Citrix Synergy 2018 Review

This week Citrix held their large Citrix Synergy conference which I was fortunate enough to attend in person courtesy of Citrix through the CTP program. Thank you very much to Perrine and all involved in that program for making it possible. I’ve never been to Synergy before or any big vendor event like this for that matter.

I was right in the 5th row (You can see me talking shop with Tim Mangan unaware we're being recorded in the tweet above) sitting with my fellow CTPs during the keynote where CEO David Henshaw announced the Workspace app. Which has been claimed is the industry's most complete and integrated digital workspace solution.

 

During the keynote (which you can view in it's entirety above). David used a pretty good analogy to explain the Workspace and it’s importance. He showed AppleTV, Roku, Slingbox and FireTV and explained how they each offer some services which overlap but you may also use EACH for something different, for example you may access your own content through one, you stream TV shows through another and maybe you stream movies from a different service. He talked about how great it would be to unify and bring all of these services together in one place.

Citrix Workspace App does this for your apps. You can deliver your SaaS applications, your published virtual applications, desktops and file access in one place. With some extra sweetness thrown in there such as the Secure Browser capabilities, which can be used to access sites on a containerized Chromium browser ensuring integrity & security for your users device and your corporate assets. A SecureMail app, ShareFile app and more.

On Twitter it seemed the Workspace App and apps in general got the most attention but for me, as somebody who is a big fan already of Workspaces like VMware’s Workspace One and Software2’s AppsAnywhere what I really like is the contextual delivery capabilities and seamless workflow between apps that were demo'd or discussed in the keynote.

So for example, that seamless workflow as explained and demo’d is like when you’re on your phone today in say Twitter and you click a link to I don’t know maybe a Skype for Business Meeting and it then opens in your Skype for Business application seamlessly. Or, for example as shown in the demo if you are in your SecureMail app and you have a long e-mail thread which just keeps growing and growing, which is just no good for communication purposes as an e-mail, you can convert that thread and open it up as a group chat in Slack. So cool! These are just a couple of examples of this seamless workflow.

This is not me being a Citrix fanboy here BUT if you’re not excited by the Workspace. I think you may not realize it’s importance.

For me, personally, I find that most workers in an organization who I deliver applications to, use a handful of apps and have a pretty defined workflow. These people can be catered for with published applications. Which is excellent because it means a 1 to many RDSH for their needs rather than a full virtual desktop which is 1 to 1. Many vendors are moving to web based SaaS applications similar to Office 365 and Quickbooks. Well, today through StoreFront that becomes a bit of a disjointed experience or a management nightmare. I’ll have BYOD users accessing Office 365 in one tab external and StoreFront in another tab for their other applications. Getting users to open these in different sites today sucks. It’s not a good experience, it’s not a great workflow.

With Workspace, they can access their SaaS apps through the Workspace alongside their other published apps.

Citrix already have a Linux VDA. I can publish Linux desktops or possibly publish Linux applications. I can publish them a shared desktop for use if they need a full desktop experience at any point or possibly access to their physical workstation in the office through RemotePC or a full desktop through XenDesktop if I please.

Now factor in contextual delivery which should be present in future according to Citrix. What if you have an app which works great as a web based SaaS app on Windows, Mac, ChromeOS etc. but not so much on a small form factor device like your Smartphone running iOS or Android. Soon we should be able to ensure the best app for the job is launched so that phone user gets the mobile app version of Quickbooks or Outlook or what have you. Now when the same user launches via their workstation, they'll get the appropriate app there too. Beautiful!

Like I said, this is something Software2 does today and if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know how much I love their AppsAnywhere product so I’m really amped for this in Citrix Workspace. This will actually prolong the life of RDSH in my opinion. I love it.

During the the keynote, also showcased was the search feature which not only searches your apps but also searches your files.

On top of all of this, you can leverage the power of Citrix Analytics to build behavior and risk profiles to detect anything like anomalies in your work forces use of the Citrix Workspace.

For extra security, as mentioned you can leverage the SecureWeb and SecureMail apps when on personal devices with built enhanced security features to keep your employees personal assets and your corporates assets safe from anything malicious which may be opened within those apps. I'm sure just like any other security enhancement it's not the be all and end all but it's certainly another much needed layer of security to protect your organization.

Remember me covering the acquisition of Cedexis on a previous episode of the podcast? Well, it’s use by Citrix was revealed just a little bit as they highlighted it as an internet scale Intelligent Traffic Management Service. They didn’t cover it in much detail and it is still pretty new in their arsenal but this could have a big play for those with environments spanning multiple nations or global environments to manage.

