Citrix Unveils Products To Enhance The Virtual Computing Experience, Prepares For Windows 10

Citrix Synergy kicked off Tuesday in Orlando, Fla., and Citrix partners can expect a slew of new products to be revealed or released over the coming days focused on delivering a better virtual experience to mobile devices.

The new capabilities intended to beef up Citrix's virtualization and remote-access software fall into three buckets: experience, security and flexibility, Calvin Hsu, vice president of product marketing, told CRN.

Citrix will also share with Synergy attendees a new tool to ease migrations, as well as plans for how the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based software developer is preparing for the upcoming Windows release.

[Related: Sources: Citrix Mulling Sale Or Spinoff Of Its Online Services Unit]

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On the experience side, a particular area where the company can "help our channel partners be very successful with our products," Hsu said, Citrix is pushing forward with its HDX (High Definition Experience) technology -- a set of features for enhancing graphics, connectivity and interactivity.

To that end, Hsu said Citrix has fully integrated a new set of technologies obtained from the acquisition of Framehawk that soon will be rolled out on a number of endpoint devices, starting in the second quarter with Citrix Receiver for Windows.

A new graphics engine also developed by Framehawk, in conjunction with NASA scientists, Hsu said, will be made available that offers 20 percent more server scalability, 30 percent better bandwidth, and compatibility with several inexpensive thin clients, Hsu told CRN.

Citrix also will officially release its X1 mouse at Synergy. It's the first mouse that can be used with an iPad, as long as the device is running a Citrix virtual desktop or Windows application for iOS.

On the security front, XenApp and XenDesktop have both earned Common Criteria and FIPS 140-2 compliance certifications, Citrix will reveal.

Citrix leaders will also discuss a session recording feature called SmartAuditor that was recently released. "It was the partners who came back and told us our customers need this feature. And then we started to hear it from the customers," John Carey, director of worldwide channel programs at Citrix, told CRN.

Much of the innovation Citrix looks to show off in Orlando focuses on making its virtualization technologies more flexible for users.

Citrix will unveil general availability of an updated version of Citrix Receiver -- initially debuted under project name Receiver X1 -- that integrates a common look and feel across mobile devices and Windows desktops, Hsu told CRN.

The latest version of Receiver will also support Linux virtual apps and desktops, Hsu said.

DesktopPlayer for Windows, a long-awaited product, will be released in preview. The Macintosh version of DesktopPlayer is popular, and partners and consultants have been clamoring for a Windows version, Hsu said.

Citrix is preparing for the launch of Windows 10, ready to virtualize the new OS as soon as it ships, he told CRN.

"Our plan is to be right behind the official launch of Windows 10. We'll be right on top of that with our support," Hsu said.

Offering a virtualized Windows 10 environment is important because it provides partners a means of easing their customers through the transition from one operating system to the next.

"People can stay on an old environment and introduce the new one virtualized, or vice versa," Hsu said, adding that today's workers think everything, including Windows, should be available on all devices.

The concept of "Windows working on anything" is "something really challenging to do unless you use virtualization," he said.

Citrix also plans to preview at Synergy an application containerization service called AppDisk, derived from the personal vDisk technology, which will be integrated with the AppDNA migration tool, Hsu said.

The upgrade process in customer environments is typically driven by a server or operating system refresh, or application upgrades, "and we're kind of along for the ride," Hsu said.

Realizing it's a pain for customers to upgrade when they're not ready, Citrix will tell partners it has decided to extend support for XenApp 6.5 through 2017, changing course on ending the product's life.

"This is a terrific channel opportunity," Hsu said. "The new feature pack for 6.5 can have an environment that is of mixed versions, and can ease the transition from one to the next."

For customers ready to start updating their software, Citrix offers an online service that performs an assessment of their current environment, pulls settings and configurations, and makes a script that manages the transition.

Citrix will reveal at Synergy that it has integrated that online service with Citrix Lifecycle Management, which creates a blueprint for deploying a new environment, further simplifying and automating migrations.

Carey, the channel director, told CRN the new migration tools provide really compelling reasons for customers to update to new products. "The key thing, from a channel perspective, [is] we continue to expand use cases and become more relevant in more scenarios," he said.

Citrix introduced three new specialist tracks at its partner summit last year. At Synergy, it will launch the fourth track: networking in data centers, Hsu said.

Andy Whiteside, founder and CEO of XenTegra, a solution provider based in North Carolina, told CRN the new products and focus areas make clear Citrix is "definitely listening to customers and partners" while "taking steps to find new areas of opportunity with the technology."

While he's yet to see demos of many of the new products that Citrix will be showing off over the course of Synergy, one product he's known about for six months, and yet "really didn't give enough credit" to, is the X1 mouse.

"In the last two weeks, some customers reached out to me wanting to get their hands on it because they think it'll revolutionize their business," Whiteside said of the mouse. That interest made him rethink the value of the product, he said.

In the Windows world, you can't function without a mouse, and the iPad's complete reliance on a touch interface has made it impractical "in the Citrix world" as a tool for accessing virtualized desktops and apps, Whiteside concluded.

The new mouse "just makes the iPad a business tool," Whiteside told CRN.

There's been much speculation of late about the long-term viability of Citrix's business, along with a number of acquisition rumors.

Whiteside told CRN that kind of "buzz" has been around a long time, and doesn't worry him as a partner.

"I run a business around partnering with customers and Citrix, and that business is as viable as ever," he told CRN. "For what I do, they're very relevant to my customers' space, and I'm not worried that they're not coming out and reinventing the next wheel."