This week we are happy to announce the release of the XenApp Connector for System Center 2012 Configuration Manager (a.k.a. Project Thor), marking the culmination of several months of collaboration between Citrix and Microsoft.

System Center 2012 Configuration Manager helps IT empower people to use the devices and applications they need to be productive, while maintaining corporate compliance and control.  It provides a unified infrastructure for mobile, physical, and virtual environments that allows IT to deliver applications and manage user experiences based on identity, connectivity, and device.

More so than any previous release of Configuration Manager, the 2012 release supports the model of user-centric IT management.  The new focus of Configuration Manager is one of empowering users by putting them at the center of the IT universe; one that supports user self-service, bring-your-own-device initiatives, workforce mobility, and the overall IT consumerization trend.   We are very excited about the power this user-centric model provides and how that model is realized via integration of Configuration Manager and XenApp.

So what does the XenApp Connector do?  Put simply, it extends the reach of admins using Configuration Manager to a much broader range of devices and user locations. Historically, Configuration Manager has been used for management of Windows OS & applications deployed to Windows PCs, Windows laptops, Windows Servers and Windows Phones operating within the traditional IT periphery – in other words Active Directory domain joined machines.

The XenApp Connector and Citrix Receiver extend the reach of Configuration Manager to deliver apps not just to Windows devices but all kinds of office and mobile devices including Linux, iOS, and Android devices; in fact nearly every device on the market today..  The Connector also enables a more flexible and mobile workforce. Users are able to gain access to the applications they need regardless of whether they are in the office, working from home, or on the road.

To deliver this functionality, the XenApp Connector leverages three capabilities introduced with System Center 2012:

  • Deployment Types
  • User-centric administration, and
  • The Application Catalog

Using these capabilities Configuration Manager allows administrators to pick the optimal way to deliver an application to a given user depending on what machine they are using.  Let’s say I’m an application admin and I want to give the Engineering group access to Visio.  When one of the Engineers, let’s call her Ann, is using the PC at their desk I may want to have the application delivered as a MSI and installed locally.  Okay.  Nothing new there.

What if Ann has a meeting and wants to use a kiosk PC in a conference room to review some technical design documents she has created?  I may not want to have the app permanently installed on the shared conference room machine.  With the new user-centric deployment types in System Center 2012 I can deal with this scenario by setting a rule so that the app gets delivered to Ann as an App-V package when she’s using that machine.

The XenApp Connector takes this user centric delivery model to an entirely new level.  With it you can set rules to deliver the app to any user on any device via XenApp.  Maybe Ann wants to access her Visio diagram in the office but from her personal iPad.  Or, perhaps she wants to create a new diagram while working at home on the weekend (Ann’s very dedicated).  Or maybe Ann’s on the road and needs to access her work from a PC in a hotel “business center.”  In all of these cases local application installation or application streaming is either undesirable or simply not possible.  However, with the XenApp Connector I can now easily support these scenarios…and the real beauty of this is that I as the application admin don’t have to become an expert in XenApp to do it.  “Deploy via XenApp” just becomes another easy option for me (alongside MSI, App-V, and CAB) in the tool I already know, Configuration Manager.

As in prior versions the XenApp Connector will also orchestrate outage-free patching of your XenApp farm from Configuration Manager.  New in this release however is the ability to do this in conjunction with Provisioning Services so you get both the orchestrated farm upgrade capabilities of the Connector in conjunction with the single image management efficiencies and server build consistency assurance that comes when you use Provisioning Services to stream your XenApp farm.

If you would like to learn more and see the XenApp Connector in action, check out this video.  If you already have XenApp you can try it for yourself by downloading it here.