Virtual reality

Citrix recently held its first Synergy conference outside of the United States, where it unveiled a raft of new software, services and partnerships, all focused on helping it become the first choice for CIOs when it comes to enabling virtualisation and cloud computing.

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Virtual reality AGUADO: Bandwidth is still an issue for the Middle East, but technology is helping cut its impact.
By  Ben Furfie Published  November 23, 2010

Citrix recently held its first Synergy conference outside of the United States, where it unveiled a raft of new software, services and partnerships, all focused on helping it become the first choice for CIOs when it comes to enabling virtualisation and cloud computing. We find out just what the company has install for the Middle East market.

It’s the last day of what has been a long, but productive week for Citrix. The company has just held its first major partner event outside of the US, and announced the release of new software and services to the mix of partners, customers and the press. Antoine Aguado, Citrix’s regional director for the Middle East relaxes into his chair, smiling. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response we’ve had,” he begins. “I know that what we were showing was exciting, but the response we’ve had was beyond anything we were expecting. We not only sold out the event, but the enthusiasm we saw was amazing. People really seem to be excited about what they’ll be able to do with our new products.”

Amongst the software and services the company announced at the show is Xen Desktop 5. “If you look at the technology we’ve seen at Synergy, it is obvious the value it can bring to any kind or size of organisation: whether it is a small law firm of two or three people, or a very large company like Aramco,” he says. “As we’ve seen over the past couple of years, the needs of organisations in the Middle East are changing. Right now, there is more connectivity, there are more devices that staff are using to access their business and therefore, they are more mobile. It creates new requirements due to the change in user expectations.”

One of the points he is keen to address is the issue of bandwidth, or the lack thereof in the Middle East. Citing Citrix’s range of solutions that are designed to help reduce bandwidth use, Aguado says the issue is no longer the barrier to the adoption of new technologies, such as desktop virtualisation, as it used to be. “If you look at recent trends, the main concern has moved away from bandwidth, and towards cost savings.

It’s something that we as a company have become acutely aware of in the past 18 months,” he reveals. “Companies are a lot more conscious about how they spend their money, but at the same time, they are demanding far more out of the solutions they purchase. It has meant the CIO has become stuck between two competing and seemingly incompatible demands. So the question is, how can they do more, with less? I, and several of the partners I’ve spoken with this week, feel that with the new range of solutions we have released this week, we may have just solved that problem,” he adds.

Taking it to extremes, Citrix suggested at the event that CIOs could do away with almost all of their IT infrastructure, offering staff the opportunity to use their own IT equipment – regardless of what operating system they have installed – without putting the enterprise’s network or data at risk from employee misuse, loss, theft or malicious software. The reason for this is its approach to virtualisation in the cloud computing age.

“Imagine being able to use your own laptop – it might be an Apple MacBook running OS X, for example – now, normally, there would be no way to do that,” explains Aguado. “Because of our approach to virtualisation, CIOs can split the work use and personal use by offering the employee two virtual desktops. By virtualising the two desktops separately, it means there is much more flexibility to control what users can and can’t do – for example, you may allow them to plug in personal devices, and allow them to interact while on the personal virtual desktop, but when they switch over to the work virtual desktop, those devices are disabled to prevent unauthorised data leakage.

“It also means both desktops can be stored on either a private or public cloud,” he adds. “It means that an employee that needs to work outside the office can access their virtual desktop, say from their iPad, without any of the data being displayed or created being stored on the device. It not only allows the CIO to restrict access to certain times of the day, but also removes the risk of data being comprised by the device being lost or stolen.”

It is this approach that Aguado feels is one of the main benefits of Citrix’s solutions. “The partnerships that we have been signing, such as with Microsoft, Cisco and McAfee are all intended to give enterprises what they need to be able to take full advantage of the benefits that cloud computing will bring to the future workplace.”

Of course, the biggest technological challenge in the Middle East without a doubt is bandwidth availability and cost. However, Aguado is confident that the company has what it takes to help companies save money. “We saw a tremendous cut in bandwidth use between Xen Desktop 3 and Xen Desktop 4,” says Aguado. “Bandwidth remains a crucial area, but with the advances in scalability, compatibility and integration of data has cut bandwidth demands substantially,” he reveals. So by using things like Citrix NetScaler, Branch Repeater and Xen Desktop, enterprises can negate many of the issues.

As Citrix’s CEO Mark Templeton said on stage at Synergy Berlin during his keynote: “When we said that we will bring a seamless consumer experience to any device, like the iPad, for enterprise use, we meant it. This is the Citrix vision.”

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