Citrix synergyA year ago Citrix was all about the cloud. Now, it would seem, Citrix is all about mobile. Citrix’s Synergy 2013, held in Anaheim, CA, had an overarching theme of “enabling mobile workstyles.” Is this change? Not really. It’s more an exercise in connecting Citrix’s consistent core theme to the hot trend du jour.

That core theme is sometimes referred to as the “three anys” – enabling access to computing for work or play anywhere, any time, on any device. It’s a cloud strategy in that it involves abstracting as much as possible away from end point devices and delivering it as-a-service anywhere, any time, to any device. It also implicitly enables mobility. So adapt the message to what’s hot. In 2013 mobility is the ticket.

In his Synergy keynote, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton identified several forces that are driving CIOs to adopt mobility in their organization. These include the rising level of consumerization – the fact that we are now living in a digital world. Everyone owns multiple devices and wants to use their devices to do their work.

We are entering the BYO-Everything era, he said. Enabling mobile workstyles will also become increasingly important as organizations look to recruit and retain younger generations, who have grown up digital. Enabling people to work when they want, where they want, and on the device of their choice also provides a work-around when disruptions occur, such as natural disasters that previously halted business.

From Cloud, to Personal Cloud, to Workforce Cloud

Info-Tech sees the intersection of as-a-service cloud computing and mobility in the concept of the personal cloud. All personal computing is moving beyond that of the singular PC to embracing cloud, virtualization, and mobility. Through management of corporate personal clouds, the enterprise will leverage this trend while allowing IT to maintain control and ensure the security of data.

Personal Cloud diagramCorporate personal clouds have three components:

  1. My work applications (through a corporate App Store)
  2. My work data (online file storage and synching)
  3. My information/my ID (secure access)

Citrix’s mobile direction aligns well with this vision and covers all three components. During his keynote, Templeton addressed three major releases and updates – XenMobile, ShareFile, and XenDesktop 7.

With the new release of XenMobile, Citrix has enabled IT to deliver a corporate app store. XenMobile ships with a few basic productivity apps, including email and calendar. Additional apps can easily be added to the app store with WORX. WORX, previously called “At Work,” now ships with SDX – a single line of code that can be added to any app to WORX enable it, meaning that the app will have defined policies and security placed around it.

Apps can also be added from WORX App Gallery, a repository for WORX enabled apps created by developers and other venders, which include box, Antenna, and Catch. Web, native, and desktop apps all work with XenMobile, and with the use of SSO and Micro VPN each app connects to the backend infrastructure in a secure way. As well, it can run in a secure sandbox, keeping it separate from personal data while accessing it via a mobile device. XenMobile also allows you to open a secure browser with WORX Web and documents are automatically synced across devices.

Citrix’s ShareFile enables the sharing of documents across devices. With the use of StorageZones, data can be stored either on premise, in the cloud (which now includes integration with Azure cloud), or on an existing platform, such as SharePoint. End users are now able to access SharePoint through ShareFile, check out a document, access it through any device, and take advantage of the inherit features of the device. This includes the ability to sign a document when opening it as a PDF on an iPad, and another recently added feature is PDF modification – the ability to mark-up a PDF and send it back to its original location with the changes automatically captured and reflected across.

Enterprises can ensure that security is maintained by integrating with Active Directory or IAM using SAML. Remote wiping is also an available feature of ShareFile. Industries where Citrix has seen a lot of uptake with ShareShare include higher education, accounting, legal, and construction.

XenDesktop Adapts VDI to Mobile World

XenDesktop 7 is a reimagining of virtual desktops for mobile and cloud. Its release was also announced at Synergy. This is the first product that has been released in their Project Avalon Series. Citrix is indicating that XenDesktop 7 is much simpler to deploy, install, and manage – the installation process now is only one package to download, with automatic installation and deployment. Citrix states that with as few as eight clicks and 20 minutes you can go from scratch to being set up and running.

XenDesktop 7 only has two consoles: XenDesktop Studio for designing and building applications, and XenDesktop Director for monitoring and support. With XenDesktop 7, virtual desktops can be placed on any device, including the ability to run a Windows desktop on an Apple device, a feature that received one of the largest responses from the 6000+ audience during the keynote.

HDX Mobile was introduced as a means of improving the mobile experience of XenDesktop. HDX allows bandwidth to be reduced, delivering a better user experience to the end user due to protocol enhancements. This includes the ability to run high-definition video on any device, even over 3G networks and supports a 100% boost in WAN efficiency. HDX provides the end user with dynamic experiences, and supports the native features of the mobile device, including smooth scrolling, pop-up keyboard, and gesturing capabilities. A Mobile SDK is also newly available for Windows applications, improving the usability of windows apps on mobile devices.

Key to these new releases is centralized management, security, and flexibility, allowing end users the freedom to compute in a manner that works best for them. Ultimately, when it comes to mobility, user experience is paramount. Mobility is not about the devices, it’s about providing end users with a great user experience so that they adopt the new way of computing and don’t feel that they are giving up something in the process. However, it also must be about allowing IT to maintain a secure environment. Citrix has shown itself as a leader in this respect.

At the same time, adopting mobile workstyles is not without challenges. Connectivity may become a greater issue moving forward, as it is great to be able to work where you want, but without a connection, you’re essentially dead in the water. In moving to the mobile and cloud era, the role of IT shifts and now is becoming ITaaS. While this has been put forth as a positive in that it will remove repetitive, mundane tasks from IT’s responsibility which will increase job satisfaction and work-life balance for IT, it also has the potential for job loss – a scary reality.

Who’s Ready for Mobile Workstyles?

Finally, we need to ask – is the workforce ready to go mobile? Today, and I would postulate, for the next 5-10 years, for most organizations the answer is no. Although the desire to recruit younger employees entering the job market is important, in many industries the majority of the workforce remains older and the proper adoption of the mobile workstyle is often a greater challenge for these individuals.

As one Systems Engineer at a financial company indicated, even though they have currently enabled ShareFile for secure document sharing, many members of their older workforce still prefer using email attachments as the primary way to share files, because this is the way they have always done it and it’s the way in which they are comfortable working, regardless of the fact that it’s not secure. As a result, the adoption of Citrix’s new technology and mobile computing is making slow progress in their organization. Thus, when enabling mobile workstyles, organizations must also be prepared with strategies to support end users and improve adoption of the new workstyle.

Citrix may be ahead of its time, but there is a lot of power in the “any” mindset. Making the move to supporting mobile workstyles will result in workforce transformation, reinvention, and increased engagement, but can only evolve to this state gradually, over time.

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