Monday, October 27, 2014

Citrix Mobility London 2014

Citrix Mobility 2014
At the start of the event there was a look back over the last 25 years of Citrix systems.  Lots of nostalgic images of previous versions of software including Client Access Suite.  It was an interesting introduction which reminded us all how far Citrix has come over the years.
Jason Tooley, Country Manager for Citrix in the UK was the host for the event.  He didn’t cover too much himself, but acted as the glue between other presenters.
Philip Redman, VP of Mobile Solutions & Strategy at Citrix, was the first main speaker on stage covering “enabling the mobile enterprise”.  His initial point was some things never change and included a quick dig at England’s poor performance at the World Cup in the summer, but then continued to say that the Enterprise Mobility spectrum is always changing.
Initially I wasn’t too impressed with the slide deck.  It seemed a bit slapdash with old icons for Twitter and the images had been crudely cut and pasted onto some generic template.  Not something I usually associate with the smooth presentation skills of Citrix’s top brass.
He mentioned how IT teams need to have quicker reaction times to businesses ever changing needs and provide the tools to empower staff.
He mentioned the old phrase which Citrix has done to death “Work is not a place” and mentioned that IT teams need to provide a “delightful experience” to their internal customers.  I understand his point, but really?  A delightful experience?
Simpleness and anyness (a term Citrix is using to describe the fact that anything can be accessed on any device, anywhere) is really important for a successful mobility strategy.
Citrix has made some interesting acquisitions including Virtual and Framehawk.  The former has the ability to virtualise iOS and Android environments for app development and the latter has the ability to improve performance over poor latent network connections.
One thing which demonstrates the shift in technologies that Citrix are pushing is their revenue stream.  Their core app and desktop virtualisation products revenue has moved from 75% to 52% of total revenue.  Networking has increased to 22% and SaaS (GoToMeeting, Podio etc.) has increased to 21%.  This leaves 5% for consultancy.
Citrix are the leader in 3 Gartner Magic Quadrants including EMM, Enterprise File Sharing and ADC. This proves that Citrix is a true platform.
Their view is that IT teams need to focus on Self Service and automation to help manage the increase of change.  They need to switch from builder to service provider, gatekeeper to secure productivity motivator.  He then mentioned that we should be providing an irresistible user experience.  Wow!
Phillip then introduced John Spencer (Director of Systems Engineering) to the stage to provide a demo.  Phillip surprised John with a brand spanking new HP Chromebook to configure.  This took John by surprise, but he configured it pretty quickly with Receiver downloaded from the Google Chrome store and connected to his GPU enabled Windows 7 machine in the datacentre.  He quickly switched over to his Mac (mainly due to the fact he couldn’t properly see his mouse whilst the Chromebook was in projection mode)
He then showed the Session Linger feature which has been reintroduced in XenApp 7.6 after being removed in 7.0.  This predicts when a user is going to open an application and “pre-launches” it.  This means the user clicks a published application shortcut in Receiver and it launches immediately.
John switched client device again, this time to the iPad.  What the demonstration did show is that Storefront, Netscaler and XenDesktop/XenApp 7.6 should remove the age old problem of reconnection to an active desktop which has plagued many businesses for a long time.
John then showed some intense graphics and flash animations on his Windows 8 machine through his iPad.  It looked very good overall. 
Phillip continued with his presentation and provided 3 steps to successfully introducing mobility into your enterprise.
Step 1
Introduce BYO
Step 2
Secure killer productivity apps such as email, contacts, calender
Step 3
Provide a Mobile app Platform (office editing, access to LoB applications)
Phillip then suggested that XenMobile can do this for you.  The latest version (9.0) uses 20% less battery for WorxMail than a native mail client.  9 also introduces WorxNotes which is like OneNote, WorxEdit which is a dedicated office editing application and WorxDesktop which is like GoToMyPC.  WorxDesktop is a really confusing product/feature release which seems to conflict with other areas which Citrix cover without explaining where it should sit.
John came back up on stage to introduce the work flow features on XenMobile.  He demonstrated that you can organise meetings through GoToMeeting in WorxMail without leaving the app.  You could also do the same for attaching files (through ShareFile) without leaving the WorxMail app.  This looked good, but does require you to be completely in bed with Citrix.

