Consolidation and centralization have been buzz words for quite a while now. Everyone understands the technical meaning and related consequences and actually most of the companies I talk to are in the process of consolidating and/or centralizing their IT. This is usually forced by internal company wide cost cutting programs and the IT has to constantly re-think itself to be able to follow these efforts.
The problems that typically arise during these kind of projects are

  • organizational (who is responsible for what and where are they located)
  • application related (many applications have no build-in multi-tenancy)
  • network related (lots of data has to traverse the WAN which used to remain within the branch / the farther the branch the bigger the problem)

So while I can’t provide solutions to organization or application related issues within this post, I would like to show a way for solving the networking issues when it comes to WAN connections.

Actually I discovered this nice approach just a couple of weeks ago, while talking to a big European retail company. These guys have branches all over the world including some very remote areas like Siberia or Vietnam. In these areas they have big problems getting reliable high-bandwidth Internet connections. Actually for some locations they could not get connections at all, even with a pocket full of money.

So usually the IT of these kind of locations will not be centralized and you end up with half centralized IT with a lot of exceptions, which basically kills your expected cost savings.
So what did the retailer do? So far they haven’t touched the remote locations, but they are looking into a nice technology: Satellite based WAN connections.

If you may have any experience with this technology, you might think this is not new and neither is it going to work well for ICA due to the high latency and the cost will be horrendous.
For standard satellite connections you actually may be right, but there is a company called ND SatCom who basically solved these problems. They are actually not new to Citrix and if you’ve been to Synergy 2010 in Berlin you may remember their Mercedes SUV with a big satellite dish on its roof.

So what these guys can offer is a product called XWARP, which is comprised of a standard satellite connection combined with a zero-latency engine. Technically spoken the zero-latency engine is a customized satellite modem and a pre-configured Citrix Branch Repeater, delivered as an appliance.

Although the name says zero-latency engine, it will not make the latency drop to 0, as the signal still has to travel to satellites positioned geostationary (36.000km or 22.000 miles above earth surface). So you will see the typical 250ms latency. But as Branch Repeater offers some great caching capabilities, data such as graphics from within ICA sessions can be delivered from the local zero-latency engine and does not need to be transferred over the WAN. So users get the impression of zero latency.

Of course this somewhat depends of the applications used within a ICA session and the number of users within a remote office and therefore will not fit into every infrastructure. But in general I think it is a nice approach, especially as ND SatCom propagates to operate at the same cost as standard MPLS connections, with the advantage of being available all around the globe.

If you already implemented such a solution and you would like to share your real world experiences please drop me a mail or comment to this post.

Further information can be found here: http://www.ndsatcom.com/en/solutions/xwarp.php