Synergy was a very busy time for me. So much so that my intention to do daily blogs… didn’t happen.
So- here’s a 2 in one with an added wrap up bonus!
For those that don’t know- Citrix is talking about themselves and what they are doing on stage exactly once, the first day’s Keynote. The second two days had Super Sessions with leadership personalities outside of even the tech world. Think of it as a value-add for your conference ticket. The sessions were not streamed live, you had to be there to hear them.
I love the matter-of-fact way that Dr. Rice speaks. I always have, in fact. “It may feel like the tectonic plates are shifting under our feet… That is because… They are.” That little nod to yesterday’s earthquake got everyone listening.
Dr. Rice talked about her remarkable early life. About not being a victim… world politics… leadership qualities and what everyday kindness really look like. But her perspectives on modern security I think took the center stage. And let’s be honest, she would know. She talked about how rather than attacking from the front as we expect- modern bad actors come from the side; causing disruption rather than directly assaulting.
Talking about Powers Acting Badly… I have rarely thought about how Disruption is their biggest weapon. Guess what? You need to be aware and ready because the days of physical disruption are gone. #cybersecurity#citrixsynergy
The speech was followed by an onstage chat with Tim Minahan. Dr. Rice said she didn’t want to run for President; she understands too much of what goes into it I guess. Still, we were all disappointed to hear she wouldn’t try!
Principles to live by per Dr Rice: (1) be twice as good, you will be confident (2) never be a victim, you lose control (3) don’t take on others’ prejudice – they don’t want to sit next to you because you are different, they can move #citrixsynergyhttps://t.co/tNyDS7Xi0s
After some much needed herbal tea to soothe my very sore throat (I had great broadcast voice in the morning but it was difficult to get the volume needed) I headed to lunch to talk with more people about Application Delivery.
Right after grabbing a Lego Mini-Fig for my wife of course…
The afternoon was great- I attended a few sessions and volunteered at the Citrix User Group Community booth once again. On Day 2 we had ALREADY run out of most shirt sizes and were reduced to handing out “Extra Large and Extra Larger” shirts to folks!
The evening for me was quite good. I went to a Citrix Sales appreciation dinner, where oddly enough I didn’t really talk with any sales folks at all- but did have several GREAT conversations about where people are in their Citrix journey- even some heart touching stories from some folks that will be joining us in the CTXPro Membership when it launches! Connecting with people is why I went to Synergy.
Ready for the shocker? I was in bed by 11 pm! Either I’m getting older or wiser… or both.
Synergy Day 3 in pictures…
Michael Lewis super session
CTPs and CTAs ready for a session
IGEL giving out a hefty prize to a lucky winner
Robert Randolph and the Family Band!
check out who liked my Instagram post!
Synergy Day 3
Day 3 started with spending an hour with Michael Lewis- renowned author of books like Moneyball and The Blind Side. I think his talk fed well into Citrix’s announcement regarding how they were moving forward in Analytics.
How when the stock market spent millions to quite literally shorten the distance of fiber optic links because they couldn’t click fast enough, the need for seeing ahead into things we didn’t know before is important.
But more important is that we are now getting answers to questions we didn’t even know we had. From finding the cause of behavior of overworked cops to weather, analytics are a part of our story. Why is this important? “You can’t change the decision maker but you can change the decision making environment.”
Oh- and you may be wondering, why so many tweets? If you were following me you know that I used the #citrixsynergy tag a lot. It was because with every one, a dollar was being donated to STEM programs. Over $51,000 was donated! That’s a lot of tweets!
The morning was again filled with sessions, and I even took the opportunity to do a very brief Facebook Live for my Facebook Group (which you should totally join!) before a well-attended session on multi-datacenter setups.
After the final day of Tech Chats, the CUGC leaders that were at Synergy gathered for a training session in how to conduct effective meetings. It was extremely useful and I can’t wait to put some of what we learned into practice!
If I’m not listening to Metal or Hard Rock- I’m playing Blues. Sometimes, literally. So I was right up front at House of Blues! Great show (though the line to get in was a bit ridiculous, and it took forever to get any food!)
The evening was great; a bunch of CTAs and CTPs found their way to a corner bar and chatted the night away. Great memories with old and new friends. Great to get to know Neil Spellings a bit more; we ended up walking back together as we both had early flights! Fitting, since we’re both known for our Synergy prep guides – but neither of us talked about them.
