Citrix: App Delivery the TV Way

As enterprises look for ways to virtualize their IT systems and consolidate their server costs, virtualization vendors are coming up with better ways to deliver applications to the desktop.

Take Citrix (NASDAQ:CTXS), which is launching a new network delivery method that deploys what it calls “repeaters” and “receivers” as a way to deliver information and applications to far-flung desktops. If that sounds like how your TV content is delivered, that would be correct.

The offering is also, as far as Citrix is concerned, a new model for easier, secure application delivery that asks enterprises to look at their data centers in a new light, perhaps in the same way television networks deliver their content.

The idea is based the same model as satellite TV providers who “get channels from the head end, take that signal, deliver to repeaters which clean up and augment the signals then send them to nearby neighborhood where set top boxes receive the signals,” Sanjay Uppal, vice president, product marketing in Citrix’s application networking group, told

The application delivery infrastructure will require enterprises to transform their data centers into delivery centers because “applications are what it’s all about,” Uppal added.

The Citrix announcement comes on the heels of a similar announcement by virtualization heavyweight VMware. In an apparent bid to steal Citrix’s thunder yesterday, the company announced three new products for desktop virtualization.

With its own novel approach to desktop virtualization, Citrix appears to be shrugging and looking for ways to side-step its rival.

Look at it this way, Citrix officials claim: A data center is essentially a cost center. Anything that you can do to monetize the data center goes a long way to keeping the CIO happy.

That’s been a major driver for virtualization, which began by focusing on data center consolidation, reducing the number of servers in a data center by a factor of ten or more.

Citrix claims that user desktops will not have to store operating systems, applications or user profiles as they do now. A single master image of each component, from operating system to user profiles, is assembled at runtime into a virtual desktop and delivered to the end user — that’s the difference between Citrix’s virtual desktop interface (VDI) and that from other vendors, according to Uppal.

The new approach involves three additions to the Citrix Delivery Center — a branch repeater, a desktop receiver and an application receiver.

It also involves a focus on compliance, which keeps plenty of IT security professionals up at night. For example, Citrix NetScaler, which has a built-in Web application firewall that lets enterprises block malicious activity at the application level, produces compliance reports that can be used for PCI-DSS compliance. Other compliance templates are in the works.

The Citrix approach – the idea of streaming out operating systems, applications and user data from the server to the user so nothing resides on the desktop — is “getting people interested,” noted Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Bowker. VMware’s Virtual Desktop Initiative, is in this same category and racking up customers “into the thousands,” he told

Enterprises are interested in streaming everything to the desktop because “managing end user desktops is time consuming and consumes lots of resources,” Bowker said. The ability to deliver applications from a central location and to apply patches or service packs to user desktops en masse “changes the way we look at desktops.”

On the other hand, he warned, Citrix’s technology looks attractive but will require some planning. “There’s new technology that has to be implemented and put into place, but you also remove some stuff.”

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