Citrix has announced the 7.6 releases of XenApp and XenDesktop. These significant upgrades add some new capabilities, including some which customers will recall from earlier versions of XenApp. However the major focus of the new releases is removing significant barriers to adoption, notably greatly reducing storage costs, and adding FIPS certification. More about this here.
“7.6 is our fourth release on the 7.0 platform which we originally introduced to support Windows Server 2012,” said Calvin Hsu, VP of Product Marketing, Citrix Desktops and Apps. “While it introduces a lot of features, it is mainly taking down adoption barriers, like storage and certification.”
The really big one is the reduction of storage costs. One of the persistent problems with VDI deployments has been the high IOPS requirements of virtual desktops create a storage performance bottleneck which has had to be remedied by costly SSDs and high-end storage arrays.
“The solution here is a new feature in Citrix provisioning services, which are widely deployed for image management across XenApp and large-scale VDI,” Hsu said. “The latest features in provisioning features allow us to use the RAM in the commodity server to do reads and writes. VDI is usually 20 to 50 IOPS per user, and with this, it drops to 1 or 2.”
Hsu said this storage enhancement will particularly appeal to newer customers and newer VDI deployments.
The other major barrier removed was the requirement to satisfy the latest Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) compliance and Common Criteria security requirements.
“The government market has been waiting on this, which involved a significant amount of cost and effort from a Citrix perspective,” Hsu said. FIPS compliance is a key requirement for U.S. federal and state government agencies, while Common Criteria remains a global standard for security used officially in 19 countries and followed by others.
“The 7.6 release also adds new versions of features which were in older versions of XenApp,” Hsu said. These include application pre-launch, session linger and anonymous logon. “We brought them back into this platform because they address database resiliency, and the anonymous workstations are particularly valuable in the health care market.”
The new releases also enhance the audio, video and graphics experience. New high-performance graphics acceleration using GPUs provide high quality DirectX/2D rendering, which is important for engineers and designers. In addition, support has been added for unified communications such as Lync Server 2013.
Several features of the latest version seamlessly integrate with XenApp 6.5, including the new provisioning services, updates to Citrix Receiver, StoreFront and HDX, AppDNA, System Center Connector, and monitoring consoles.
“Having a lot of the 7.6 features integrated with XenApp 6.5 is important because millions of Citrix users are still on 6.5,” Hsu said. “Many of them are moving as they move to Server 2012 R2, but that’s a long process.”
Hsu said the strengthened release will help Citrix hold off a big push from VMware, which has been making a major effort this year to take the lead in the virtual desktop space – one of the few in which it is not the market leader – from Citrix.
“VMware has a huge field and a very large channel presence, which overlaps with us, and we have definitely heard the noise,” Hsu said. “It has led to some customers asking what we have done for them lately.”
Hsu said that they have been able to defend their turf because the Citrix products are still better at solving many business problems.
“What it comes down to is not features but customer use cases,” he said. “For example, a workflow that allows driver-less printing, which was solved for XenApp many years ago, doesn’t exist in the VMware product.” Profile management was another such functionality, he added.
Hsu said that Citrix’s large channel should like the 7.6 release.
“This release in particular has a lot of goodness in it for the channel” he said. “Taking down some of the barriers – such as storage costs – greatly helps partners sell to customers. For those focused on federal markets, being on FIPS, this also takes down barriers. The channel will also benefit from the lifecycle events involving product retirement. It’s an opportunity for them to evaluate how they do their delivery each time one of these happens.”