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Citrix and Microsoft cloud solutions

Now If people see any wrong facts here please leave a comment below, I can’t cover everything Smile but this post is written purely based on my opinions and my own knowledge and not everything may be correct.
The purpose of this post is to show capabilities and features that Citrix and Microsoft’s cloud solutions possess and how they can benefit each other. Let’s face it, Microsoft or Citrix (which are huge huge huge! in the cloud market)  for that matter can’t do everything themselves, they both have a solid solution around cloud, but each solution has their strengths and their weaknesses.

Now Cloud is a term that consists in 3 shapes. Private, Public or Hybrid.
And there are some common terms that describe a Public cloud solution
* Self-Service
* Elasticity
* Scalable
* Pooling of resources
(Some Public Cloud solutions: Amazon, Windows Azure)
With Private Cloud you have more control of the resources and it is easier to do customization. More are thinking of going with the Hybrid solution which gives you the advantages that a private cloud brings and the benefits of the low cost with a Public cloud. Both Citrix and Microsoft have the ability to support a Hybrid cloud approach. Then again there are may ways to offer a cloud solution for a customer, either it is an application, infrastructure or a platform.

Now Microsoft’s cloud solution consists of the following core components

* System Center
* Windows Server
* Windows Azure (Public Cloud)

Now what do you get with System Center ?
A brief overview
App Controller ( Self-service of their services & virtual machines for system owners, with support for on-premise and public cloud)
Operations Manager ( Monitoring capabilities, SLA monitoring with support for on-premise and also allows for Azure monitoring)
Data Protection Manager ( Backup solution for Windows and Windows Applications ( Physical and Virtual)
Service Manager (IT Service Management, Helpdesk solution, self-service for the users )
Virtual Machine Manager (Manages your virtual infrastructure, network and storage. With support for Citrix, VMware and Hyper-V of course with most capabilities with Hyper-V allows for creating of 1, 2 and 3 tier templates)
Configuration Manager ( MDM, client/server management, antivirus, patch management, can integrate with Azure as well)
Orchestrator (Automation with runbooks across all kinds of different products)
And of course the corner stone of this is Windows Server.

Now a problem with Microsoft’s as of now is that System Center 2012 does not support Windows Server 2012 until Service Pack 1 is released, this will most likely be released Q1 2013, which will close the “gap” that many are waiting for.
Microsoft has acknowledged that everyone isn’t running just Microsoft and has added much more support and functionality for Unix/Linux based servers.

 
And Citrix’s cloud solution consists of the following core components

Much of Citrix strategy on Cloud is based upon Project Avalon which has the key components (Any Cloud, Any Hypervisor, Any Device)
Which comes in this nice wrapping.

Citrix is part owner of the OpenStack solution that Apache has, and has made some changes to it and have their own solution called CloudPlatform
Which is very similar to virtual machine manager. It has support for multiple hypervisors such as
* XenServer
* KVM
* VMware
But their solution has more benefits against XenServer.
It also supports storage solutions and network. So this is the main product for administrating your “cloud”.
Then we have the other products such as
* Cloudbridge (Allows you to “bridge” your private and public cloud” this is actually an add-on to Netscaler which uses IPSEC)
* Cloudgateway (Which is the gateway in for end-users (Which again consists of Netscaler and Storefront )
* Netscaler ( A Network appliance which provides for ADC (Application Delivery Controller) features
* CloudPortal (Which allows for provisioning of users and services, control panel solution)

So depending on what kind of cloud and service you wish to offer your users, both companies provide a solid cloud solution. With automation and multiple hypervisor support.
Microsoft has made a solid improvement to Hyper-V in the latest release so it provides with more advanced features then XenServer it also has support for larger workloads and scalability. So if you choose Hyper-V you need to have VMM, if you choose the latest XenServer you would need CloudStack (VMM has XenServer support but not for the latest release and not for the more advanced features)
Citrix is building much of their solutions based upon XenServer (and some VMware) for instance the AppController that is part of the CloudGateway will not function in Hyper-V

Microsoft also offers a more complete monitoring solution with System Center (You have the capability to monitor all of Microsoft’s products, Network devices, Citrix Products + inlcuding Netscaler (With ComTrade MP) and Unix/Linux services)
And I don’t have enough insight on the automation part of CloudStack go give it a good overview but Orchestrator has also the ability to run commands against SSH devices which allows for running commands against Network devices it also has a broad support of hardware and storage vendors. You can also use it to run PowerShell commands which allow for automation of Citrix installation. (And more and more vendors are implementing PowerShell cmdlets with their products, PowerShell 3 also supports CIM which many vendors support)

