the tools to build their own internal cloud computing infrastructures as well as allow businesses to tap into external clouds that are built using Citrix technology. That vision dovetails with Citrix’s virtual desktop and server virtualization offerings built around its 2007 acquisition of XenSource and products such as XenDesktop, XenServer and XenApp-the new name for the older Presentation Server.
Citrix is also looking to expand virtualization to other devices and offer the ability to deliver a desktop image or application to smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone.
The cloud computing model, in which computing power, storage and applications are centralized in a data center and then delivered to users through the Internet, came into its own in 2008. While companies such as Citrix, Microsoft, Google and IBM are offering different visions of what cloud computing is, the push toward this model is expected to continue in 2009.
On Dec. 9, Sun Microsystems announced plans for cloud computing that will roll out in the next 12 months. VMware, Citrix’s main rival for desktop virtualization, also offered up its cloud vision, saying it plans to use its x86 virtualization technology to create cloud computing infrastructures and deliver these resources to PCs and devices such as smartphones.
Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said the idea of the cloud and creating a virtual desktop infrastructure work hand-in-hand because both concepts allow businesses to deliver computing resources anywhere at any given time. In addition, these concepts give IT departments greater control over how those resources are used.
“What Citrix is doing, and what I think is emblematic of what other companies are doing, is defining the cloud through the lens of their own offerings,” King said. “What Citrix used to be is an application services provider … it’s not a big step to say ‘We’re a cloud services provider’ and to use virtualization to apportion the applications and operating system resources to those desktops.”
Citrix’s acquisition of XenSource and long history of working with Microsoft mean that it does have most of the pieces in place to offer cloud computing as well as desktop virtualization, King said.
Citrix Products Coming in 2009
Citrix’s rollout plans for 2009 are based on the company’s existing software products, which will be repackaged into different suites. For example, Citrix is planning to offer a software suite called Citrix Cloud Center, which comprises the latest version of XenServer, NetScaler and Workflow Studio and will allow third-party providers to provide cloud services to the enterprise.
The Cloud Center suite will also include WANScaler, a piece of software that provides high-performance connectivity between data centers. Another piece of the puzzle is Citrix Cloud Bridge, which is a set of technologies Citrix is developing to help enterprises that want to move business applications between their internal clouds and outside cloud computing centers at times when additional compute power is needed or during test and development.
On the other side, Citrix is preparing to push its Delivery Center suite as way to create a VDI (virtual desktop infrastructure) that will compete directly with VMware and its VMware View suite for VDI. Much like the cloud computing suite, Delivery Center combines several products-XenDesktop, XenServer, NetScaler and XenApp-along with a new piece of software, App Receiver.
The Citrix App Receiver is a small piece of client software, due in the first quarter of 2009, which can be installed on a PC-desktop or laptop-and connects that client back to the centralized Delivery Center to deliver the user’s profile. The App Receiver works with any PC or Apple Mac and will allow an IT department to extend the life of an older PC, which should save costs and the troubles of a refresh, or allow an employee to buy his or her own PC and then load the software client onto the hardware.
“What we have done is take a collection of our technologies-the ICA client, the WAN accelerator, performance monitoring-and we have put them all into one small client called the App Receiver,” said David Roussain, group vice president for Citrix’s Application Virtualization Group. “The App Receiver allows a user to access the virtualized desktop and your virtualized applications from any device. You can load into any existing PC, even a four-year-old [Microsoft Windows] XP machine. You can put an App Receiver on that XP machine and it becomes a Vista machine if you are running Vista in the data center.”
Citrix is also working on a version of the App Receiver that can be loaded onto a smartphone, and Roussain said Citrix has already shown a version of this software running on the Apple iPhone, although this version is only at the testing and development stage.
While cost is still seen as the major stumbling block to creating cloud computing infrastructure or a VDI as Citrix and VMware describe it, Roussain said most business have many of the tools in place to begin at least exploring the possibilities.
“We have to tell our customers that they already own Citrix technology to deliver applications and you already have it running on servers,” Roussain said. “All we are saying is use it and move your apps onto it.”