What should users have to do?
Should users have to call a helpdesk to fulfill every type of application provisioning request? That certainly is not the case with the modern day ATM/Cash Point.
Should users have to stick with working from a single device type? That certainly doesn’t happen in the consumer world. Users have intuitive interfaces that make it simple for them to find and select what they need. Users can choose from many devices. Why can’t work be more like that? Can it be done while IT continues to provide governance?
At Citrix we’ve been thinking about this for a long time. When it comes to enabling this type of capability for work there are many factors that need to be considered from a user and IT perspective. There has to be a pragmatic way to get there, otherwise smart customers will simply write this off as delusion as opposed to vision.
When we first started to think about this space and our customer base, it became very clear that the vast majority of business productivity apps for enterprise customers were Windows applications and will remain that way for a long time. Certainly the mix of applications types will continue to evolve to include Web and SaaS apps, but even then I personally expect Windows apps to evolve to support new models of delivery. This potentially makes for a much easier migration from existing Windows applications. The other piece that we decided not to underestimate is that even if people decided to migrate to different application types, there would be a lot of inertia due to the cost of data format migrations. I don’t think the market for the most part will bother, and instead focus on new models for new projects or green field opportunities.
Additionally as we see strong customer demand for desktop virtualization and increasing Windows 7 deployments we see customers are not migrating en mass away from Windows applications. The IT budgets are not being prioritized to migrate off Windows based business applications that have years of associated sunk cost, organizational expertise and are perfectly adequate for use on Windows 7 desktops. It’s a higher budget priority to upgrade from a legacy desktop operating system to future proof an organization.
Ok great, but doesn’t change what users want
So that certainly helped frame what was pragmatic, but watching the rapid expansion of consumerization it was very clear that we had to do something. Many of our customers were still facing pressure from their users to offer self selected devices. So we started with two focus areas.
1) Let’s help users select from more devices.
2) Let’s help users get Windows apps everywhere.
Since we concluded that Windows applications are what most businesses wanted to deliver first to multiple devices, it made sense to start with a way to deliver those application to endpoints first. At the time there was a lot of clutter with various Citrix clients and functions that made it complex to describe to the user what they needed. Therefore we embarked on building the Citrix Receiver, a universal client that would make it easy for a user to access centrally hosted virtual desktops, applications and online support services. In marketing speak making the user experience like turning on a TV…..
We’ve been really pleased with the progress with over 1 million downloads for Citrix Receiver for iPhone and iPad and that’s just the mobile Apple platforms. Citrix also has plans to support the Dell Streak, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Blackberry Playbook, Cisco Cius in addition to all the current Windows, Apple and Linux Receivers that we have for PCs and laptops. In essence Citrix Receiver will be everywhere that matters, providing a secure way to connect to your virtual computing infrastructure. This enables users to select from a wide range of devices, to get to their productivity resources while still enabling IT to provide the governance that they are charted with because no data is stored locally on the users endpoint device.
What about the applications?
With the Receiver development marching along, we also wanted to rethink how applications are provisioned to users in the enterprise. Certainly we were not under any impression that IT would still need to provision and manage many application types, but at the same time IT was also burdened with minor user requests that resulted in transactions in the enterprise that ran up operational costs. IT was looking for solutions and we wanted to enable user self service to create a better application experience.
User’s often know what applications they need to perform their jobs, so making it easy for them to search and self select was another key goal for us. Again initially focusing on Windows applications as a pragmatic way to to address broad business demand, we developed Citrix Dazzle. Citrix Dazzle was designed to be the first self-service ‘storefront’ for enterprise applications with a simple to use UI that did not require user training. The Dazzle technology would allow IT to advertise services to end users and they would be able to subscribe to these services with a simple click. Since the early release of Dazzle we have integrated the technology with the Citrix Receiver. This allows for a more intuitive experience based on the platform. I expect many more innovations to follow as Citrix Receiver becomes even more prevalent across a heterogeneous device world.
What about other applications types and Single Sign On (SSO)?
So while the pragmatic starting point in the enterprise was Windows applications. That does not mean that one should ignore access to other application types, including non Windows apps. That was thought of early in the design process. The initial goals for Dazzle were Windows stores, but architecturally the strategy was always to enable integration with many types of application stores. This would build upon the enterprise store concept and make it richer. A key technical hurdle to address when thinking about how to solve for this diversity was how one would access stores that may not be sitting in the enterprise. How would identity be federated? This is something that Citrix has been investigating for some time and as a result will be announcing OpenClould Access. OpenClould Access will leverage our vast experience in networking and add a robust SSO capability. A new authentication framework integrated with Citrix Receiver will also have the OpenClould Access capability to enable identity to be federated out to additional application stores. Now Citrix Receiver will be able to provide you with a single place to access Windows, Web and SaaS applications.
How does it continue to evolve?
As the number of devices continues to grow, it also presents a number of challenges and opportunities regarding how the user experience will evolve with touch interfaces for the Citrix Receiver. We will continue to invest in this area and you’ll be able to see some of our future ideas at the CTO Cystal ball session at Synergy Berlin. I’m very pleased by our progress to date and excited about the future. As we strengthen the Citrix portfolio to enable users to work in new ways where they can self-serve what they like and enable IT to continue to provide governance, essentially creating a trust fabric. It will foster new innovation and diversify what people can use to be productive in their work and help simplify their lifes.