It felt like just yesterday we were at Synergy San Francisco watching Mark Templeton give his “One more thing” introduction to Project Avalon.  The past 6 months have been a whirlwind as we’ve traveled around talking to customers about Avalon. We’ve heard from countless enterprises that are delivering IT as a service, treating their departments as customers, as well as service providers who are looking to deliver new value through differentiated desktop and app service offerings. Through all, it’s clear the vision we began to outline in San Francisco hits at the heart of customers desire to transform how they deliver desktops and apps.

Fast-forward to today and we’re excited to announce the next step in the path to Avalon with the Excalibur and Merlin technology previews.  These two releases encompass the core technologies to deliver Windows Desktops and Apps through a simple, service-driven platform.

Simplicity for the Cloud Era

Citrix has always believed that customers need more than just hosted-VDI desktops. We first introduced the concept of FlexCast with XenDesktop 4.0 and since they it has grown to encompass not only hosted-VDI (XenDesktop) and hosted-shared (XenApp) but also local (XenClient), streaming (App-Streaming and App-V), and physical (RemotePC). As customers transition to the cloud, delivering a wider array of desktops and apps to a growing user population the need for this flexibility only grows. However, complexity usually accompanies scale.

With the Excalibur tech preview of Avalon we’re introducing FlexCast 2.0 to provide an intuitive, single location that enables service creation through easy to understand “intent based” model, simplifying the creation of any Windows as a service type. You can read more about FlexCast 2.0 here. Beyond simplicity in provisioning, the Excalibur tech preview extends the industry-leading HDX high definition user experience with new adaptive graphic technology to dynamically adapt for device type, processor, GPU, form factor and network connection in order to deliver a mobile-optimized experience on any device.  You can learn more about the HDX adaptive graphic technology here.

Simplicity is key across the entire service lifecycle of desktop and app delivery.  Therefore, in addition to the advancements in the desktop and app creation we’re also introducing new real-time and trending analytics for service operations.  These enhancements to Director and Edgesight provide deep analytics and context-aware dashboards to help the customer service group root cause issues quickly and spot the trends within their Citrix environment.  You can read more about the real-time and proactive management enhancements here.

The broadest desktop and app delivery requires the broadest platform support.  Customer choice via an open platform has been a hallmark for XenDesktop for many years.  XenDesktop today supports the latest releases of all the major hypervisors including vSphere, XenServer, and Microsoft Hyper-V. With the Excalibur tech preview we’re introducing support for the newly released Windows Server 2012 as a supported platform for XenDesktop and XenApp.  Now as we move into the Cloud Era this carries forward with an open-cloud philosophy.

Service-Driven Desktop and App Delivery

Over the past few years the industry has seen the rise of anything as a service.  Desktops and apps have joined this trend. Why desktops and apps as a service? For IT, the number of users accessing desktops and apps on a daily basis compares to other datacenter workloads they manage. Managing desktop and apps as a key IT workload requires the key principles of a service-driven approach.

None of this is new to Citrix. We saw this trend beginning a few years ago when we introduced our Citrix Service Provider program. Today we have thousands of registered Service Providers serving hundreds of thousands of concurrent users for desktops and apps per month – all built on Citrix FlexCast technology.  With the rise of cloud infrastructure, Avalon builds upon our expertise to deliver desktops and apps as a true cloud service.

Project Avalon utilizes a modular approach across the 4 layers of the stack – self-service, orchestration, desktop and app delivery, and cloud infrastructure.  This method allows us to match the right parts of the platform based upon the solution the customer is trying to solve. Additionally, this enables customers to adopt what Avalon delivers incrementally as their IT strategy evolves.

Self-service provisioning and orchestration enables IT to package desktops and apps as a service offering and advertise these to tenants and departments from a true self-service portal.  Underneath the self-service layer is the orchestration engine that allows IT to focus on designing services instead of how to build and deploy desktop and application infrastructure.  Key to the orchestration layer is the support for Hybrid environments. Not just support for provisioning across private and public clouds but also creating service offerings across mixed versions of XenDesktop, XenApp, and other FlexCast models underneath a common orchestration engine. You can read more about the service provisioning and orchestration technologies here and here.

As customers are moving from virtual infrastructure to cloud, they want to build and provision their desktop and app services from cloud infrastructure. The Merlin tech preview we’re announcing introduces support to provision XenDesktop and XenApp on cloud infrastructure through integration with Citrix CloudPlatform, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft.  We’ve been working on deep optimization with Citrix CloudPlatform to make it the best choice for provisioning Citrix XenDesktop.  You can read more about creating a desktop optimized cloud here.

The Path Forward

It’s an exciting time to be in the business of delivering virtual desktops and apps. Avalon aligns our technologies around self-service and orchestration, cloud networking and infrastructure, data sharing, and a unified control point as an integrated platform to deliver desktops and apps as a true cloud service. This is just the start on our journey to enable our broad customer base to bring their most important workload into the cloud era.