Citrix Takes XenDesktop To The Cloud With Project Avalon

Citrix Systems is continuing its move to the cloud, announcing Project Avalon, a platform that will align closely with Amazon’s cloud infrastructure and will let businesses run Windows applications or desktops in public, private or hybrid clouds.

The platform will use the Citrix Cloud Platform, running on open-source Apache CloudStack.

Avalon will allow customers to use different versions of Citrix’s flagship XenDesktop and Citrix XenApp products, as well as Microsoft Windows Server, as an easy-to-deploy cloud service, the company said at its Synergy 2012 conference in San Francisco.

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’It has taken major engineering efforts to transform the XenDesktop product, which was designed to run on enterprise virtualization architecture, to work seamlessly on Apache CloudStack and Amazon Web Services,’ Sheng Liang, CTO, Cloud Platforms at Citrix Systems, wrote in the Citrix blog.

Avalon will also use application orchestration technology from the Citrix Cloud Provider pack, which automates application and desktop configuration, deployment and lifecycle maintenance. The Cloud provider pack will be available to more than 2,000 Citrix Service Provider (CSP) partners and hundreds of thousands of hosted desktop users, the company said.

In a keynote session Thursday, Sameer Dholakia, Citrix vice president and general manager of the Cloud Platforms Group, outlined Citrix’s development of its cloud service.

He said Avalon is designed to work closely with Amazon cloud infrastructure because Amazon is the most mature and successful cloud service, allowing users to easily add scale-up services.

’Amazon by any metric is successful,’ he said. ’There’s no question that Amazon is worthy of emulation.’

Amazon Web Services are easily scalable and easy to use by businesses or service providers. ’Amazon starts small and scales,’ he said. ’This is your platform for the next ten years. You start small but build out.’

Dholakia said Avalon is open to many vendors, unlike others that encourage what he called ’lock-in.’

In his talk, he implicitly criticized virtualization rival, VMware. ’Cloud is not about lock-in,’ he said, as a graphic showing VMware appeared on the stage screen. ’Other vendors say, ’We offer you a cloud, and, as long as you buy our software and hardware on both ends, we’re good.’ We call that a Model T cloud.’

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In the fast-moving cloud space, VMware this week at Interop in Las Vegas announced its own cloud initiative, the software-defined data center, which uses virtualization as its central, managing feature.

He also praised the Apache Software Foundation, which manages development of the Apache OpenStack. ’The Apache Software Foundation is the number one open-source foundation in the cloud era,’ Dholakia said.

Citrix made waves in the cloud market in early April by withdrawing its OpenStack open-source cloud distribution and moving its CloudStack software platform to the Apache Software Foundation, which gave Citrix and its customers greater access to Amazon Web Services.

Some analysts interpreted the move as undermining OpenStack -- the open-source, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, cloud computing project co-founded by Rackspace -- and strengthening Rackspace rival Amazon.

One analyst said Project Avalon is an early-stage cloud initiative for Citrix.

’At the moment, Project Avalon is an enabling architecture to move XenDesktop and XenApps to the cloud,’ said Agatha Poon, research manager for Global Cloud Computing with Tier1Research. ’The long-term goal is to be platform-agnostic -- to support other, third party platforms.’

Citrix will release Project Avalon in a beta version in the second half of 2012.