The next morning – insanely early – I boarded a plane home, after a chat with my buddy Carl Webster. By the way- I’m just going to say if you haven’t done so already – support his website! There’s a donation button. Do it!
Citrix Synergy 2018 Summary
So- the common question: Did you have a great Synergy this year?
And the answer is of course yes. Even if it wasn’t as well attended, I always enjoy Anaheim more than Vegas or Orlando – but this was the first year I was there representing not a company or a sponsor… but YOU.
That’s right- I was sent to Synergy as a Citrix Technology Advocate, and I did my best to do just that. I met so many more people this year than I have in years past. I gave out over 150 cards, interacted with folks on Twitter and of course the Lunch Table Tech Chats and CUGC events.
So- what am I hearing?
There remains confusion about Citrix products from a NAMING standpoint, not a ‘what it does’ standpoint. Though it was heavily downplayed at Synergy, Citrix did announce some changes to the portfolio on their website. This does away with several names – most notably “Xen” and “NetScaler” but also “ShareFile”. A few of these I’m okay with, a few not so much if I’m being honest. I was ready to give up Xen. But honestly NetScaler and Sharefile were fine from a market alignment standpoint. What they were not fine with however is a name that identifies what it does. And that is essentially what Citrix is after. Each new product name will contain “Citrix” and then a brief description of what it does.
Here’s a rundown of what to expect:
This will be a category that will encompass several technologies formerly known as either “Workspace Suite” or “XenDesktop” along with some new things.
Citrix Workspace App – announced at Synergy, this expands the capabilities of Receiver to include apps, files and even some analytics and security capability. I haven’t been this excited since Dazzle. Ask me about it later…
Citrix Content Collaboration = ShareFile
Citrix Endpoint Management = XenMobile (Secure Mail and Secure Web apps remain unchanged in name)
Citrix Secure Browser = XenApp secure browser
Citrix Hypervisor = XenServer
Citrix App Layering = Unidesk
Citrix Virtual Apps = XenApp
Citrix Virtual Desktops = XenDesktop
This will be the most controversial, but when you think about it will be the most challenging to change from a technical product standpoint. Bottom line- a few of these software-based items will be easy. But don’t expect Citrix to be sending out new physical NetScalers to replace yours.
Citrix ADC = NetScaler ADC
Citrix SD-WAN = NetScaler SD-WAN
Citrix Web Firewall = NetScaler App Security, App Firewall and Web App Security
Citrix Gateway = NetScaler Unified Gateway AND NetScaler Access Gateway
Citrix Application Delivery Management = NetScaler MAS
Citrix Secure Web Gateway = NetScaler Secure Web Gateway
So- many people missed the Cedexis acquisition. I have to admit that I’m having trouble with where it fits into the core sometimes but here’s the thing: Think of how many apps your company uses today. Now tell me how many of those are either SaaS (either Web browser or web-delivered like Office 365) or has components that tie in that way? So, while this makes some sense- I can give you a perspective from attendees that came to my Tech Chat table… people don’t think of SaaS as “Applications”. Citrix, if you’re listening- changing what “App Delivery” means is something people don’t seem to be ready for. Everyone who came to my tables wanted to talk about XenApp.
But Xen’s dead baby. Xen’s dead.
This new cloud-based capability was actually one of the more exciting new features- because of what it can do for security and support. I’ll go into this in another post because there is a LOT here. Needless to say, I’m excited to finally see this come about.
Oh- let me answer the most popular question: “Will this be Cloud-Only?” The answer is not exactly. On-Premises installs will have a connection agent – however, when you think about what makes this work; an on-prem solution is not going to be practical. This is using real-time analytics across thousands of instances for behavior-based intelligence. If you’re struggling with this I’d simply say that you need to stop thinking in terms of DAT files and think in terms of pre-cognition. Knowing a threat exists by what behavioral triggers exist, instead of by looking for the results.
Finally- the question I got over and over again (I mean, other than “you don’t look like your picture”) was – “Since they are killing Xen … What are you going to do about your Twitter Handle?”
