Enhanced Citrix tool simplifies self-service for mobile workers

Enhancements to XenApp6, the on-demand application delivery tool from Santa Clara, Calif.-based Citrix Systems Inc., will simplify many tasks for mobile workers, the company says.

XenApp6 virtualizes Windows apps and delivers them to users on a range of devices, including the BlackBerry, iPhone, Android-based smartphones, as well as PCs and Macs.

The enhanced tool will be available for download on March 24. A new license will cost from $350 per concurrent user.

The self-service feature enables users to access corporate apps on non-company devices without costly and time-consuming manual IT support, according to David Wright, Citrix area vice-president for Canada.

“Depending on how the system is set up, IT admins do not have to touch or do anything to the user’s device at all,” he told ITBusiness.ca He said users only have to download Citrix’s receiver client on to their device.

This software, which remains “transparent” to users, directs their device to the company’s server once they sign in.

Through XenApp6’s integration with Citirx Dazzle, which Wright described as a “self-service storefront for applications”, a screen interface similar to that of DirectTV or Apple iTunes appears on the user’s machine.

“It requires virtually no training. The user simply browses or searches for an application or IT service and subscribes or unsubscribes with one click,”  Wright said. Users can even organize their favourite applications into “playlists” and decide which folders appear in their Start menu or OSX Dock.

Remote sessions are fully encrypted, the Citrix exec noted.

Making life easier for IT

Faster application deployment is essential for Promutuel, a Quebec-based financial and insurance firm, which handles a lot of offices and remote brokers operating in Canada’s largest province.

The 150-year-old company has 2,800 members, 1,800 employees and more than 200 brokers operating from their own offices or home offices, according to Pierre-Etienne Croteau, the company’s IT manager.

“As we have 260 points of service (offices and brokers) outside company headquarters, a quick and reliable means of deploying applications is important to us,” said Croteau.

Promutuel uses Citrix’s integrated Web application delivery controller, Netscaler, which works hand-in-hand with the XenApp application virtualization and application management system.

Prior to XenApp, the company used a VPN client from Cisco.
Croteau said Promutuel found the Cisco system’s network connections “unreliable.”

It was also cumbersome, he said.  “For example if we had to do a network-wide application  rollout, IT had to install the client on every device.”

As Promutuel’s workforce was dispersed, this could easily take two months, because numerous broker and employee schedules and system requirements had to be coordinated.

The same exercise will take only two days with Citrix, because IT staff can enable automatic application access for authenticated users, who have signed on.

“It’s almost a self-service counter,” Croteau said.

Ideal for SMBs too

Though widely known as an enterprise tool, XenApp is is also being used in many small and mid-sized outfits.

“Environments with anywhere from 200 to 500 users have the same challenges as large enterprises,” Wright of Citrix said.

One systems integrator agrees.

“In many organizations, software upgrades or application deployment is done one machine at a time, according to Todd Hsu, president of TH Consulting Inc., a Montreal-based systems integrator.

“XenApp’s central management features enable IT administrators to do this in one shot within an hour,” Hsu said.

Apart from dramatically shrinking deployment time this also reduces manpower cost.

One of TH Consulting Inc.’s clients is a transport company with terminals in Montreal and Toronto and about 2,000 employees. “Manually rolling out an application is this scenario would be just unbearable,” Hsu said.

With XenApp, he said, the company was able to provide remote application access to employees without IT having to physically touch each machine.  

And XenApp6 has other features designed to ease the burden on IT staff, Hsu noted.

For instance, the tool’s new management console, AppCenter, lets IT administrators manage applications from a centralized spot using one tool.

Previously, admins used a number of different consoles to maintain their XenApp environment, including License Manager and Web Interface.

Support for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 will also simplify management, including the initial installation of XenApp and profile management, said Wright.

He said performance enhancements in Windows Server 2008 R2 lets XenApp scale up to more than 100,000 concurrent users in a single server farm.

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