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Did Citrix buy Framehawk for its mobility technology or protocol?

At first, it seemed like Citrix bought Framehawk for its overall mobility technology. But maybe it was just for the protocol.

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When Citrix announced it was acquiring Framehawk, I was first excited about the entire Framehawk platform, but I've seen some signs that Citrix is really only planning on using the protocol and not the entire suite.

The 10-cent Framehawk tour is that the mobility technology was built around a protocol, the Lightweight Framebuffer Protocol (LFP), which was designed in part by ex-NASA employees with the specific purpose of delivering a remote application experience akin to Remote Desktop Session Host over low-quality networks. The NASA pedigree lends some assistance to that goal, because communications with spacecraft are relatively low-bandwidth and high-latency.

Surrounding this protocol was a bolt-on software tool that could receive Windows and Linux application video from, say, an existing Citrix XenApp farm, re-encode it into LFP and distribute it to the clients. The clients, at least for the most recent iteration of Framehawk's platform, were iPads, so they also created a client that had some nice features.

This mobility technology enabled companies to iPad-ify their applications so that using Windows or Linux apps on iPads was a more user-friendly experience (things like offset mouse, context-aware keyboards and different-style mouse cursors based on screen region) than more conventional means. (Still, other companies like Citrix, VMware and Parallels have done similar enhancements to their clients.)

Where Framehawk fits into Citrix

When looking at what Citrix is up to, it's easy to see a few different paths that Framehawk could take in the vendor's portfolio.

The most optimistic of them would be that Citrix brings in the entire suite of mobility technology software, using it to enhance its mobile offering as well as augmenting HDX with a lighter-weight, more modern protocol. Not that HDX is bad, but it's a dinosaur that's been around since the early 1990s, morphing into what we have today while still retaining many of the roots. It was originally created to solve remote access when there simply wasn't another remote access capability. Citrix has kept it modern and at the top of the market, but other approaches and technologies have come along to give it a run for its money.

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Initially, I was looking forward to seeing how Citrix could use the bolt-on aspect of Framehawk, maybe placing the service on a NetScaler so that mobile clients could use it immediately while it figured out what more it could do with LFP. It would make for a very easy initial integration into the Citrix family.

After the news broke, though, I started to notice a distinct lack of talk about anything other than the protocol. In a Citrix blog post, Derek Thorslund, the Product Manager for HDX, posted that Citrix intended to add the features of LFP to HDX, and he made no mention of the other technologies. Some people I talked to speculated that Citrix made the move primarily to keep competitors from acquiring the protocol, thus keeping Citrix in the driver's seat, and it has no plans at all for the rest of Framehawk's mobility technology.

So, it remains to be seen exactly what Citrix will do with Framehawk. Perhaps it will stop with integrating the LFP protocol into HDX. If it does, that's fine, and it will be a nice addition to the protocol. But there is a lot left on the table that could be put to use by Citrix should it choose to do so.

This was first published in January 2014

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