Citrix Synergy 2015 Recap: Top News & Announcements

Last week was the annual Citrix Synergy event in Orlando Florida. This year was a little different with Citrix offering instructor-led learning labs prior to the start of the conference on Sunday and Monday.  I opted to attend three on Monday, each of them being about  three hours in length and very interesting. The labs I attended included:

citrix synergy

SYN622 – XenApp and XenDesktop design workshop – This workshop grouped teams together to review a design and to find the mistakes. This was a great way to meet people from different backgrounds and apply various skillsets to the design.  Afterwards, the Citrix consultants provided their recommendations.

SYN616 – Accelerate your NetScaler skills – This session provided overviews on new advanced features deployment scenarios, including GSLB, Clustering, AAA and Content Switching.

SYN623: This lab focused on how the new Citrix Workspace Cloud Lifecycle Management (CLM) service is used to deploy and manage Citrix infrastructure.  CLM provides SaaS based services to perform blueprinting, automation and management for the design and deployment of enterprise workloads.  Citrix has really extended the capabilities of the hybrid cloud. More to come on this later in the summary…

Keynote Tuesday May 12th

The day kicked off with Citrix CEO Mark Templeton.  Mark said this year’s event was the largest attendance ever (in person and online). Mark began with a discussion on his favorite rock bank, The Moody Blues, and the Software Defined Workplace! The concept of the Software Defined Workplace suggests that work is no longer a place; it is something you do anywhere the inspiration strikes.

Then, Mark talked about why we all love XenApp, and everyone got a drawstring backpack that said, “we love XenApp.”  This reinforced the continued emphasis on traditional XenApp.  We heard a lot of this at the Citrix Summit Partner event in January this year.

Next, Mark showed off script demos of the new X1 mouse that didn’t go well.  I think this was related to a room full of Bluetooth devices.  We also saw Mark’s Inbox with over 65,000 unread emails!  He said he has someone that manages his inbox; I can’t imagine dealing with that much email.

Some key announcements from Day 1:

Citrix is going to extend XenApp 6.5 lifecycle support until 2017.  Also announced was Feature Pack 3 for XenApp. This is expected to be out very soon and will include support for Receiver .Next, Storefront 3, profile management enhancements,  support for Citrix Director for help desk troubleshooting, and some improvements in the Lync optimization pack.

There was also an announcement of support for a Linux VDA, supporting both Red Hat and SUSE for XenDesktop.  These Linux virtual desktops are targeted at high performance Linux applications.  This will integrate directly within the existing XenDesktop toolsets.

HDX FramHawk will be directly integrated into receiver.  This is a technology Citrix acquired and is targeted at very high latency links, such as satellite, cellular and LTE networks.  It provides local-like experience over lossy networks!

XenServer 6.5 Service Pack 1:

XenServer is not going away and some big performance increases are coming.  I was sitting with one of my coworkers during this, and he quickly deployed it in his lab!  I continued to get text messages throughout the day telling me about the new features and performance and video performance improvements.  SP1 has new 64-Bit dom0, nVIDA vGPU scalability enhancements, with up to 96 vGPU sessions per host, new in-memory read-cache, Workload Balancing, big network, and storage performance enhancements.

Receiver x1 Mouse was released, and we all got one as a gift for attending Synergy.  If you haven’t seen this new mouse, it is pretty cool!  The x1 is integrated with Receiver and allows you to use the mouse with an iPhone and iPad.  This is important because Apple doesn’t support Bluetooth mice on these devices.  This gives you the precision, control, and usability needed for a better user experience.

XenMobile 10 is now out and the management stack has been consolidated into an easy-to-deploy virtual appliance.  Not only is it much easier to deploy, it’s also simple to make highly available through cloning by using just one tool to configure additional nodes.  This also gives administrators a single console to manage (which we have all been asking for).  There were also new announcements around Worx apps for Salesforce and WorxTasks.

