Making sense of Cloud Gateway, VMware Horizon and Web Interface

Citrix and VMware both have software to help enterprises access all applications, enterprise and cloud. Here's how Citrix's latest version of Cloud Gateway stacks up.

Last week at its Synergy conference in Barcelona, Citrix revealed a new version of its  Cloud Gateway product line.

Cloud Gateway, if you don't know (it's been difficult to keep up), is similar to VMware's Horizon in that it serves as the main interface to all applications, cloud and local. Cloud Gateway is a Web interface, app store and app provisioning engine all rolled into one product.

Differences between Cloud Gateway and Horizon
The key difference between Citrix's offering and VMware's right now is that VMware Horizon is a managed service that every user shares and is hosted entirely by VMware, so it rolls out changes on the fly, rather than releasing sequential versions. Cloud Gateway is managed as a local application that's installed on a Netscaler/Branch Repeater.

Another difference is that VMware Horizon is a single product with all features available to subscribers. Cloud Gateway, on the other hand, is broken down into two versions, Express and Enterprise.

Cloud Gateway versions
Of the two versions, Cloud Gateway Enterprise is the full version that provides access to Windows desktops and applications, as well as cloud services and apps. It is an upgrade license from Cloud Gateway Express. This product was once called OpenCloud Access, in case you wonder what has happened to that name.

The express version is free, but only for XenApp and XenDesktop customers. The limitation is that it will only allow you to access Windows applications. Cloud Gateway Express is installed as a Branch Repeater VPX (a virtual appliance), so you don't need to purchase or own a Branch Repeater in order to run the free software.

By giving it away to XenApp and XenDesktop customers, Cloud Gateway Express (and its underlying technology, Receiver Storefront) is essentially replacing Web Interface. Web Interface will remain available in its current version (5.4) well into the future, but no further major updates will be released.

Cloud Gateway will serve as both a Web interface to applications, as well as the back-end mechanism for Citrix Receiver, much like the Web Interface/PNAgent relationship of the past.

What about Web Interface and CSG?
Understandably, some people will be concerned that Web Interface has taken a back seat to Cloud Gateway Express, but those with highly customized Web interface deployments should be able to continue using them. The biggest question from my standpoint surrounds Citrix Secure Gateway. Citrix made no mention of it in any of the discussions at Synergy. It seems Citrix would like it to go away with WI.

I'm aware of a few organizations that still rely on CSG as a free method of securing the HDX data for their enterprise, and I'm sure there are plenty more that haven't moved to a Branch Repeater. CSG will work with Web Interface for the foreseeable future, but will it just work with Cloud Gateway Express? Will the free VPX version of Cloud Gateway Express come with a replacement feature? Maybe it's not really that big of an issue now, but I suspect it will be.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gabe Knuth is an independent industry analyst and blogger, known throughout the world as "the other guy" at BrianMadden.com. He has been in the application delivery space for over 12 years and has seen the industry evolve from the one-trick pony of terminal services to the application and desktop virtualization of today. Gabe's focus tends to lean more toward practical, real-world technology in the industry, essentially boiling off the hype and reducing solutions to their usefulness in today's corporate environments.

This was first published in November 2011

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