Citrix OpenCloud: The Seven-legged Cloud Service

A turnkey solution — That’s how Citrix describes its “OpenCloud” offering. Whether a business is looking to expand its current cloud program or has yet to integrate cloud-based services, the open cloud concept enables the organization to do either. While many cloud services are simply “storage” solutions, Citrix offers everything from elastic cloud storage to on-demand applications to virtualization, and anything else a business needs to run from the cloud. Even though Citrix gives you the ability to integrate third-party cloud applications and services along with their products, a business starting from scratch with no on-site or cloud storage could use OpenCloud exclusively.

While the solutions that Citrix provide are great tools for the enterprise, there is no consumer or developer-level product. Unlike Amazon EC2, which can accommodate anything from an individual developer to a massive corporation, Citrix is business-centric only. It offers no simple-storage solution (even though they’re certainly capable of it) and no native mobile platform.

The OpenCloud actually consists of seven different solutions that together can meet almost any cloud-based need:

  • On-Demand Apps
  • On-Demand Demos
  • On-Demand Desktops
  • Compliance
  • On-boarding
  • Disaster Recovery
  • Application Development and Testing

In this article, I explore each of these offerings and explain how they combine to make up Citrix OpenCloud.

Citrix On-Demand Cloud: Enterprise Ready, Developer “Unfriendly”

On-Demand applications allow a business to host numerous applications off-site and access them through multiple platforms, including mobile devices. Even though Web-based applications usually operate slower than natively installed apps, the ability for multiple clients to access a variety of applications on-demand will make a cloud solution well worth it.

Gmail is an example of this kind of application in its simplest form. Any mobile device, desktop OS and thin client with a browser can access Gmail, Calendar and Contacts and run them without installation. Similarly, cloud applications such as those created in Citrix OpenCloud can be used immediately without having to wait for a download.

Some cloud services provide ready-to-use applications or even templates to use as starting points. Unfortunately Citrix does not provide such tools, and OpenCloud is not a development platform. Most applications ported to the Citrix framework will be developed externally, adding complexity for the end user and third-party developer. And as stated previously, even though cloud applications managed by Citrix run in a virtual environment without the need for downloads, the speed of a natively-installed application will always perform better than cloud-based apps.

The Citrix On-Demand Demo solution refers to the ability for a business to create a virtual environment that will showcase an application or solution for client presentation. Since the OpenCloud can integrate with your current solution, you can use the Citrix environment to showcase an app while hosting it on a native server on-site. Alternately, Citrix also provides an end-to-end solution that includes storage capacity, “network topology” and customizable templates to meet individual clients’ needs. The OpenCloud is advertised as able to create a custom proof-of-concept environment in minutes.

Citrix OpenCloud Compliance, On-Boarding and Disaster Recovery

Citrx also implements a strong “Compliance” solution, protecting all your data whether on site or in the cloud. Using the OpenCloud offering, all data and applications are forced into the backup solution without any modification to the application itself. As you’d expect, the Citrix compliance solution also provides end-to-end encryption and powerful authentication tools to keep your data safe and secure. And since OpenCloud works with whatever hardware and software is already implemented, any data created before the Citrix implementation can be protected in the cloud as well.

When a business attempts a move to the cloud, another concern is the fate of current applications already developed on first-party platforms. Another powerful tool afforded by Citrix is “On-Boarding.” This feature makes it easy to migrate your current applications to the cloud for virtual implementation. OpenCloud supports numerous virtual platforms and requires little adjustment to current apps. Once moved to the cloud, these application workloads can be managed via a virtual dashboard. Even when they are in the cloud, applications will behave as though they are still native to a platform and won’t require an additional learning curve for users.

Along with these numerous features, the OpenCloud offers a robust disaster recovery solution to make sure your data is always safe. Using replication and secure communication between the main data center and the cloud, data can always be rebuilt from the ground up. If a data center were to be lost, you could still operate applications and a desktop environment from the cloud. Citrix will also sync your current data solution — whether it is a physical server or public or private cloud — and integrate disaster recovery automatically

Development and Testing in OpenCloud

The seventh and final leg of the Citrix OpenCloud solution is the ability to develop and test applications in the cloud. Many times an application must be coded and developed on a piece of hardware in a full desktop environment. Citrix allows you to completely remove the hardware side of development and provides benefits not found in a closed-environment. Applications in development can be tested early on against the current network to find any integration issues — something that usually happens after compilation. Applications created in the cloud can also integrate online and offline components simultaneously.

Again, with the ability to develop and test applications in the cloud, Citrix does not provide a language or platform to develop on. Apps will need to be written in a Linux/Windows environment using a language of your choice.

Conclusion

As businesses grow larger, having to manage hundreds of physical computers with varying operating systems, hardware, and software becomes increasingly difficult. Taking a cloud-based virtual approach saves an IT department from having to service physical hard drives, install the same application on hundreds of computers, or manage different versions of an OS. Citrix OpenCloud centralizes your company’s infrastructure and makes it easy to implement an update or application on all user “computers” at once. Users can also access their personalized workspace anywhere — the office, home or on the road. This simplifies the troubleshooting process for IT professionals and creates a fluid experience for users as they move from machine to mobile device and back again.

The seven “legs” of Citrix OpenCloud really make it an end-to-end solution. Citrix has also partnered with some big-name cloud players such as IBM and Rackspace to offer a complete and well integrated product. Enterprises and large businesses would do well to take advantage of at least some of the cloud services Citrix has to offer.

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