Virtually Possible

Feature Article | April 12, 2011 by Heather McIlvaine

Whether it’s virtualization for desktop or device, we’ve got our finger on the pulse (source: Fotolia)

Whether it’s virtualization or the cloud, Citrix has its finger on the pulse (source: Fotolia)

Increased worker productivity and reduced overall computing costs – Citrix products and solutions are capable of delivering incredible benefits to enterprises. Since opening its doors back in 1989, Citrix, an SAP partner, has been one of the leaders in the business of virtualization.

Admittedly, desktop virtualization is hardly breaking news; the concept has been around since the 1960s. But in recent years, Citrix and SAP have been using virtualization technology to extend the value of SAP applications to more users at any location and on any device.

SAP.info spoke with Roland Wartenberg, Director of Strategic Alliances at Citrix, Chris Fleck, Vice President, Community & Solutions Development at Citrix, and Simon Crosby, CTO, Datacenter and Cloud Division at Citrix, to get the latest information on the projects Citrix is working on with SAP. They highlight Citrix XenServer, Citrix Receiver, and Citrix OpenCloud.

SAP.info: What are the latest projects SAP and Citrix have been working on?

Roland Wartenberg: Just last November, SAP announced support for Citrix XenServer, and that was huge for Citrix. We worked with SAP for almost two years to make sure that XenServer supports SAP applications and dashboards in the back end. In March of this year, SAP completed its testing of XenApp 6.0 and released a support statement.

Citrix Receiver has been available for just under a year, so customers already are able to run front end components, like SAP Business Suite, on any kind of new mobile device. Right now, Citrix Receiver is the top business app in the Apple App Store.

Keep reading the SAP.info interview. Next, you’ll hear from:

Or skip ahead for an overview of the Citrix Xen-based solutions.

SAP customers connect to applications on device via Citrix Receiver

Citrix Receiver enables customers to access SAP applications on the go (source: Citrix)

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An overview of how Citrix Receiver works on various devices with XenApp and XenDesktop (source: Citrix)

SAP.info: How are SAP customers making use of Citrix Receiver in conjunction with their SAP applications?

Chris Fleck: What Citrix Receiver does is provide an application on the client – whether that’s a PC, thin client, iPhone, iPad, Android, or other tablet – which connects the user back to the server hosting the SAP application. Basically, we provide a server-based or cloud-based environment in terms of infrastructure, and the user is able to connect to that environment with Receiver.

This means that SAP applications can be extended to any device, even newer devices, without the compatibility issues that often occur. Some SAP native applications have specific browser requirements that may not work with all devices, but Citrix Receiver makes compatibility a non-issue.

A lot of companies also use Receiver to enable a bring-your-own device concept, so IT doesn’t have to worry about data being left on a local device. You can let employees bring in their own iPads to work, and, if you’re hosting SAP on Citrix, they can connect to the server via Receiver without any security concerns.

SAP.info: What’s next for Citrix Receiver?

Chris Fleck: Our strategy is to make Receiver available for new tablets as they come out. We released Citrix Receiver when the iPad came out in April last year, and we’re already seeing widespread use of Receiver with the iPad. Next we’re targeting webOS for the upcoming HP device and the BlackBerry tablet. We think these devices will be popular with the SAP business customer, so we want to make sure we support them.

In addition, Citrix works really well with some SAP products in particular, like SAP BusinessObjects, which lets you create executive dashboards. Normally, in order to view the dashboards with the rich interactivity that they require, you need Flash capability, which the iPad and iPhone don’t have. But we see an opportunity to create dashboards and deliver them to an Apple device via Receiver. And since SAP BusinessObjects lets you pick the right format in which to view the dashboard, you get a really rich experience even with the smaller format of an iPhone.

I think this is a big opportunity for SAP and Citrix that hasn’t been tapped yet. Between Receiver, BusinessObjects, and the proliferation of mobile devices, we can make dashboards generically pervasive and usable for businesses.

SAP.info: Let’s return to Citrix XenServer. For many companies, a large part of the draw to virtualization is the promised cost savings. How exactly do Citrix solutions lower the total cost of ownership for customers?

Roland Wartenberg: When you look at the whole food chain, starting in the back end with Citrix XenServer and the data center through the network with desktop virtualization technology to the front end with Citrix Receiver, the cost savings are everywhere.

Let’s start in the back end. SAP customers can run multiple SAP solutions from one server, increasing the utilization of each server to a ratio of up to 1:10. Instead of using one server for one SAP component, you can run up to 10 virtual components on Citrix XenServer. You need less power, less cooling, less floor space – and that saves you money.

It’s a similar story on the front end with desktop virtualization. Imagine that instead of giving a full, working PC with a locally-installed application to every employee, you can give them a virtualized environment. You give employees a thin-client and move the whole operating system away from the desktop to a server. With Citrix XenApp, you can put several hundred end users on one XenServer in the data center, and employees gain access to the applications via Citrix Receiver.

