When you hear the term “Cloud Computing”, do you see the big, beautiful, puffy white cloud we typically see on a calm summer day or do you see a dark, menacing thunderhead that spells impending doom?  Probably a little bit of both (isn’t that always how life is?).  Cloud Computing has great potential to provide significant savings and automation to any business’ IT environment, so why haven’t you started moving to the cloud?  Probably because some things scare the hell out of you, like the following:

  1. Security: Do I really trust a third party to hold my corporate data? Many cloud computing providers have extensive security processes in place to help mitigate this concern, but this data is the lifeblood of your organization.  If it is stolen, your entire business might be at risk.  It doesn’t matter how many assurances you have from a 3rd party, losing the data might spell the demise of your organization or open you up to expensive lawsuits.
  2. Compliance: Depending on your organization, you might have to adhere to different restrictions to gain a certain compliance certification.  Ever hear of PCI-DSS or HIPAA?  These are the ones most people think of, but there are many more depending on your industry.  How easy will it be for you to prove you are in compliance when you systems are in the cloud? 

If these are some of your major concerns with moving to the cloud, does that mean you are stuck running your IT like you have been, or is there still a way for you to implement cloud-based efficiencies into your own IT environment? 

Let’s make this simple, cloud computing is essentially using technology to provide a dynamic, scalable computing environment where resources are virtualized and delivered over the Internet securely.  OK, definitions are always good, but how do I put this into practice?  By using the Citrix Delivery Center.  The CDC is a set of solutions that, when integrated, provides a virtual, dynamic, scalable application delivery solution securely over the Internet. An application is simply what you need to do your job, which could be a web application, windows application or even a desktop. 

Let’s break the key areas of cloud computing down further:

  1. Virtual:  This is an easy one.  First, you virtualize your servers in the data center. This will allow you to more fully utilize ALL of your hardware resources. Through XenServer virtualization, which is free by the way, you can use all of your server for any number of different workloads at the same time. You bought the hardware, might as well use it without waste.
  2. Dynamic: An SAP server is not just an SAP server. A XenApp server is not just a XenApp server.  These servers can be anything you want them to be based on the current business situation.  Need a new XenApp server, no problem, just use Provisioning Services, which is part of Citrix Essentials for XenServer or Hyper-V, to deliver a new XenApp server in 30 seconds.  Need to reduce the number of XenApp servers while adding capacity to SAP? Use Provisioning Services to do just that without adding new hardware.  The time it takes to build a new SAP or XenApp server is roughly 30 seconds and this entire process can be automated by designing appropriate workflows for your business with Workflow Studio.
  3. Delivery: The first question is what do you want to deliver? Desktops or applications?  How about both?  Use the underlying virtual and dynamic infrastructure to deliver a virtual desktop (XenDesktop), which is correctly populated with the right applications for the user with XenApp application delivery.  Not into virtual desktops yet? No problem, but I bet you are using applications.  Use XenApp to dynamically deliver the applications to any endpoint.
  4. Scalable: Scalability means getting the most bang for the buck.  First, you need to use the infrastructure that is best aligned with your delivery solution. Are you using XenApp for application delivery, then your most scalable solution is XenServer due to the optimizations to make XenServer optimized for the XenApp workload.  What about web applications?  Many of the communication tasks a typical web application does can be offloaded by NetScaler.  This means your web server can support many more users because the expensive processing tasks are handled by the optimized NetScaler.
  5. Security: Last but not least is security.  Remember, a cloud is going over the internet and you had better make sure your communication is secured.  NetScaler has the Access Gateway functionality to provide SSL-VPN access.  If you are only delivering desktops and applications with XenDesktop and XenApp, your environment is even more secure because all traffic occurs on two ports (ICA and CGP).  This means there is no need to install a full-blown SSL-VPN client on your devices. All you need is a web browser.  Don’t forget about your data, that is your lifeblood.  Use NetScaler to create policies to disallow saving files on the endpoint, or printing, or even running certain applications from unapproved locations. Last, but definitely not least, are the web applications the organization is delivering.  We need to make sure sensitive information is kept hidden, like social security numbers and credit card numbers.  We also want to make sure our web applications are hit by different web attacks, like SQL injection, cross-site scripting, etc.  The Application Firewall component of NetScaler protects us. 

Does it seem like a lot to take in? Remember, the goal is to turn your environment into an enterprise cloud, which requires you to re-think how you deliver applications to your users. Of course you get the most cloud-like environment by doing the entire suite but the nice thing about the Citrix Delivery Center is that you can pick and choose the options you need. They all plug into each other to create a unified enterprise cloud environment.  I encourage you to take a closer look at the Citrix Delivery Center to see what you can do to your IT environment to achieve the  efficiencies of enterprise clouds.