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Five Citrix news items you might have missed at Synergy 2016

Citrix's relationship with Microsoft grew closer at Synergy 2016 -- which is no surprise given that CEO Kirill Tatarinov used to work there -- but it also touted several other product updates and strategic alliances.

Citrix made waves at the Synergy 2016 conference by announcing support in XenDesktop for Windows 10 desktops as a service, but that wasn't the only Citrix news from Las Vegas.

The company's first Citrix Synergy conference under CEO Kirill Tatarinov was a lively one, bringing support for Windows 10 DaaS and XenApp and XenDesktop 7.9 updates such as improved single sign-on (SSO) access, image management options and new versions of several Citrix Receiver client applications. In addition, the company announced several joint offerings with hardware vendors aimed to make it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to buy into the XenDesktop ecosystem.

Let's take a look at other Citrix news from Synergy 2016 that might have flown under your radar.

XenDesktop-XenMobile integration

XenApp and XenDesktop will gain integrations with Citrix's XenMobile enterprise mobility management suite. It will use XenMobile technology to expand the XenDesktop SmartAccess feature to mobile operating systems. SmartAccess uses Citrix's NetScaler Gateway application delivery controller to dynamically enforce security policies based on location, device type and software running on the endpoint before launching a virtualized app. Bringing smartphones and tablets under the SmartAccess umbrella adds a layer of security that should help IT breathe easier when users access virtualized resources from their mobile devices.

Also, Citrix will integrate its XenMobile WorxWeb mobile web browser with XenDesktop. If a user clicks a link in a Worx app, the WorxWeb browser will determine its compatibility with the website, and now as a failover, WorxWeb can launch a virtualized desktop browser for incompatible apps. This feature could prove useful for companies that need to deliver older web apps that require a specific browser.

More affordable VDI endpoints for SMBs

Raspberry Pi devices are one of the lowest-cost thin clients out there. Citrix at Synergy 2016 threw its support behind the technology by releasing its own version dubbed Citrix HDX Ready Pi. These new Raspberry Pi 3-based thin clients include HDX system-on-chip technology to optimize the delivery of XenDesktop and XenApp using the company's remote display protocol.

The HDX Ready Pi version is more expensive than the basic model Raspberry Pi 3 -- which runs roughly $40 -- but it still costs under $100. Citrix isn't selling HDX Ready Pi thin clients itself, instead it's partnering with hardware vendors ViewSonic and Micro Center for distribution.

Identity access management improvements

Citrix and Nutanix came out with a joint offering named InstantON VDI, which includes XenDesktop VDI edition.

XenApp and XenDesktop 7.9 marks the debut of Citrix's Federated Authentication Service (FAS), which expands the platform's SSO capabilities to make it easier to provide secure access to company resources for contractors, partners and in other business-to-business interactions. The service allows IT to establish a secure gateway for external access to company apps, and then it uses the other business' SAML identity provider to deliver authentication tokens to NetScaler and then StoreFront servers.

Internally, organizations can use FAS to provide more authentication flexibility without sacrificing on security. For example, an organization could allow biometric or smart card authentication to log in to the StoreFront enterprise app store, which identifies the user and then uses FAS to gain secure access to Active Directory resources.

Machine Creation Services gets a boost

Some of the biggest changes in XenDesktop 7.9 are updates to the Machine Creation Services component of the platform, which allows IT to provision virtual machines (VMs) using the Studio central management console. MCS can now use high-performance RAM on users' endpoints rather than storage from the data center. This new caching ability allows Citrix shops to use less shared storage, making it easier to scale up a VDI deployment. Caching read/write operations locally lowers the IOPS that each virtual desktop consumes.

In addition, Citrix MCS is now compatible with Nutanix Acropolis hypervisors, which was just one of several announcements at Synergy 2016 about the company's growing partnership with one of the hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) industry leaders. IT can also use MCS with Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESXi hypervisors.

Hyper-converged infrastructure alliances

Citrix has taken a different approach to HCI than competitor VMware, which released its own hyper-converged infrastructure product in 2014. Instead, Citrix has established alliances with several HCI vendors, including Nutanix, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and Cisco. HPE's Hyper Converged 380 system released in March added built-in XenDesktop at Synergy 2016.

Citrix also touted its recent alliance with Cisco and its HyperFlex HCI platform in several sessions at Synergy. XenDesktop integrates with HyperFlex, which includes data deduplication and compression, and write caching algorithms that reduce the effect of boot storms. HyperFlex is interesting because it allows IT to add compute-only nodes to a system, so companies don't have to purchase other data center resources, such as storage, at the same time.

Also at Synergy, Nutanix added a new HCI product for SMBs called Nutanix Xpress, which starts at $25,000 and includes integrations with enterprise cloud services such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services. Additionally, Citrix and Nutanix came out with a joint offering named InstantON VDI, which includes XenDesktop VDI edition, the Acropolis hypervisor and Nutanix's enterprise cloud platform, which provides back-end compute, storage and networking resources.

Citrix didn't make a splash with new products at Synergy 2016, instead continuing its focus on its core end-user computing offerings. That meant adding new capabilities in XenDesktop, but also developing strategic alliances and integrations focused on improving desktop virtualization flexibility and lowering IT costs.

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This was last published in June 2016

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