Yesterday (May 20th, 2014) Citrix released ShareConnect for the iPad, which is another Citrix SaaS offering that allows users to access files and applications on their remote physical PCs. While products like GoToMeeting (Citrix), RemotePC and LogMeIn provided access to remote PC’s, what truly sets ShareConnect in a class of its own is the optimized user experience. At the end of the of the day, as a user, the reason I want to connect back to that physical PC back at my home is to gain access to files or applications. While I do get access to these using the other products, the user experience is not optimal. I need to maneuver through my desktop using a mouse on an iPad, and this can be frustrating. Below is the user experience using ShareConnect:
1. Install application from the AppStore and sign in.
2. Install agent on physical workstation.
4. Access files on your iPad, preview files.
5. Access and launch applications on the iPad
6. Access desktop on the iPad (if need be)
As you can see from the screenshots, ShareConnect completely redefines “Access” to your remote PC by optimizing the user experience and providing a simple method to get to files and applications as opposed to just a desktop with its highly intuitive UI. I am really digging this product so far. I will update this post soon with a video as well.
Over the past year or so, I have witnessed a number of heated debates around the future of image management for XenApp and XenDesktop. On one side we have the Provisioning Services (PVS) fan-boys and on the other we have the Machine Creation Services (MCS) gang. The PVS vs MCS topic has been beaten to death in the past and here are some of my favorite posts/debates:
I totally enjoy a heated debate by passionate individuals who truly believe what they preach With regards to Image Management both sides have their merits and there is no clear winner. The PVS camp is worried that eventually the technology will be deprecated in favor of MCS. Their argument (fully justified) is that 80-90% of all large scale XenApp and XenDesktop deployments leverage PVS, and MCS lacks the scalability and version management capabilities of PVS, not to mention the inability to support physical bare metal workloads. With the introduction of MCS for server based workloads in XenApp/XenDesktop 7.x, we have another camp that prefers Machine Creation Services mainly because of the simplicity of the solution and do not want to invest in additional infrastructure required for PVS and don’t want to deal with the added complexity of the PVS infrastructure. Before we delve into what the future could look like, lets break down the pro’s and con’s of each solution.
- Whats hot?
- Highly Scalable
- In built Version Management Capabilities
- IOPS efficiency and reduced storage requirements.
- Supports both physical and virtual workloads.
- Whats not?
- Additional Infrastructure
- Complexity related to network configuration
- Difficult to troubleshoot
- Designed primarily for non persistent read only workloads
MACHINE CREATION SERVICES
- Whats hot?
- Technology built into core product and no additional infrastructure required.
- Better suited for cloud provisioning.
- Ideal for both persistent and non persistent workloads
- Whats not?
- Scalability not upto par with PVS, however has been tested upto 10000 endpoints.
- Images have to be copied onto every hypervisor which increases time to rollout updates.
- Storage requirements higher than PVS. Higher IOPS hit on the storage back-end (although not a big difference)
- No native version management capabilities.
- Does not support physical workloads
Clearly, both solutions have their strengths and weaknesses and there is no clear winner. So what should the future image management solution look like? I believe the future solution has to be a hybrid solution that combines the merits of both PVS and MCS. Here are some of the key elements that I would expect in an ideal scenario:
- Most customers are currently looking at the public cloud or have already starting using the public cloud in some limited fashion. With that established, it is fair to assume that cloud providers are not going to like the network complexity associated with a PVS infrastructure and might not support it. So the solution would fundamentally have to be based on the MCS platform.
- The solution needs to have some form of version management capability similar to what we have in PVS today.
- Should support both persistent and non persistent workloads
- High availability and disaster recovery should be addressed and simplified as much as possible.
- Scalability of the solution has to be similar to what the users are used to with PVS.
- No additional infrastructure should be required and the solution needs to be integrated within the core product. Administration should be possible from within Studio or some other central console
- Troubleshooting should be simplified.
- The solution should minimize storage requirements and should be IOPS efficient. There should not be a requirement to copy images onto every hypervisor supporting the virtual workloads.
- Ideally the solution should be able support image management for physical machines as well, although I dont see this as being a key requirement 5 years from now.
- Rapid provisioning and tear down of workloads.
While the above list seems daunting, I don’t think its far fetched to expect a solution in the future that addresses a majority of the features listed above. Unlike some, I am not in either the PVS or MCS camp. There are use cases for both solutions, which is why a hybrid solution would make the most sense. To all those out there who think PVS or MCS is the be-all end-all, let me quote George Bernard Shaw: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything” I would love to hear your thoughts, especially with regards to what the future of image management would look like. I l look forward to an engaging conversation!
At Citrix Synergy this year, Citrix announced what is called the Citrix Workspace Services (CWS), which is a hosted service that can be used for the creation, management and orchestration and monitoring of the end users mobile workspaces which encompasses not just their Desktops (XenDesktop), but also their apps (XenApp) and data (Sharefile). CWS can also be used to deliver mobile applications (XenMobile). CWS will be hosted on Microsoft Azure. Customers can build their mobile workspace infrastructure in their own private cloud , a public cloud (Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Cisco InterCloud, CloudPlatform, SoftLayer) or a hybrid cloud.
The Workspaces control plane will be hosted on Microsoft Azure. The ability to deploy agents on hypervisors and then dynamically build the whole Workspace infrastructure (apps, data, desktops) while handling the entire management and automation via CWS on Azure is a pretty cool idea! I believe that CWS being hosted on Azure will further bolster the Microsoft Citrix relationship and thereby increase customer confidence in a joint solution:
Most customers considering public cloud are thinking Azure or already on Azure especially with O365. So hopefully CWS being in Azure should mean tighter integration and faster adoption, not to mention better SLAs.
While some customers might want CWS on premise, majority will be fine with a cloud hosted solution. Look at Sharefile as an example and the mass adoption in spite of the control plane being hosted. The fact that the control plane is in the cloud essentially means we can take the upgrade woes away from the customer and simplify the whole experience. I think we can all agree that the future of applications is the SaaS model with a pay as you go option.
Much like every license of XenApp results in RDS license revenue for Microsoft, Citrix running CWS on Azure could lead to more customers moving to Azure which is a win win for MS and Citrix just like the old days. Microsoft today announced the Azure RemoteApp service at TechEd and Brad Anderson today stated that MS will continue to work with Citrix in relation to the Azure RemoteApp announcement. He also spoke about Citrix Workspace services and I believe Azure RemoteApp can be integrated with CWS.
MS and Citrix have been working together for a long long time, and in lieu of the recent announcements, it seems like they have a lot up their sleeves that at the end of the day will benefit the ones that matter the most – their customers!
There has been plenty of buzz in the blogosphere around the CWS announcement. Here are some articles that I recommend: