Citrix Streaming Client

GCN Lab Review: Citrix's solution integrates well with the company's overall architecture, but won't work if you don't already have the Citrix platform

Virtualized desktop PCs have been the bread and butter of Citrix's business for a long time as a companion or alternative to Microsoft's Terminal Server.

Many organizations use the Citrix ICA (Independent Computing Architecture) solution to provide secure remote access to corporate applications and data. That works great as long as you have a connection to the corporate network.

Application virtualization is in many ways the next logical step to delivering remote access to a mobile workforce.

A local caching mechanism adds the capability to run applications even when you're not connected.

It also makes it possible to automatically choose how to run an application depending on a number of factors, including network access and location.

The new addition to the Citrix client is called the Streaming Client. This local client interacts with the Citrix Presentation Server to access published resources.

The advantage to the streaming approach comes primarily from a deployment and maintenance perspective. Each virtual or streamed application only has to be deployed once. Upgrading or patching the application requires only one instance. The Streaming Client also provides application isolation in a similar manner to the solutions from other vendors.

Building a virtual application from a Citrix perspective consists of the same basic steps of creating a baseline profile, running the application installation program and then running an application profiler to save the appropriate files and configuration settings.

Citrix also makes it possible to install multiple programs into a single profile, such as the entire Microsoft Office suite. Once completed, the resulting profile is then published to a network share, accessible to any user.

Citrix uses a default set of rules for isolating streamed applications, which makes the underlying system virtually untouchable. When an application requests access to a system resource, such as the registry it creates, a per-user version is required. You can tweak the isolation rules for things such as the registry entries in Microsoft Office to keep from creating separate versions for every user, which typically isn't necessary.

Other options include the ability to allow certain things such as access to a local printer or the My Documents folder. Redirect rules make it possible to redirect what would normally be a local resource to a remote location.

Choosing how an application is delivered to a client will determine how and where the application physically runs. The two basic options are either on the client or the server. A combination of the two lets you specify Streamed if Possible, meaning the application will run locally on the user's computer if it meets a basic set of requirements. You can also choose to have the application cached locally for off-line access.

From a security perspective, the Citrix solution delivers both flexible and fine-grained control over who gets access and how. You can configure things such as off-line access by individual user or group. Citrix also provides an extensive license management capability for their applications with complete control over online/off-line access and fixed periods before a license must be renewed.

Adding virtual application capability to an existing Citrix environment is almost a no-brainer.

The added functionality it brings to your users, particularly mobile users, will justify the cost. Its ability to increase user productivity while providing additional control over resource utilization is the icing on the cake.

Citrix's solution integrates well with the company's overall architecture, but on the downside, it won't work if you don't already have the Citrix platform. The price for Presentation Server ranges from $211 per node for the Advanced Edition to $272 for the Enterprise Edition to $362 for the Platinum Edition. This is high compared with the other products in this review and, although it's not quite an applesto- apples comparison, it did affect the product's value grade.

Citrix Systems, (800) 393-1888, www.citrix.com

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