In the modern enterprise, employees and business partners need and expect to gain access to key line of business and productivity applications from all kinds of locations and all types of devices. For Windows PC’s under IT control, all software is often administered via the Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager. For most other types of devices, application access and delivery is a hodgepodge of different tools, policies, and access methods.

Microsoft has a deep and established position in administrating domain-joined Windows PC’s of all flavors. Citrix XenApp has long been the market leader in virtual application delivery to business partner and home PC’s and Apple Macs. We have more recently added support for mobile devices and even the new Apple iPad. If the two approaches could just be combined into a single application delivery console, imagine how much better life would be for application administrators…

Well, Microsoft and Citrix are teaming up to offer just such a unified experience. As announced at the Microsoft Management Summit this week, Citrix will release “XenApp Connector for System Center Configuration Manager 2007” in June 2010. This XenApp add-on is the result of close collaboration between Citrix Labs, the XenApp product team, and the Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager product team.

The Citrix add-on includes an extension to the System Center console and an orchestration component for XenApp. The combination will make the following features available to the System Center administrator:

Seamlessly install applications on XenApp server farms. Citrix will provide a special “Program for XenApp” object that appears in System Center. When used to distribute software to a farm, XenApp will automatically concentrate user sessions on a subset of the farm. This allows idle servers to be taken offline to perform the installation. Once installation is complete, those servers now become primary session servers so the remaining farm servers can be drained and then updated when they become idle. The result is little or no interruption of user sessions.

Monitor the image status of farm servers. System Center already provides Desired Configuration Management tools to monitor and report on the state of client systems. Deploying software to the farm from System Center means the monitoring reports for XenApp farms will show up in the System Center console just like other enterprise systems.

Publish application access via XenApp farms. A full XenApp publication wizard will be available in the System Center console. This will permit System Center administrators to publish applications to any or all end users for access from any device with the Citrix Receiver installed.

Just like that, the enterprise application administrator can reach beyond enterprise hardware using the familiar interface and constructs of System Center.

Citrix plans to update the XenApp add-on as System Center moves towards its vision of user-centric application management. Because XenApp already publishes access to users instead of machines, this new System Center focus extends the complementary nature of the two products.

Still not convinced? Take five minutes to watch the demonstration hosted by Chris Fife, a Technology Strategist with Citrix Labs. Or, watch this in-depth presentation from XenApp Architect Juliano Maldaner. Then, leave your thoughts in the comments section.