Citrix repackages your mess of phone and Web apps as 'Personal Cloud'

Real advances in mobile virtualization, data and HD video hide behind oxymoronic tag

During the huge rush of product announcements due to begin this afternoon, Citrix will trot out new ways to attack VMware's hold on the cloud market, and introduce a new, oxymoronic term for a computing concept invented by users as a series of jury-rigged workarounds: the personal cloud.

"We're in the middle of a transition from the PC era to the cloud era. It's a profound change," Citrix senior VP and CMO Wes Wasson told reporters in a teleconference yesterday, in preparation for the big reveal at Citrix Synergy in San Francisco this afternoon. "We're entering a third phase of the PC industry, driven by consumerization, mobility and virtualization."

The biggest change, from Citrix' perspective, is the chance to continue to sell thin-client software to connect relatively stupid devices to smart servers.

That concept – expanded to include virtual-desktop clients on smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, connected to back-end data centers – forms the hardware platform for the "personal cloud."

The rest of it consists of the mesh of social-networking, SAAS, Web connections, email and other random, networked functions end users choose for their own entertainment or to let them get work done without being chained to their desks.

"The personal cloud is an aggregation of the desktops, applicaiton data and social contacts I engage with on a daily basis to do my job," Wasson said.

To make the personal cloud drift in its direction, Citrix is expanding its popular GoToMeeting service to add a free, high-definition video service on desktop computers for a single flat rate.

It will help administrators manage all that virtual interaction using GoToManage – a management app to run on the iPad, though there are versions for other platforms as well.

The idea is to provide a mobile all-purpose management app IT people can use to diagnose, administer, remote control and repair users' systems no matter where either of them sits.

To make all that personal clouding more popular Citrix will expand the HDX high-performance graphics in its Receiver software. Additions to its XenClient will let users work offline as well as on, by caching data, apps and configurations on a local machine securely by encrypting it and giving administrators remote controls including the ability to wipe data from a device that's been lost or stolen.

Citrix' other cloud news a little less sexy.

It will make its virtual desktop, server and cloud software more easily installable and friendly, for SMBs, as well as adding the VDI-in-a-Box capability from its acquisition Kaviza.

It will also expand the abilities of its Netscaler Cloudbridge – a remote-connectivity device designed to connect data centers to public or private clouds, and expand the administration apps designed to manage Citrix clouds.

More importantly as a strategic step – if not one relevant to customers, who tell most surveyors they don't care – Citrix will expand its backing for the OpenStack open-source cloud effort backed by it and a few other cloud-ish vendors who are not VMware and kind of resent it.

Project Olympus – which isn't nearly as pretentious as its name makes it sound, Wesson implied without offering proof – is a cloud platform based on its XenServer, Open Stack and a lot of hope that companies will want more of a DIY approach to cloud building.

Project Olympus will automate most of the infrastructure and administration so it's not all DIY, Wesson said.

More importantly to him and other top execs at Citrix, it's not designed to layer on top of existing data-center infrastructure and treat cloud functions as an add-on (like VMware).

It's designed to create cleaner, higher-performing clouds using a purpose-built infrastructure that breaks free of the limits and restrictions of aging data centers and move customers into a better world where they don't have to worry about backward compatibility, federation of identity and security metadata, integration of Web 2.0 applications an pre-relational-database flat-file data-based applications, delicate transaction processors and reports that only, finally, showed exactly the right data at the right time with a minimum of effort after someone spent months tweaking them to make sure everything worked according to current reporting regulations.

Project Olympus will let you throw all that out, wrap yourself in a personal cloud and virtualize yourself out of a universe where VMware dominates the data center and people still look at the legitimately amazing technology from Citrix and say "oh, yeah, VDI" before going to lunch with a cloud vendor.

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