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Citrix VDI housekeeping -- devoid of hype -- is a breath of fresh air

Citrix VDI conducted some much-needed housekeeping at Synergy last week to make up for hype in recent years that hasn't panned out.

Citrix Systems Inc. repaid some of its debts to desktop virtualization administrators at its annual conference, even if none of its announcements were terribly surprising.

At the Citrix Synergy 2013 opening keynote, you could almost feel the confusion as the presentation wrapped up and the lights turned on. People wondered aloud "Wait, that's it?" There was no "one more thing" as Citrix CEO Mark Templeton has been known to do as an homage to Steve Jobs (which is good considering its track record of Citrix Dazzle and Receiver for Facebook).

There was energy at Citrix Synergy 2013, but it was hard to pinpoint from exactly where the energy was emanating. The only previously unknown product or project discussed was Desktop Player, a type 2 hypervisor for Mac. That's interesting, but it's certainly not the crux of the conference. In fact, if you look at the list of new technology at Synergy without being at the show itself, you might think that Citrix laid an egg. However, when you look at the big picture, this was a very good show for Citrix VDI and mobility.

Citrix pays back some promise debt

Citrix delivered on its past promises without doling out a fresh helping of hype.

Citrix and VMware have both been guilty of showing off products that either never get made (VMware) or get made but are so crazy to implement that they're not very practical (Citrix). Both companies have made high-profile acquisitions that have yet to live up to the initial hype, too; for instance, there was no huge Podio demo this year at Synergy.

In fact, if you gauged the industry by keynotes alone, the technology assembled by these two companies is light years ahead of the competition. But when you look at the actual products, features and implemented tools today, you see a gap between the marketing and the solutions. I've call this gap promise debt. Fortunately, the most recent shows from Citrix and VMware have done a good job of repaying some of that debt rather than adding to it.

The key takeaways from Synergy are that Excalibur will be released in June under the name XenDesktop 7. There is absolutely nothing surprising about this, partly because it was a horribly kept secret by Citrix, and partly because we already learned about Excalibur in Barcelona in October 2012. There are a few new features, such as combined desktop and application pools and XenDesktop 7 App Edition (which is Remote Desktop Session Host-only, based on FlexCast Management Architecture rather than Independent Management Architecture, but those are both fairly minor.

Citrix XenServer didn't come up at all, and the only news about XenApp is that version 6.5 Feature Pack 2 is released -- which still doesn't support Windows Server 2012; you need XenDesktop 7 App Edition for that. 

Citrix mobile levels off

Even on the mobile front, where Citrix made a huge push last year, we saw more level setting than innovation. XenMobile was on display, re-branded after Citrix's acquisition of Zenprise MDM. The @Work suite of mobile, sandboxed applications that Citrix was delivering as part of the CloudGateway Enterprise suite has been renamed as the Worx Home suite, ostensibly because the previous naming scheme wasn't compatible with Twitter (not that spelling works incorrectly is any better).

When talking about mobile application support, Citrix sort of left out that Receiver is still part of the process. Instead, it's talking about how many ISVs and applications are on board with its platform. Rather than trumping up a new version of CloudGateway Enterprise or XenMobile with crazy new features that won't make Tech Preview until Q4, Citrix simply showed off what it can do today. It was almost refreshing.

Essentially, Citrix delivered on its past promises without doling out a fresh helping of hype. This is good, because there's a lot of work to be done when talking to the people that are doing the work. CloudGateway Enterprise is far from easy to install and requires even the brightest of admins or consultants to call reserves. Citrix Consulting Services has to get involved more often than I think they would even like because the product is rough around the edges. I'm sure Citrix is working on it, but shouting, "We're gonna make it so you can use any OS to wrap an application, not just Mac!" doesn't make for an exciting announcement.

Good for Citrix for taking some time to pull its massive suite of products together. The company did a good job of picking out the exciting things for the keynote; plus, you can be sure what's going on behind the scenes, while not too sexy, is quality work.

Tune in next week for an analysis of the other big hits at the show, including NVIDIA's GPU demo and Atlantic Computing storage.

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What do you think was the most exciting news out of Citrix Synergy 2013?