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SSO and GPU Boost Coming to Citrix Virtual Desktop and Apps

While the big news for Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop customers is the company's plans to offer Microsoft Azure as a back-end service for its virtual application and VDI offerings, updated releases of both offerings are also coming this month.

The latest versions of Citrix XenApp and Citrix XenDesktop will include single sign-on support though a new federated identity management service, offer extended GPU support for graphics-intensive applications and is now suited for higher performance via integration with key hyper-converged computing platforms. Citrix said its XenApp and XenDesktop 7.9 release will integrate with SAML-based identity providers and Active Directory connected to its Citrix NetScaler load balancing, networking and application distribution controller.

Citrix officials outlined the new features in XenApp and Xen Desktop at last month's Citrix Synergy conference in Las Vegas. Over the past year, Citrix has moved to bring XenApp and XenDesktop to a common code base, and, rather than deliver major new releases once per year, Citrix is now updating both of them more frequently with incremental new features.

The federated identity management service added to the 7.9 release lets each business or group owner administer their own Active Directory domains. Those setting up collaborative workgroups, supply chains or other extended networks can share multiple instances of Active Directory and Azure Active Directory. Citrix bills this offering as an alternative to building two-way or multi-way trusts between parties. "Instead they can just point them to the federated authenticated service and that would do the brokering between them," explained Carisa Stringer, Citrix principal product marketing manager for desktop and apps, in a blog post describing the new release.

On the device side, the new 7.9 release adds improved GPU support including the ability to run Linux clients using NVIDIA's latest processor, which it has made available at significantly reduced cost and software subscription fees for XenApp implementations. "Modern applications are using graphics, and this makes GPUs more widely available," said Calvin Hsu, Citrix VP of marketing for XenApp and Xen Desktop during an interview at Synergy.

Also in the graphics area, Citrix said the release now supports Intel's new Iris Pro and the virtual GPU server, called Graphic Virtualization Technology virtual GPU (GVT-g), aimed at making graphics acceleration more available to virtual desktop instances. Citrix said it has integrated its HDX 3D Pro with Intel Iris Pro Server graphics. "With the next generation of servers, these things will be built into server -- it's part of the chip, it's integrated at the CPU, it's great for Office, for browser applications even Windows 10 itself," Hsu said. "Just the operating system leverages the GPU, it'll render stuff on screen, and so that will really help with the overall graphics capabilities of virtual desktop."

When used with the new XenServer 7, the latest release of Citrix hypervisor platform that's now generally available, Intel Iris Pro makes it less expensive to run graphics-intensive applications because it doesn't require added hardware or software licenses. It's suited to browser-based apps, PowerPoint and computer aided design (CAD) tools. Citrix said XenServer 7 supports up to 128 Nvidia GRID vGPU-enabled VMs, which is a 33 percent increase over earlier versions.

The third key feature in the XenApps and XenDesktop 7.9 update is support for optimized storage I/O and support for hyper-converged infrastructure. Citrix inked a partnership with Nutanix, whose Acropolis hypervisor platform will work with XenServer. Because XenServer now understands all of the Nutanix Acropolis APIs and provisioning steps, it can be set up via the XenDesktop console. Nutanix introduced InstantON VDI. The company claims the latest iteration of its hyper-converged compute and storage platforms takes an average of just four hours to get a VDI implementation up and running. It's priced at $415 per user and aimed at midsize organizations with at least 300 users but can scale to thousands. It comes bundled with Citrix XenDesktop VDI Edition, the Nutanix enterprise cloud platform including the company's AHV hypervisor and the Nutanix connector for Citrix MCS and three years of support. Citrix also said it'll work with hyper-converged equipment from Atlantis Computing and Fujitsu.

Citrix also extended the Lifecycle Management Blueprints with support for any XenApp and XenDesktop deployment. Announced last fall, the Citrix Lifecycle Management Blueprints were designed to simplify and/or enhance new deployments of all of Citrix offerings. The latest Blueprints for XenApp and XenDesktop include Update Service, aimed at ensuring software updates are applied properly and Smart Scale, which tracks usage of cloud services and adapts the use of services to ensure against unneeded use of public clouds.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 06/06/2016 at 1:49 PM


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