What was interesting is the requirement for Netscaler for the majority of these features.  If you chose to implement XenMobile, Netscaler is a must especially around micro-VPN.
The next presentation was from Nathan Hill, a research director at Gartner.
He described how the modern workspace is fluid not rigid.  The work streams of communicating, consuming and creating content are best achieved on different devices (but not exclusively).
He presented a graph which showed the number of enterprise Windows apps are below 50% for the first time.  The increase of browser based apps and OS agnostic apps have pushed the Windows figure down consistently over the years.  He believed that enterprise Windows apps will remain hugely importantly through 2020, but IT teams need to understand that Windows is now becoming less important to enterprises.
A slide showed SBC (server based computing aka XenApp) has a far lower TCO than traditional VDI (XenDesktop).  DaaS (Desktop as a Service)  providers are increasing, but their scope is narrow. BYO is much more prevalent in North America than it is in EMEA.
IT teams should now focus on having different Support teams who focus on End user services instead of separate teams for network, desktop and mobile support.
The main interesting point he made was device diversity can only be truly achieved when we accept that devices are untrusted.  This creates a shift in philosophy from attempting the secure the device to securing the data.
IT teams should be non linear, focus on people things and data, seek to enable rather than prescribe and plan for constant change.
After the morning coffee break, John Spencer returned to the stage.  He covered some details around the MDX features for XenMobile.  He reiterated the importance of having Netscaler for the XenMobile product.
He covered the Tri Scale marketing for Netscaler which allows customers to scale in three different ways (surprisingly).  Scale Up, pay as you grow, increase scale by purchasing licences.  Scale Out, by introducing another appliance to a cluster, Scale In, by using virtual machines on the SDX platform.
He also mentioned how Citrix mobile application SDK provides ability for developers to reskin Windows XenApp applications to behave like native application on smart devices.  He showed a demo of a reskinned version of Outlook which looked like native mail on an iOS device.
Next a couple of representatives from Cancer Research UK came up on stage to discuss their journey into the mobility world with Citrix.  It was pretty interesting and they seem happy with what they have
We then had lunch which was very nice!
After lunch Thomas Zell, Director Field Readiness EMEA at Citrix covered the different methods of delivering apps to the mobile devices.  This included publishing (using XenApp), refactor (using XenApp SDK to deliver better UI for published apps), reform (using XenMobile to deliver secure wrapped apps) and replace (using native app developers to create something from scratch).
Interestingly he said there is no correct approach as they have their pros and cons.  Simply publishing an application is quick and requires little work on the backend, but the user experience maybe poor whereas wrapped apps in XenMobile will work online or offline and use all capabilities of the device if required.  This however costs a lot of money and will take a lot of time to create.  The sweet spot is using the SDK to make Windows apps delivered by XenApp to look native.  He described that there are many Windows developers out there but much fewer iOS and Android developers, hence the costs involved in reskinning a Windows app would be cheaper. 
There were 2 customer videos which were shown, one for the Swiss railway and the other was a Chilean Vineyard.
Next came a presentation from HP on a technology stack called “Moonshot”
Olivier Frank & Brian Duffy from HP described a common problem for enterprise IT teams where they build a system which doesn’t work for the users or is scoped incorrectly.  Moonshot is designed as a simple cartridge based system where IT teams can buy a specific cartridge for a task and simply insert into a chassis and have pre-defined hardware for a task.  No Hypervisor required!
The energy saving available is good because it is scoped accordingly to the software or task.  They showed ConvergedSystem 100 which is a cartridge which holds 4 machines each with a dedicated GPU.  These are designed for users who require 3D rendering applications.  Each chassis can hold 45 cartridges so 4U of rack space can provide 180 workstations with the ability to serve rich 3D applications like Photoshop or AutoCad.
They also presented a different cartridge which is designed for XenApp workloads with some GPU capability.  This is really interesting from user density perspective.  Each chassis could potentially provide 2,500 user sessions with GPU capability for playing server rendered videos.!tab=features
After the afternoon break Craig Hinchliffe, Technology Evangelist, showed us what is coming up in the year to come.  He pushed the Flexcast terminology of being able to serve up Apps or Desktops in the same architecture.
He then showed a demo of connecting to Ubuntu VDA rather than Windows 7.  This is a really interesting development because it relaxes the requirement for Windows VMs to serve XenDesktop.  From a licencing perspective this will be attractive for many organisations.  The demo was very smooth.  This is currently in a closed Tech Preview.
He then showed us a video of Framehawk which is software which will counter poor network connections.  This is being baked into the Receiver platform to improve connectivity to the desktops and apps in the datacentre.  This video shows a connection over 250ms of latency and 5% packet loss vs VMware Horizon.  The results were pretty impressive.
It then showed watching a Flash video through a XenDesktop session with Framehawk enabled vs a laptop with the same Flash video in a local browser.  These both had latency of 250ms and packet loss of 5%.  Incredibly the XenDesktop session was smoother!
Lastly he showed us X1.  This is working title for the new Receiver.  This idea is that it can be rebranded for a company name.  It can contain app bundles (for Office etc.) and contain MDX apps too.  It also provides the ability for users to rate apps.  The video was pretty short, but looked very smooth.
Lastly Citrix finished with a Q and A panel which included the expert presenters from the day.  They answered questions that had been tweeted in during the day.  Personally I found this a waste of time as the questions presented on Twitter were pretty poor.
Overall the day was very useful and worthwhile attending.