Live from Citrix Synergy 2010: Day 1

This year extends its live coverage of virtualization conferences to the Citrix Synergy 2010.
The event, taking place in San Francisco, actually started this Monday, but the first two days have been dedicated to the Citrix Technology Professionals (CTPs), the Citrix partners and other groups. Today and tomorrow instead the conference will be open to the general public with keynotes from Mark Templeton (Citrix’s President and CEO), Michael Dell (Dell’s Chairman and CEO), Brad Anderson (Microsoft’s Corporate Vice president of the Management and Services Division) and Frank Gens (IDC’s Senior Vice President and Chief Analyst).

Citrix is expected to announce the beta availability of XenClient as confirmed by early feedbacks already published yesterday evening by partners and attendees.
The presence of Michael Dell clearly indicates a major partnership announcement between the two companies, but there will be at least another key partnership will be announced with McAfee, as ChannelTimes and other publications already revealed.

Mark Templeton is on stage.

Before him, the projected list of Platinum Sponsors include McAfee as the only security vendor. McAfee clearly wants to invest big in the partnership with Citrix.

Today’s topic is about what Citrix calls virtual workstyle, while tomorrow’s keynote will focus on the virtual datacenters.
The term virtual workstyle summarizes the company’s effort to deliver and present the work environment on today’s and tomorrow’s devices (PCs, smatphones, tables, ebook readers, etc.) that a corporation may want to use, while keeping central control of it.

Such effort is made of three pieces: virtual meetings (GoToMeeting), virtual desktops (XenDesktop and XenClient), and virtual apps (XenApp).

A lot of time of the keynote is spent to present case studies and partners supporting videos. While it’s understandable that Citrix wants to articulate its vision through testimonials, the effort dedicated to this seems an unnecessary attempt to validate the company strategy.

Brian Barney, Executive Vice President of Products Operations at McAfee is invited on stage.
He introduces the partnership with Citrix on desktop virtualization by briefly summarizing the issues when you install a traditional security software inside a virtual infrastructure: performance impact and agents redundancy (which means an unnecessary waste of physical resources).

McAfee plains to solve this problem by releasing a new products line that is optimized for VDI deployment.
Barney didn’t detail a single thing about this upcoming technology and according to that the audience’s answer has been tepid. It was not even clear what was the difference between the existing product and the upcoming one.
The reality is that the McAfee partnership with Citrix on security is really interesting and articulated in two levels. Look for a detailed post about this from

Templeton finally announces XenClient, the Citrix client hypervisor.

As expected, XenClient can run corporate virtual desktops side by side with personal ones, and run in offline mode. The product is based on the XenServer code.
XenClient comes with the Citrix Receiver, to populate the virtual machine container with applications, and a Synchronizer that puts in sync local virtual machines with the copies on the virtual data center.
XenClient has a security wrapper that allows to enforce corporate policies, like the capability to remotely kill the virtual desktop or the capability to block access to USB devices.
The platform leverages Intel vPro technology even if, apparently, this is not a mandatory requirement.

XenClient can support more than two virtual desktops, and offer a Studio product to author XenClient virtual machines and define deployment and security policies.

Demo time: a Windows 7 virtual machine running a 3D video game concurrently with a very, very smooth video. It’s hard to say without a real hands-on testing, but the performance seems remarkable.
Of course Citrix is not saying a word about the configuration of the laptop running the demo, except that it’s powered by Intel vPro.

The demo goes on: the Synchronizer delivers a new policy to the XenClient virtual desktop, removing access to network interface cards, CDs, etc. The virtual desktop is then remotely killed and the user goes back to the XenClient welcome screen which allows to select the VM to start.

The audience seems impressed.

During a supporting video about XenClient, Citrix announces support from Dell and HP.
The video includes a supporting statement from Microsoft, which may imply a near future support of XenClient from Hyper-V and System Center products family.
Ultimately, Microsoft may want to use XenClient, which Citrix is releasing for free, as the client hypervisor of choice until they are ready to deliver a Hyper-V Client.

Citrix releases today the candidate version of a first edition called XenClient Express, which includes the Receiver and the Synchronizer.
Along with it, Citrix announces that four laptops from Dell and four from HP five laptops from Dell and three laptops from HP (plus three from Lenovo) are ready today for XenClient.

Templeton goes on and introduces a new zero client from Wyse called Xenith that supports HDX and XenDesktop out of the box.
The devices boots in two seconds and connects to the remote environment in five seconds.
Additionally, it very smoothly runs a Windows Media HD video as well as Flash videos (not as smoothly, but maybe it depends on the network as this seems a live connection to YouTube).
The device also supports local USB devices, like iPhones or webcams, that are leveraged by remote applications like a hosted iTunes or a web-based video chat.

The audience is really impressed.

Templeton closes the keynote part dedicated to virtual desktops briefly mentions five new upcoming capabilities of the HDX remoting protocol that are currently dubbed as HDX Nitro, previewed during the conference: project Mach 3 (increases performance by 3x), project Zoom (allows instantaneous applications startup), project Laser (reduces by 10% bandwidth for remote printing), project Mercury (high speed performance over WANs with up to 300ms network latency), project Dynamo (quality of service applied to HDX).

Now Templeton moves to the last part of his keynote, dedicated to virtual apps.

He talks about the Brings Your Own Computer (BYOC) IT delivery model that Citrix is promoting, and supporting through the Citrix Receiver technology, and mentions Sophos as the partner that is leveraging the plug-in architecture of Receiver with an on-the-fly virus scan plug-in.

A new data encrypting plug-in developed by Citrix (and available as GA in Q3 2010) is also announced: it taps into Receiver and encrypts on the fly the applications that Receiver streams to the unmanaged computers in a BYOC model, allowing to protect and remotely kill any corporate data if need

Demo time: the Apple iTunes clone for enterprise applications developed by Citrix, Dazzle, is used to select which applications must be streamed through the Receiver on a BYOC unmanaged computer from the corporate catalog.
Sensitive information written with a financial applications cant’ be saved anywhere in the unmanaged computer HD but in a special folder called Safe Zone, which will encrypt them and that Receiver can kill remotely.

The keynotes ends the presentation of a special Ford truck developed by Ford. The truck is featuring a standard dashboard that embeds the Receiver.
The idea that a driver remotely connects to the his Windows desktop is funny and scary at the same time. But it’s effective to clarify once again that Citrix’s mission is to present corporate information on any display a user can watch.

Tomorrow’s keynote is about virtual datacenters, so expects a focus on XenServer and XenDesktop backend. will publish live coverage as well. Stay tuned!