Citrix Workspace Cloud.  Citrix Workspace Cloud is architecturally similar to ShareFile, in that Citrix provides the control plane allowing you to leverage on-premises cloud infrastructure and public cloud resource infrastructure of your choice.  This can provide companies with a SaaS based solution for cloud management.  Workspace Cloud has a number of services that make up the solution.

Lifecycle Management – see above in one of the instructor lead sessions I attended.  This has a simple SaaS based orchestration engine that allows drop and drag capabilities.  This is very easy to use, even for first time users.  It includes service blueprints, a unified interface for the management and deployment of applications services, service monitoring & alerting, self-healing, auto-scaling, and disaster recovery capabilities in the event of a primary site failure. Other features include:

  • Secure delivery of applications and desktops with XenDesktop and XenApp
  • Enterprise Mobility Management with XenMobile
  • Data Synchronization with ShareFile
  • Concierge Service targeted at improving end user experience with the ability to securely share their screens with support personnel

I think the most anticipated feature of the Citrix Workspace Cloud is the ability to host the traditional Citrix XenDesktop Infrastructure components in the Citrix Workspace Cloud.  This is achieved by separating the control plane from the data/resource plane, so all the traditional control devices such as, the Delivery Controllers and StoreFront, are deployed and managed in the Citrix Cloud.  A small connector is installed in your data center allowing for secure connections to the control plane.  Think of this as a scaled down XenDesktop Delivery Controller.  This allows for the very quick deployment of the infrastructure components, and then you provide the virtual resources for the XenApp and XenDesktop VMs in your data center or a cloud provider of your choice.  This could be a very compelling solution for customers looking for simplified administration of the Citrix infrastructure.

Day 2 Keynote with Mark Templeton:

Citrix AppDisk was announced with a tech preview expected in Q2.  AppDisk is an application layering technology that you can use to create individual application containerized in a disk.  This is different from Microsoft App-V.  Citrix will be competing with VMware App Volumes and Liquidware Labs FlexApp.  This should be pretty interesting, as Citrix has had a lot of experience with application virtualization.  Expect a lot more to come on this in the next few months.  Citrix will be integrating this with AppDNA, which should help to resolve problems and determine the best method to deliver applications.  The demo showed the direct integration with Citrix XenDesktop Studio and showed further commitment from Citrix to keep consoles minimized and leverage the investment made in these tools.  I did find it funny that Citrix had VMware in the Expo Hall demonstrating Horizon View and other competing products.

Citrix CloudBridge Virtual WAN was also announced.  The Virtual WAN will be able to add reliability and quality at branch office locations with multiple aggregate WAN connections all virtualized.

NetScaler with Unified Gateway – this seems like a collection of integrated features including the following:

  • Unified Remote Access Infrastructure – with web, mobile, cloud and SaaS based applications
  • Single URL for End User Access
  • Secure Single-Sign-On to applications with Active Directory and SAML
  • Visibility – enterprise security and compliance with end-to-end visibility on protocols in use
  • SmartControl, which is a new future on the NetScaler giving admins an easier way to set access controls for users with police

GoToMeeting Mobile Screen Sharing used through the new GotToMeeting app,  allows the user to share their screen on a mobile device.

Finally, the Workspace Hub and Project Octoblu were announced – this facilitates the integration and automation of complex technologies and automation with Octoblu, Amazon echo and the new Workspace Hub.  Mark demonstrated the way a conference call should ideally run.  The entire time all I could think about is the YouTube video “A Conference Call in Real Life” This is one of my favorites.  The concept of the Project Octoblu is that you can automate the workspace so that the complexities are removed.  For example, when you walk into the room the automation sets up the presentation, calls into the bridge, the software determines who is on the bridge and then emails, text messages etc. the missing people and gets the call moving more efficiently.  At the conclusion of the call notes or the recording is emailed to the participants all automatically.

In summary, another great Citrix Synergy event with lots of new features and technologies to keep us busy for another year!

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By Randy Becker, CTO