Next Page: Simon Crosby on Citrix OpenCloud

XenServer supports impressive cost savings for companies

Looking to cut costs? Server Virtualization might be the answer (source: Citrix)

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Citrix has a unique strategy for moving into the cloud (source: Citrix)

SAP.info: Citrix already supports 100% of Fortune 100 companies and 99% of the Global 500. Does Citrix see its computing solution, Citrix OpenCloud, as the way to reach new customers?

Simon Crosby: Everything that we do already is kind of cloud-ish. The core capabilities that Citrix has always had are providing customers with large, massively scalable platforms that deliver applications to users as a service. That’s essentially what XenApp does. Now with Citrix OpenCloud, we have broadened our approach to include a more generic notion of infrastructure-as-a-service, which means that we will support not only Windows applications, but also desktops, Linux, scalable web apps and next-generation mobile applications.

SAP.info: Can you elaborate?

Simon Crosby: Our strategy is to enable customers to build massively scalable cloud services at a fraction of the cost of competitive offerings. What sets us apart from other vendors is the fact that we’re one hundred percent committed to an open stack. We think customers ought to be able to use Amazon web services even if they’re using a different vendor for their private cloud. We call it any-any.

Chris already told you about the ability of Citrix Receiver to allow any device to access any desktop and any application. Our goal with Citrix OpenCloud is to allow any enterprise infrastructure to federate with any cloud service seamlessly, and for our customers to achieve the benefits of cloud computing more quickly, more efficiently, and with more automation.

Essentially we’re extending enterprise identity management and the network out into the cloud. Concretely, that means employees would be able to get access to applications in the cloud using their enterprise identity. Of course, we deliver additional components such as security and service level agreements that businesses require.

SAP.info: How does Citrix OpenCloud tie in with the rest of the portfolio?

Simon Crosby: With XenDesktop we deliver applications and desktops as a service. Our goal there is to deliver scalability and performance and to reduce costs for our customer. This year, we’ve managed to drastically reduce the total cost of ownership for XenDesktop through innovations in storage automation. We hope to continue to reduce the price of running infrastructure so that eventually it becomes a no-brainer to do desktop virtualization.

And more strategically, as newer devices come out, our goal is to deliver the infrastructure end to end. We’ll deliver the front end with Receiver and the back end with our cloud infrastructure. We’ll give our customers the best, cheapest, and most secure way to deliver any of these next-generation applications.

Next page: Overview of Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop, and XenServer

XenApp

XenApp virtualizes, centralizes, and manages corporate applications in a central database. When an application is requested by a user, it is delivered on demand to the user’s PC or laptop through application streaming, local application delivery, or application hosting.

Rather than installing applications locally on every PC and dealing with applications on an individual basis, IT is able to manage a single instance of each application in the data center. This reduces desktop management costs by up to 50 percent. Corporations also profit from increased worker productivity. Employees who work from home or often travel retain full access to corporate applications and information. Corporate security is maintained through data and application encryption, policy-based password management, and session monitoring.

XenApp 6, the latest version, was released in October 2010. With this version, installation time is cut in half thanks to new set-up wizards. In addition, XenApp 6 can scale up to 100,000 concurrent users in a single farm and has increased the server scalability by over 15 percent. XenApp 6 also introduced a redesigned application management console, AppCenter, for simplified application management and support from one central location.

XenDesktop

XenDesktop delivers on-demand virtual desktops to users, including fully integrated XenApp functionality. Users can access their desktop from anywhere and on any device. Like with XenApp, a centralized data center allows for more efficient IT management. The data center also lets companies manage applications and operating systems separately, which simplifies updates. In addition, help desk support, security, and backups are all run from the data center, streamlining support processes. The idea behind XenDesktop is for businesses to migrate from PCs to inexpensive thin clients over time and eventually to run all operations out of the data center.

XenDesktop 5, the most recent version of the solution, was introduced in October 2010. Among the new capabilities are: touch-enabled support for next-generation devices, connection to a new generation of Windows, web, and SaaS apps, and a completely redesigned user interface.

XenServer

The Citrix XenServer goes one step further in virtualizing enterprise data. With Citrix XenServer, businesses can run multiple virtual machines on one physical server, drastically reducing the number of servers needed and thereby also cutting costs for housing, cooling, and managing servers. The underlying Xen hypervisor technology keeps each virtual machine on the server separate, allowing machines to run different operating systems and applications.

Xen hypervisor also enables live migration, the ability to move a virtual machine to a different physical server while the machine is running. This capability means that responding to software and hardware downtime – due to planned upgrades or unplanned errors – can occur during the workday without disrupting end users, an obvious benefit for IT staff.

In a 2009 study, SAP measured the benefits of implementing Citrix XenServer in its own business. The results? SAP was able to reduce its server racks from 30 to 6 racks, an 80% reduction in data center space. Energy savings were also significant: power consumption and carbon emissions were both reduced by 80%. Server delivery time per request improved 99%. SAP experienced an overall cost savings of 35%.

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A 2008 case study of SAP’s XenServer implementation shows impressive results (source: SAP)

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