Citrix Application Delivery is big business, and something many of us have made a career of for over a decade. While many of us have bet our careers on Citrix Application Delivery, and it has become second nature to us — I still get a lot of questions from people who are new to Citrix on this topic. They ask me why Citrix is so popular right now, and what is it about Citrix that makes application delivery so efficient in a virtualized environment? Let’s take a look at some use cases, and do our best to explain why Citrix is the leader of the application delivery market space.
1). Ease of Delivery
When I say that it’s easy, I don’t mean for the administrators, because it’s obviously a lot of work to deploy a virtualized Citrix environment! I say it’s easy for the end users, who have to do nothing except install a small Citrix receiver or ICA client on their PC. Some don’t even have to do that much, because there are many Citrix admins out there who are successfully deploying receiver and client to thin clients via software delivery packages like SCCM so that the users don’t have to lift a finger at all. The benefit to the users is great because they don’t have to do anything other than turn on their PC, and they see some application icons appear in their start menu.
Some primary use cases for Citrix are still electronic medical records (EMR) applications, which would normally be gigantic and complex to install on a user’s PC. By deploying EMR applications over Citrix, you give the users the ability to access the brain of a super computer on something as small as their IPad or tablet. This has come in very handy in the medical profession recently, because most medical charting has moved away from a clipboard, and has moved to an Ipad or tablet. Without Citrix, you would not have the ability to run such powerful applications on portable devices, and therefore this step could never have been achieved!
2). Ability to Run Applications in Segregated Environments
We all have complex custom apps in our companies that are many years old, and that have not been updated forever. These are your problem apps that can dominate your time, and really light up the help desk with tickets whenever something breaks within them. These types of applications do not play well with others, and can’t typically be deployed on servers that are hosting other applications. Citrix came out with a feature a few years ago that didn’t really catch on called “Application Isolation Environments”. This was created so that you could deploy virtualized apps on a server in a way that would keep them from touching other apps, and messing with common pieces of infrastructure like Windows Server! While this feature is no longer heavily used, most Citrix admins now use the streaming ability built into every version of Xenapp since 4.5, which allows you to push down virtualized applications to the client desktop in a package that exists within itself, and does not depend on the OS or risk breaking other apps. Streaming has become the new way Citrix admins achieve application isolation during delivery, and it is an amazing technology. Streamed applications can also be packaged in ways that allows them to run when the user is not even connected to the network, which has some great niche applications for the mobile workforce!
3). Ability to Maintain Redundancy, and Eliminate Downtime
One of the primary reasons big companies, hospitals, and manufacturers rely on Citrix for application delivery is because of its ability to create redundancy and virtually eliminate downtime. This is accomplished in a few ways, starting with application siloing. By maintaing multiple servers that host certain applications, a server can be taken offline at will without impacting the other servers in the farm. This comes in handy for maintenance windows and change management. Many hospitals are now using Citrix Provisioning Server in their application delivery model so that they can make changes to a virtualized server image in the background, then deploy it to the farm without having any downtime at all. PVS is a quickly growing technology that is allowing Citrix admins the freedom to scale their environments up and down depending on need, while retaining complete control over change management.
4). Reduces Support Costs
Obviously if you don’t have a custom application installed on individual user desktops across an enterprise environment, it’s going to reduce your support costs. Help desk calls will decrease, user productivity will increase, and your bottom line will be positively impacted. This has been one of the best kept secrets of Citrix Application Delivery for years now, and it appears to be getting better. Many companies are now finding that if they used virtualized desktop delivery via Citrix Xendesktop, they can actually save even more money on support costs because they eliminate the need to support user desktops all together. Images are scrubbed each time a user logs off, and you can control the user’s ability to install applications, printers, or any number of options that might reduce downtime and help desk calls.
In conclusion, Citrix has been the leading in the application delivery space for close to a decade now, and there is simply no viable competition. While Microsoft continues to fiddle around with tools like RDPApp, and remote desktop — it remains clear that they don’t want to intrude on Citrix, probably because they still own a sizable amount of Citrix stock. Overall, Citrix seems poised to continue leading in this space, and it is a great career niche to bet your chips on. Most of the largest companies in the world currently depend on Citrix for application virtualization and delivery, and that does not look to change anytime soon.