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

#citrix, #cloud, #microsoft, #netscaler, #system-center