In last week’s installment of my blog series on reliable, cost-effective connectivity with Citrix Workspace, we uncovered a multitude of benefits from using Citrix SD-WAN between office locations and the data center VDA (Virtual Delivery Agent) servers used to deliver Virtual Apps & Desktops. This week, let’s look at how those benefits extend to VDAs in the Cloud, and to Unified Communications.
SD-WAN and VDAs in the Cloud
At this point in the adoption of Hybrid Cloud architectures, already one third of the VDAs managed using Citrix Cloud are on Azure or AWS. Happily, Citrix has been working closely with the major Cloud platform providers to enable SD-WAN connectivity (see Cloud & SD-WAN. A Match Made in Heaven).
Microsoft’s new Azure Virtual WAN service works seamlessly with Citrix SD-WAN (see Microsoft’s announcement of the public preview). As the “on-ramp to Azure”, Citrix SD-WAN and the Azure Virtual WAN managed service provide automated IPsec connectivity from office locations into Microsoft Azure at global scale. SD-WAN in Azure targets the transition of application execution from on premises to Cloud and provides reliable and secure connectivity from branches into Azure over economical internet links. Intelligent traffic steering enables breakout of HDX traffic from each office location directly into Azure via the nearest edge site, avoiding sub-optimal backhauling to the data center. Connectivity automation eliminates the need to manually establish and manage VPN tunnels.
With over 130 edge sites, also known as Points of Presence (PoPs), latency into Azure is kept to a minimum. Customers build a virtual WAN (a “VNet”) over the global Azure backbone network by creating virtual hubs at the appropriate edge sites. Latency between these virtual network hubs is very low, essentially determined by distance and the speed of light. With a great connection into the Azure network and market-leading Citrix HDX technologies, users enjoy a snappy, high resolution experience as they interact with virtual desktops and applications running on Azure.
For even more advanced capabilities, Azure customers can deploy and self-manage Citrix SD-WAN Standard Edition VPX (virtual appliance) using the instance in the Azure Marketplace. Choose between Bring-Your-Own-Licenses or per hour licensing. Standard Edition VPX provides link bonding, packet-level real-time path selection, and optimal management of packet loss and link “brown-outs” with no interruption of user experience. Citrix SD-WAN VPX provides for prioritizing high priority ICA channels over less critical ones during periods of bandwidth contention to ensure that business-critical virtual applications hosted in the Cloud don’t suffer when only limited resources are available. And, of course, SD-WAN provides visibility into ICA traffic performance and quantifies session experience with HDX QoE.
In the Azure marketplace, you’ll notice that Citrix SD-WAN appears with a blue ribbon as Microsoft’s preferred solution. A Microsoft Azure preferred solution is “a cloud application selected for its quality, performance, and ability to address customer needs”. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!
Even when the VDAs are in the Cloud, database servers accessed by virtualized client-server applications may remain on premises. SD-WAN ensures the reliability of those connections, too!
Keep an eye on the Citrix Blogs for more announcements and details around SD-WAN and the Cloud, and is this is a huge growth area for Citrix, our customers and our partners.
SD-WAN and real-time communications
Softphones and Unified Communications (UC) apps have become a key part of the modern digital workspace. A long list of vendors and products immediately comes to mind: Microsoft Skype for Business and Teams, Cisco Jabber and WebEx Teams, Google Hangouts, Zoom, BlueJeans, Avaya one-X, Genesys, CounterPath, Vidyo, Alcatel-Lucent OneTouch, BroadSoft and Unify Circuit are some popular examples. In my previous role at Citrix, I worked closely with many of the companies who created these apps. Invariably, audio (VoIP) and video quality are highly dependent on the network connection. Metrics on average packet loss often fail to tell the true story; intermittent periods of high loss will ruin a conference call.
From an HDX perspective, a UC app may be “optimized” (the media engine runs on the user device, offloading the Citrix server) or “unoptimized” (media is processed on the Citrix server and delivered over ICA). Either way, Citrix SD-WAN comes to the rescue! Not only will it choose the best link for real-time traffic; it can also duplicate VoIP packets across two links. The first packet to arrive at the destination is used and the other is discarded. The result is lower latency and improved audio quality.
Does it really make a difference? It sure does! I’ve seen reports from several SD-WAN customers who kept historical records of their Mean Opinion Scores (MOS) before and after implementing SD-WAN. Their audio quality MOS scores jumped up from the 1-3 range to over 4! (Listen to Rody Kossen speak about SD-WAN at AWL in the video below.) So, if you’ve ever had complaints about robotic voice, audio drop-outs or other such problems, now you have a solution. For more information, see the white paper Ensure VoIP and Skype for Business Call Quality and Reliability with Citrix SD-WAN. (By the way, the packet duplication feature can also benefit other mission critical workloads, as discussed in this blog post.)
As UC apps move to the Cloud (already, over 25% of the well over 600,000 Daily Active Users of the Citrix HDX RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business are on Microsoft Office 365, and Microsoft Teams is entirely Cloud-based), SD-WAN becomes even more important. Be sure to include it in your Workspace architecture.
Customer experience with SD-WAN and Virtual Apps & Desktops
After reading this three-part blog series, maybe you’re thinking, “This all sounds marvelous but does it really work? Are customers really experiencing the benefits that SD-WAN claims to bring to virtual apps and desktops?” If those questions are on your mind, be sure to read some of the success stories from the field. Here are a few to get you started (click on the company name for details):
- AWL use SD-WAN with HDX 3D Pro and the HDX RealTime Optimization Pack for Skype for Business, between the Netherlands, China, the Czech Republic, the U.S. and Mexico.
- The Watershed use SD-WAN for reliable delivery of virtual desktops and VoIP.
- Rehab Management increased bandwidth tenfold yet dramatically reduced their monthly networking costs.
- Lease Plan use SD-WAN to deliver reliable, consistent, responsive and low-cost desktop performance to over 110 branches around the world; hearing their story at our Summit 2018 conference convinced me to join the Citrix SD-WAN team and start helping more customers benefit from this amazing technology!
- Dallara, an Italian race car manufacturer with a state-of-the-art engineering center in Indianapolis, Indiana, use SD-WAN to deliver virtualized 3D graphics applications to engineers on both sides of the Atlantic.
- SkyTV first deployed Citrix SD-WAN to manage unpredictable network connectivity and demands for increased bandwidth during the Rio 2016 Olympics.
How to get your hands on Citrix SD-WAN
Sr. Director of Product Management