Well- here’s the thing. I have known about this renaming for some time, yes- we were given some special NDA access to this process to give Citrix feedback about it. (We voiced a lot of your concerns, by the way…) But the reality is that I have been wanting to change “TheXenMaster” for quite some time now. After being called that by someone (I’ve forgotten who) I decided to run with it. But I’ll be honest- it doesn’t fit my personality. So I’d been working to find a new persona; one that uplifts and encourages. Unfortunately I couldn’t take over the abandoned Twitter username for this, so I kept a definitive modifier out in front once again.
Going forward- I will be on Social Media as @TheCitrixCoach
The worst time to find out about problems in your Citrix environment is after they are already happening. But the built-in tools (Director) don’t really always paint the full picture to give you quality Citrix monitoring. You need Proactive Citrix Monitoring and ControlUp is here to help!
Citrix Monitoring Webinar on 11-29-2017
Yoni Avital (Founder & CTO of ControlUp) and I had an hour long CUGC Connect webinar hosted by the Citrix User Group Community! Wednesday, November 29th 2017 at noon Central (US).
Yoni first showed me ControlUp almost 4 years ago and I’ve been enjoying watching them improve every year. I have loved the single-pane-of-glass approach they take to environment monitoring and engagement.
Why View the Replay?
Aside from hearing my soothing voice moderate… Yoni demoed ControlUp 7.1 which I believe excels not only at Citrix monitoring (as in XenApp/XenDesktop) but NetScaler monitoring as well!
New features also include adding nVidia vGPU at the VM and process level to your Citrix monitoring, metrics of your published applications (yay!) and a new troubleshooting feature.
Will there be a Demo?
YES- you’ll be able to see this all in action live in the webinar.
I had the pleasure once again of attending Citrix Synergy, a four-day event for technology professionals focused around- you guessed it, Citrix Technologies. This year found the conference in Las Vegas (more on that later) at the Sands Expo, located within the Venetian and Palazzo complex.
Though I’ll say right out of the gate this was not my favorite year, I always love the opportunity to reconnect with many of you, my peers and even customers. Because after all, for me that really is the point. I typically already know all of the ‘big secrets’ hidden away under NDA until Synergy (a certain announcement I was expecting was missing, in fact, so I’ll keep quiet for now). As a result of this, later on I’ll only be outlying my personal top five announcements or focus areas. There are always more, but one thing that was very clear this year is that Citrix is serious about taking a defined direction of serving its core. Myself and others have been critical of Citrix for trying to take on too many focus areas and technologies that have nothing to do with what made Citrix the powerhouse it became in the mid 2000’s. Message received- Citrix will now focus on Application and Desktop delivery (XenApp, XenDesktop, XenMobile), Network Delivery (NetScaler), Cloud and secure data (ShareFile). I’m pleased to report that there was virtually no attention given to niche technology announcements like past years (Octoblu, Melio, Podio and whatever that workspace app was called).
To get the message across, Citrix chose a simple phrase to capture the attitude of Synergy: Yes.
Citrix Synergy and the Business of YES
Though some may have seen this as a risky way to relate, I think at some point when you boil down the question asked of the majority of attendees by customers and management comes down to a simple query. “Can we do this?”
Citrix has been helping me answer that question as an emphatic ‘yes’ for over a decade now, and I was personally glad to see a slogan I could relate to. After all, I believe all of us in the IT industry ultimately find ourselves in a service industry where the ability to meet needs trumps all other focuses. So if a company is asking if they can scale their current application delivery across the world utilizing public cloud resources, it may be easy to say ‘yes’ in many cases, then find out the answer really was ‘no.’ Citrix is doing a great job of aligning products around things like that to be able to answer ‘yes’ and have confidence saying so.
Can I be honest? For the past seven or so years, there isn’t an IT buzzword I hate more than “cloud.” I’m not alone. Even the public cloud providers are nothing more than datacenters defined as ‘regions’, after all. But ‘cloud’ is an easier way to describe this shared datacenter execution. Citrix is doing a fairly good job here of re-defining what this means in the real world, and aligning its products appropriately.
