I’m impartial to desktop or web applications as long as they serve the intended use case, interface with a collaborative system, and embody the benefits of Cloud. Citrix is often one of the most misunderstood companies that has a key role in the evolution of the Cloud. Citrix is the company behind several great products, some of which I’ll reference in the future. Their flagship XenApp product line is the one most people are referring to when saying “It’s Citrix based”. XenApp enables companies to manage & publish any Windows based application to users over the internet behind a secure “window”.
The term Citrix (loosely used by people referring to XenApp) often raises an eyebrow from battered IT workers and due to this unfairly scores a check box on the wrong side of the due diligence matrix if required to deliver software. After working with XenApp (and its predecessors) over the last ten years, I can confidently say it has a unique place in the Cloud and would even go as far as to say it falls into the category of key enablers.
That said, there is XenApp, and then there is XenApp done right. When done right, it can be a great asset to users, administrators, IT pros and budget minded business leaders.
Far to often people jump to conclusion that a browser based app is the best application, and is synonymous with or required to leverage the Cloud. To be clear, browsers and cloud are unrelated (notice you don’t see “browser” in my early definitions). More often than you think, those browser based users are longing for the good old days of fast applications before they got forced to sit and watch progress wheels spin, mess with plug ins, or abandon the comforts of well trained hands gliding over habitual keyboard patterns. There is no better evidence of this use case & desire than the billions (and counting) of non-browser apps that have been moved through Apple’s App store among others.
Deploying an application via Citrix XenApp has no technical relevence to Apple’s app store, but it can have a similarly powerful end result if done right. Rather than abandon perfectly good existing applications for the latest and often not so greatest browser based product, you can effectively create your own app store, with existing software you own. While not impossible to do in-house, doing it all via the Cloud can make this process a cost effective, reliable experience as well. Innovative service providers (including my own company) have worked out ways to apply the framework of Cloud to this idea resulting in next level delivery with zero IT investment and an unparalleled quality & cost basis.
It’s fairly simple to guage whether XenApp is a candidate as a piece of your Cloud puzzle. Their are two main questions that generally need to be asked surrounding this go/no go decision.
A) Do your users need to work offline, disconnected from the Internet?
B) Do your use cases require emails and notifications that would enable users to follow a link and drill into a specific area of focus in the application?
There are many other questions that can be asked, but these are the 2 deal breakers. If you can answer these with a “no”, then chances are, your current product investments or even future ones are a great candidate for using Citrix XenApp based solutions. If you fit this profile, a good cloud based solution can give users a far better experience, much better workspace security, and a string of other benefits while saving money normally spent on closely managed desktops, sprawling licenses, and debates with users over use of WinTel, Apple, Android, or iOS devices as their preferred form factor.
So before you toss out the tried and true applications that have been the cornerstone of your business for years, or give up on Citrix XenApp based solutions due to lack of in-house competencies, think twice about the possible benefits and the root of the problem you may have with such technologies. The value of your employees having the tools they need and being productive far out weigh this debate, so once you’ve established the bottle neck, look to the Cloud for some answers you may not be getting from your traditional go to IT resources.