At first I was kind of like “What the hell is going on” when Diane Bryant the COO for Google Cloud was on-stage talking about Citrix and the Google Cloud Platform and then during the demo of Citrix Workspace, they switched seamlessly from a laptop running Windows to a Chromebook showing consistency in experience as well as running your Windows app as published apps on the Chromebook. There was a different session which also got into more detail on managing Chrome devices with Citrix UEM which can you view above. A lot of love between Google and Citrix here, which had me asking questions about their relationship with Microsoft!

Microsoft featured very briefly in the keynote but a couple of big takeaways was an announcement of day 1 support for Windows Server 2019 and enhanced RDMi support coming. I know from conversations among attendees people wondered what that meant and if RDMi is basically going to eat Citrix's lunch but concerns for the relationship were short lived when Microsoft's RDS Group manager, Scott Manchester appeared to speak at a session during the week. RDMi really does sound like it will be a great offering of modern RDS services not necessarily to replace competitor products but rather to be leveraged by them to provide even greater value to their customers in the future.

I digress, back to the seamless workflows…when in the demo, they clicked on a Photoshop image file found through the search in their files within the Workspace and when they did, it opened inside the published version of Photoshop. Something which Nutanix has been able to do already but is still a very welcome feature.

For anybody using ServiceNow like I do. You will be able to automate some of your workflows between ServiceNow and Citrix allowing users to create service tickets from within the Workspace app.

In that vein, Christian Reilly demo’d a new approval workflow within the Workspace by first authenticating using facial recognition which was super cool and then getting David to send a PTO request which as shown in the video demo then sent an action into his queue which he could then take action on.

And get this. After 25+ years Citrix is finally getting in on the physical workstation game with announcements around their endpoint management offering. Details were a little sparse in this but it sounds like there’ll be SCCM co-existence and support for Workspace Hub devices like those from NComputing, AppleTV, Alexa for Business and ChromeOS. In a separate session it was also announced that Citrix’s very popular Workspace Environment Management product will be support on physical workstation to those with platinum licensing.

I really liked the keynote. I have watch previous keynotes online and I felt this was the first ever that contained features and announcements which not only interest me but are applicable and can be put into my environment very soon and best of all, all of the announcements made during the keynote itself will be available in the product line within 90 days. So it’s not just vaporware, this is something real!

At the event I had the pleasure of speaking at sessions with the incredible Ron Oglesby who frankly made it seem effortless. If you look at the image of us above, it looks like I'm the Danny DeVito to his Arnold Schwarzenegger! We got into good discussion around using Citrix App Layering for image management and how it can help you with your application portfolio today, help you simplify your image management in large organizations with many images and possibly various different hypervisors, brokers and basically insfrastructure in use across the org AND enable you to truly take what you create for your on-premises images and apps today and bring them right up the cloud with you now or possibly further down the road.

In Pierre Marmignon's session on Workspace Environment Management he showcased what to me was the most straight forward of all existing on-premises Citrix services transformations to the cloud. There’s very little effort required to get your current settings and setup into your cloud platform. Interestingly, it was announced that UPM is now considered a part of WEM and there will soon be an Office 365 container available to help you with some of the challenges with roaming Office 365 such as the search indexing issue. This is something which FSLogix has been solving for quite some time but it’s exciting to see Citrix also jumping into the fray on this.

Overall, I had f'kin blast at Synergy! I really loved it. I got to hang with my buddies like Trentent Tye, David Gautney, Steve Osbourne, Steve Elgan, Ryan Revord, Joe Shonk, Hal Lange, Steve Greenberg,Thomas Poppelgaard,Kevin Goodman,Tobias Kriedl ,Esther Barthel..too many to people to mention. I also got to meet people I have never met before but have interacted with online like the awesome Christian ReillyPatrick Coble, Dave Brett, Sean Donahue, Phil Wiffen Shane O'Neil, George Spiers, David Wilkinson ,Kevin Howell, and again too many to mention!!

I had really great conversations on the last day at the tech table lunch talk on Application Virtualization and VDI. Thanks to Steve Elgan for being a great host and inviting me to participate. I got to see Jarian Gibson, Shane Kleinert and Dave Brett absolutely kill it with their session. For those in attendance we also got treated to Shane doing a moonwalk before the session began which was a highlight of the day.

Before the event, I was worried there would be too many marketing heavy sessions and not enough technical but frankly, I was so busy networking and checking out everything the conference had to offer, the sessions I went to were about enough. I couldn't fit much more in.

I went to excellent vendor events such as the the InsideTrack lunch, an unofficial FSLogix party in the Marriot bar, a VMware EUC Champion dinner and more. Again...in such a short amount of time too many to mention!

The absolute highlight of the week for me though, was volunteering at the Battlebots competition where David Gautney and I teamed up to help a couple of really nice 9th grade students to build a robot and battle against others. Our team finished 4th. It was so much fun!

RORY MONAGHAN

RORY MONAGHAN

Microsoft MVP. Citrix CTP. IGEL Insider. VMware EUC Champion & vExpert.

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