I’m sure many of my peers will agree with me that the concept of privately held datacenters connected to an MPLS ‘cloud’ is the realistic cloud of today. The difficulty of controlling data, execution resources and security in general in a public cloud has imprisoned companies to maintaining their own datacenters for decades, and in certain sectors such as Healthcare, Financial and Public Sector these challenges are becoming overwhelming as costs have not really come down as they were promised, and VM sprawl runs rampant. So what is Citrix doing here? I’ll be honest- there wasn’t really all that much of any impact at this Synergy. The exception perhaps of some new features for XenServer 7 such as support for 128 vGPU attached VMs, new Intel vGPU integration and much improved health check system and dom0 improvements that breathe new competitive life into the hypervisor. But I would be lying if I said it felt like this is a focus for Citrix, who is attempting to move Xen back into the Open Source community.
NetScaler management is a highlight, as was ShareFile Customer Hosted Keys – but in my mind, nothing was higher impact to these key industries with Private clouds as SD-WAN. Even though I’m not a networking guy by nature, it is hard not to get excited about this technology. SD (Software Defined)-WAN was demonstrated at Summit to partners earlier this year but I felt like there was more applause for this feature than any other feature at Synergy (spoiler- it’s at my number one in the top 5 below) and will be a game changer for easily half of my customers trapped in their private datacenters with a branch offices all around the world.
Ah, the new hotness. Azure, Amazon and even a few new emerging cloud providers are making it harder to say ‘no’ to putting resources out there. Microsoft is pushing data storage into the cloud with a vengeance with Office 365 and aggressively pursuing companies into a subscription based licensing model for both software and virtual hardware. Amazon is still the unlikely leader here. Seriously- going from selling books to now being the leading cloud provider? That’s a new kind of crazy. But the industry signs are blaringly obvious, just as Mark Templeton noted two years ago: “Don’t own stuff” is the new mantra of businesses of all size.
Citrix is defining itself as a ‘cloud first’ company, and this Synergy made that clear – in fact I would say the majority of technology enhancements have everything to do with allowing companies to either start or move into the public cloud. Though adoption has been a little slow, the lifecycle management product (formerly known as Workspace Cloud) continues to add value and be a very attractive option for flexing to the cloud. XenMobile is finally also pushing to the public cloud, where other MDM leaders like MAS360 already thrive. For me, if they can make XenMobile implementation faster and cheaper to achieve they may finally have a winner.
Now we come to the favorite of my challenges- how do I help customers flex into cloud resources while still utilizing their own secure datacenter assets? This challenge is probably most front of mind with most of you too. Capacity in your private cloud or datacenter may not allow you to rapidly spin up like-for-like resources in the public cloud. Also, some things just have to stay inside the datacenter but be accessible outside by both customers and staff. There is hardly anything more frustrating in IT today.
Citrix technologies such as ShareFile are absolutely industry leading in this space, allowing data to be accessible the same way to resources anywhere- whether the data is in private clouds, public or both. It is hard to beat, and I can tell you that innovations from ShareFile end up nearly everywhere else in the company including NetScaler MAS and Cloud Services Portal. Citrix moved towards an interesting direction few expected this year in announcing NetScaler CPX- a Docker Container based instance of NetScaler that will allow teams to develop and test configurations as well as flex instances to multiple clouds at once. Though I can see sprawl problems with this, Citrix is ahead of this as well with what they call MAS, more on that soon.
I’ll be honest, this is something that Citrix had going well for itself in the late 2000s- the IT community rallied around the technology and it was ‘cool’ to be a part of it. Local User groups were a big thing and I remember connecting well with many users learning and sharing tons of great stuff.
Then it all ended.
I am not sure exactly what happened, but suddenly people found themselves abandoned by a sales-focused Citrix that cared less about innovation and connecting with people. Well, last year, Citrix attempted to re-ignite this connection by forming the Citrix User Group Community (CUGC).
I immediately jumped in with CUGC at Synergy 2015. Unlike the user groups of the past, CUGC is a worldwide community website that serves as a launching point for several local communities to meet in person. Since I have been wanting something like this in my home state of Colorado for years now, this was exciting and I immediately volunteered to lead a group (which I’m proud to announce will have our first meeting in Denver on June 22nd, 2016!)
CUGC is drastically different from previous groups in that while Citrix helps facilitate the groups, ultimately it is run by the users, as it should be.
This year at Synergy, I dedicated the majority of my time to helping CUGC.