But what Microsoft is missing is the network component that Citrix provides with it’s Netscaler product.
* Advanced load-balancing features for all applications running on TCP with or without SSL (With hardware acceleration on the hardware appliance)
* Protection against DDoS attack (SYN flood, ICMP floods) and can also provide with defense against application level attack (XSS, HTTP DoS)
* URL responders, rewrite, filtering
* Intelligent SQL load balancing
* GSLB
* Caching and compression
You can also integrate it with System Center to provide automation of new solutions that should be load balanced. You can also use Orchestrator to automate other options with the SSH options.

When regarding device access Citrix has provides a better solution with support for all types of Mobile devices, which makes it possible for full BYOD. Microsoft on the other hand also promises that you can bring your own (as long as it is running Windows) This solution  requires that you can Citrix on your terminal servers. Citrix also has more MDM capabilities then System Center has (as of today), and with the coming of MDX technology, Citrix is going to gain more ground there.
Microsoft also offers a VPN solution with allows you to connect with your Azure cloud, but this does not provide the same throughput that a dedicated Netscaler with Cloudbridge would provide (Cloudbridge again has limited support against Azure )

And I forgot to mention that Citrix has also their own monitoring and helpdesk tools which are part of the GoTo package (GoToAssist and ) But I am unsure how they compete against Operations Manager which has been around for a long time and against Service Manager which is a core part of the Self-service solution to System Center.

System Center with SPF (Service Provider Foundation) provides the capabilities for hosting providers to create their own control panel solution to automate activities against Orchestrator and VMM) This is a feature that is still in the early stages with an open API. Citrix on the other hand has a more mature product with their CloudPortal solution which can provision users, set up full services on Lync, Exchange, SharePoint, CRM, XenApp and XenDesktop ++ for customers.
But the weakness is that it does not have any integration against System Center to complete the circle on management and monitoring ( and of course backup)
But again this feature is more suited for hosters, for enterprise businesses not so much.

So a little conclusion on my part. What do I think makes a good combination of what these two deliver. This solution will consist of a few products that are yet to be released (But are in beta)
1: Hyper-V 2012 as my main Hypervisor
2: System Center for infrastructure & cloud management and monitoring (SP1 with provides support for WS2012)
3: Project Excalibur next generation XenApp / XenDesktop which provides the best BYOD support (And Provides support for WS2012)
4: XenServer for components that need XenServer
4: Cloudgateway with Netscaler ADC

So it would look like something like this
(Just a glimpse)

Drawing1

And I would appreciate some feedback on your thoughts

Cloud products from Citrix

The term Cloud is used A LOT these days, and I mean a lot! it comes in different shapes and sizes and much of the term is a lot of marketing gone wrong…
Citrix marketing team is also very happy in using that term on their products, therefore they have a huge line of software including the name “Cloud” therefore I decided to write a post about what all the Citrix cloud solutions actually do and what
they consist of. Might also mention that a lot of the products may also contain Netscaler name in front. Citrix has a lot to learn regarding naming and explaining what they actually do. But that is another post entirely

All these Cloud products are a key component to what Citrix calls “Project Avalon”
NOTE: And what you also can notice there on that picture is that XenApp is gone, with Project Excalibur XenApp and XenDesktop are merged together.


Their Cloud products are as following:
CloudPortal Service Manager
CloudPortal Business Manager
CloudBridge
CloudGateway
CloudPlatform (Powered by Apache Cloudstack)

Cloudportal Service Manager is an software only available to CSP (Citrix Service Providers) it provides hosting providers with a web control panel solution where they can provision services for their customers, ad users or Lync, XenApp, XenDesktop, Exchange, SharePoint ++ for customers. For those who have worked with HMC or ExtendASP it is very much like that. You can look more at the architecture here –> http://support.citrix.com/proddocs/topic/ccp-10/cloudportal-services-manager-10-architecture.png

CloudPortal Business Manager is an platform that enables service providers to get to market with an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud that has been built on the CloudStack platform. Mostly a billing and reporting solution.

