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ILTACON 2016 Preview: Infrastructure & Enterprise Systems Edition

Jeff Silverman

3 min read

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With ILTACON 2016 approaching quickly, I wanted to take a moment to say how much I look forward to the conference each year, specifically the opportunities to talk with people about what they’re working on, what they’re planning, and the challenges they’re facing, and to share what we’ve been up to at Kraft Kennedy.

It’s been a busy year. Windows 10 projects have begun in earnest, and we’ve seen more focus than ever on flexibility, mobility, and security. As we’ve been planning these projects, and speaking with clients in general, several topics have consistently come up:

Windows 10 – Provide users with the best experience, given their use case

Automated deployment methodologies like Microsoft Deployment Toolkit and System Center Configuration Manager are now the norm, and once the heavy lifting is done in terms of packaging applications, applying Group Policy settings, and configuring user profile and environment management, targeting specific device types becomes a simple matter of ensuring the proper drivers are included. This provides firms with the flexibility to deploy Windows 10 in a manner that provides users with the best possible experience given their use case. We typically see use cases breaking down as follows:

Mobile Users 

For users who often work in and out of the office, we’re seeing firms offer a choice of powerful, lightweight form factors like Microsoft Surface Pro tablets, Microsoft Surface Books, or Lenovo ThinkPad Yogas. Mobile users connect to the local network while inside the office and via DirectAccess (Microsoft’s clientless VPN) while outside the office.

Non-Mobile Users

For users who do not need to take their device with them, firms are deploying Windows 10 locally on small or micro form factor PCs, or Windows 10 virtually on lower cost thin or zero clients.

Remote Users

For users who access the system from a personal device outside the office, the same automated process used to deploy physical PCs is used to deploy a Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop master image, which in turn is used to deploy virtual Windows 10 desktops that can be accessed by any Internet-connected device running Citrix Receiver or a HTML5-compatibile browser.

To maximize the user experience, user settings and data can be stored centrally and applied to be available wherever a user logs on. For example, a user may make changes to Word and Outlook views, save an Internet Explorer favorite, and save a spreadsheet to My Documents while working in the office on a Surface Pro tablet, then log on to a virtual desktop from a PC or Mac at home and have those settings apply and that data available. 

Citrix Workspace Suite – End-to-end mobility

Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop remains the industry leader for virtual desktop and application delivery, and version 7.x provides firms with the flexibility to deploy server-based resources, VDI-based resources, and access to physical PCs, all from a common access and management framework. Version 7.6 represents the Long Term Service Release (“LTSR”) that offers 5-year mainstream plus 5-year extended support, and versions 7.7, 7.8, and 7.9 (all released in 2016) represent the Current Release (“CR”) cycle that offers the latest features and functionality.

While XenApp and XenDesktop can certainly be purchased and implemented on their own, they are also part of the Citrix Workspace Suite that includes ShareFile, a secure enterprise file sharing and storage solution, and XenMobile, a mobile device management and mobile application management (“MDM/MAM”) solution. Since most firms are already running XenApp or XenDesktop and have either implemented or plan to implement enterprise file sharing and MDM/MAM, the Citrix Workspace Suite is worth considering as it can provide both cost advantages and tight integration.

Two-Factor Authentication – Finally fun!

Adding a second authentication factor is one of the biggest improvements firms can make to increase the security of externally-facing services like Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop, Microsoft Outlook Web App, and VPN. We’ve known this for a while, but historically implementation has been a challenge as users have pushed back on carrying key fobs and entering constantly-changing token codes. Fortunately, finally, those days are gone. New two-factor solutions like Duo Security have the ability to push to iOS and Android devices, including the Apple watch, so authenticating is simply a matter of tapping your phone or your wrist. Fun!

I hope you’re looking forward to ILTACON 2016 as much as I am. Hope to see you at booth 500-502 in the expo hall, or the Kraft Kennedy meeting room!