I had a blast handing out t-shirts and meeting people. Far and away my best memories of Synergy 2016.
But… there was a major problem and I’m afraid I can’t let Citrix off the hook for it. At Synergy 2015, CUGC was the first thing you saw when you walked into the Expo hall. A Tesla greeted you and said loudly “we care about community!” At Synergy 2016? CUGC was nowhere near the expo hall, instead relegated to a low traffic area of the second floor of the breakout sections. It was frustrating, to say the least, that Citrix seemed to change its message so abruptly. They have apologized on Twitter for this oversight and assure me that this was in no way reflective of their overall attitude, though I did not get any explanation beyond this, I’m afraid. In the future, I’m going to challenge Citrix to make CUGC a priority- after all, connecting with peers is the whole reason most people go to Synergy.
We had to take to social media to let people see where CUGC was this year
That off my chest- I highly encourage you to register and participate in our online community at MyCUGC.org and of course to connect locally! We need users to step up as leaders backed by partners, sponsors and of course Citrix Employees dedicated to CUGC entirely. I’ll jump off my soapbox now.
One thing I did not get a chance to attend but was apparently VERY well received this year was a gathering of networking professionals that Citrix called “NetScaler Connect.”
I can’t say terribly much since I wasn’t there but it is quite obvious that with the NetScaler being such a successful product, a dedicated community is emerging for those folks. Stay tuned for the future of that!
My Top 5 Synergy Announcements
Okay, Okay, enough with the news report. You want the meat- the announcements and areas that form up my top five key announcements or technologies unveiled at Citrix.
Now granted, I’m very biased. These are the things that I see having the most impact to businesses in the US specifically in the Mid-Market and Enterprise segments, which is where I do 80% of my work. Here we go!
(note- I will be updating this list with links and more notes, so check back with this article in a few weeks to see more!)
MCS Write Caching… barely talked about but far and away the most anticipated and asked for feature- basically the same RAM Caching in PVS available with MCS. This is HUGE for hybrid cloud deployments and small pod deployments! Get excited people!
AppDisk with AppDNA inspection- Citrix is finally entering the space of application layering… unfortunately however they are using the PvD driver stack to do it. Not ideal, but for now I’ll take it!!!! AppDisk is free for all licenses, but the Platinum AppDNA inspection will allow you to automatically scan for deployment issues to your delivery group. #WORTH-IT
Plug-in support for Nutanix Acropolis (SYN104, SYN123) with some of the best pricepoint integration I have ever seen – watch for great things here!
Linux Virtual Desktop
StoreFront 3.6 with support for DMZ (non-domain joined), NetScaler HDX Proxy (a lightweight NetScaler Gateway) API integration, aggregated resources load balancing non-identical sites and Federated Authentication Support.
SecureBrowser as a cloud service and now as an internal web service.
ShareFile and XenMobile
SecureForms and other MDX mobile application integrations
NetScaler Features (I’ll be saying a LOT more about this soon, stay tuned)
NetScaler Management and Analytics (MAS)
HDXpi (Rasperry Pi as a ~ $80USD Thin Client- available from ViewSonic or at Micro Center for easy swaps in the US)
Intel vGPU support and better nVidia GRID support from $2/user-month.
Microsoft integration including
driver management from Microsoft Update
SMB support for live VMs (not just ISOs)
Expanded Docker Container support within Server 2016
Improved MSAD integration
…and of course support for Windows 10 and Server 2016
Security improvements working with Bitdefender (more on that in a few months) for direct inspection APIs which may represent the best performing antivirus we have ever seen on a hypervisor- and the api is extensible beyond that. (read: exciting)
A Health Check feature which can regularly check for updates and notify you in advance of that and any other detected trouble from CIS.
An unfathomable increase in scaling thresholds
Per Host: 5 TB RAM, 288 CPUs, 4096 VBDs (for AppDisk) per SR
Per VM: 1.5TB RAM, 32 vCPU and up to 255 AppDisks (VBDs)
I saved the best for last, however- cgroups for dom0 which allows significant resource tuning that will hopefully put an end to XAPI woes.
In summary- I am glad Citrix has chosen to focus and it shows- instead of new flashy things that will only apply to a few customers (if any), Citrix has chosen to focus on its core values and make it more valuable to more people.
See you next year in Orlando!
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