CloudBridge is an extension to Netscaler, and what is does is bridge your “on-premise” cloud solution with your public cloud solution using an layer 2 VPN tunnel ( Which is using IPsec ) And you can see here that is only a part of Netscaler platinum license –> http://www.citrix.com/site/resources/dynamic/salesdocs/Netscaler_Datasheet_August_2012.pdf

CloudGateway is divided into two editions. Express and Enterprise the Enterprise edition, consists of the App Controller, Netscaler Access Gateway and Storefront Services (which is the new Web interface) so this is your ticket into your business . While the express edition does not include AppController. I will discuss in a later post what the AppController actually does.

CloudPlatform  is an open source software platform that pools computing resources to build public, private and hybrid Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) clouds. It is built upon the Apache Cloudstack solution and allows you to manage most of the virtualization hypervisors.
Oracle VM, KVM, vSphere™ and Citrix XenServer but not Hyper-V (It is much like Virtual Machine Manager from Microsoft)

So in short, much of the products from Citrix labeled with Cloud are actually other products “in disguise” and the term Project Merlin is actually going to be focused on CloudPlatform and will include features such as (Azure support) Merlin Tech Preview is set to Q1 2013.
Will update this post with some more info later on today….

Windows Intune

For those not attending MMS this year, Microsoft today released information about the new Mobile device management. Which will be included in the future releases of SCCM and in Windows Intune (Bear in mind thou this will not be avaliable before Q1 2013) And Im betting that Windows RT will also be supported in this release )
For those not familiar with Windows Intune, it allows an administrator to manage his/hers client computers from the Cloud. This includes (Patching , Anti-virus/malware services, reporting services, software deployment etc..)

This is all the agents that get installed with the intune setup.

  • Windows Intune Center
  • Microsoft Policy Platform
  • Microsoft Online Management Policy Agent
  • Windows Firewall Configuration Provider
  • Windows Intune Endpoint Protection
  • Windows Intune Endpoint Protection Agent
  • System Center Operations Manager 2007 R2 Agent
  • Windows Intune Monitoring Agent

Today there is a limit of 25 clients via Intune (In the release that is public avaliable today), but Microsoft has stated that it will be integrated with the Office365, and you can also integrate it with your domain.

Integration with Microsoft Active Directory Domain Services*
The full release of Windows Intune will use the same authentication mechanism as Office 365, so that you can integrate Windows Intune with your existing Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) environment. When you integrate Windows Intune with AD DS, you can synchronize existing security groups and users from AD DS to Windows Intune and manage them with Windows Intune.

Now then, since Im been lucky enough to try the new beta, I thought Id show you a quick demo about it.
The login page looks much like the Office 365 portal. Where you have your basic menus on the top.

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If I go to the Company Portal, I get to the self-service portal, cleary Metro inspired.
Here I can access applications, my devices. And I can contact IT support.

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If I go back and open the Admin Console, I come to the familiar Intune console (Silverlight based)

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The new mobile based management which was annouced at MMS it not public avaliable yet. In order to manage your mobile deviced via Intune you need an Exchange Connector just as you would need in your ConfigMgr site.
And before you can use it, you have to sync your users from the local Active Directory in to the intune management.
Something that I miss is the option to link your Intune site with the Office365 Exchange.

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You can also add administrators as you could before but that also requires sync with AD, of course you can add other types but that needs to be done via the Tenant Administrators.

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Now im going to install the new Intune agent on one of my servers. First I create a computer group ( just like a collection in SCCM )

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After I’ve done that, I go to administration –> and push Client Software download.

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It is a zip file, so unzip and run the setup file.
The setup is pretty much the same as before, next , next , finish.

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(It might take a while before it is finished installing…) Even when it says its finished installing, the intune is
installing a bunch of agents in the background.

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If you follow the application log in the event viewer, you can see it is installing Opsmgr agent and online services etc. etc.. So might take a few min before the computer appears in the overview menu.

Now, its about finished ( Just installing the Endpoint Protection )  I can open the Intune Center, and I have the basic options. Pressing the “Get applications” just opens the self-service portal I showed earlier.

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If I open the Management part of the web interface, I can now see my computer active.  With a bunch of patches that I need to approve, and some alerts. (If you are having some issues with the client not contacting the service, do a restart of the client computer after you installed the agent. )

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After the restart I wanted to test the Remote assitance funciton, open the Intune Center and press “Request Remote Assistance”, now open the System Overview, you will recive a alert.

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If you click Approve here, you will get sent to Microsoft Office Live Meeting site…

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This has been a short blog post, more to follow.

 

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