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HPE and Citrix team up to make hybrid cloud-enabled workspaces simpler to deploy

As businesses of every stripe seek to bring more virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to their end users, hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is proving a deployment back-end architecture of choice.

Indeed, HCI and VDI are combining to make one of the more traditionally challenging workloads far easier to deploy, optimize, and operate.

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The next BriefingsDirect hybrid IT solutions ecosystem profile examines how the benefits of HCI are being taken to managed cloud, hybrid cloud, and appliance deployment models for VDI as well.

To learn more about the future of VDI powered by HCI and hybrid cloud, we are joined by executives from two key players behind the solutions, Bernie Hannon, Strategic Alliances Director for Cloud Services at Citrix, and Phil Sailer, Director of the Software Defined and Cloud Group Partner Solutions at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). The discussion is moderated by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Phil, what trends and drivers are making hybrid cloud so popular, and why does it fit so well into workspaces and mobility solutions?

 Sailer

Sailer

Sailer: People are coming to realize that the world is going to be hybrid for some time when you look at the IT landscape. There are attractive attributes to public cloud, but there are many customers that are not ready for it or are unable to move there because of where their data needs to be. Perhaps, too, the economics don’t really work out for them. 

There is also a lot of opportunity to improve on what we do in private data centers or in private cloud. Private cloud implies bringing the benefits of cloud into the location of a private data center. As our executives at HPE say, cloud is not a destination -- it’s a way to get things get done and how you consume IT.

Gardner: Bernie, how does hybrid cloud contribute to both opportunity and complexity?

Hannon: The premise of cloud has been to simplify everything. But in reality everybody knows that things are getting more and more complicated. A lot of that has to do with the fact that there’s an overwhelming need to access applications. The average enterprise has deployed more than 100 applications.

And users -- who are increasingly mobile and remote, are trying to access all of these applications on all kinds of devices -- they have different ways of accessing the apps and different log-in requirements. When they do get in, there are all sorts of different performance expectations. It has become more and more complicated.

Why hybrid cloud?

For the IT organization, they are dealing with securing all those applications – whether those apps are up in clouds or on premises. There are just so many different kinds of distributed organizations. And the more distribution, the more endpoints that have to be secured. It creates complexity -- and complexity equals cost.

Our goal is to simplify things for real by helping IT securely deliver apps and for users to be able to have simpler work experiences, so they can get what they need -- simply and easily from anywhere, on whatever device they happen to be carrying. And then lock everything down within what we call a secure digital perimeter.

Gardner: Before we look at VDI in a hybrid cloud environment, maybe we should explain what the difference is between a hybrid cloud and a private cloud.

Sailer: Let’s start with private cloud, which is simpler. Private clouds are within the company’s four walls, within their data centers, within their control. But when you say private cloud, you’re implying the benefits of cloud: The simplicity of operation, the capability to provision things very easily, even tear down and reconstruct your infrastructure, and consume resources on a pay-per-use basis. It’s a different financial model as well.

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So the usage and financial models are different, but it is still private. You also have some benefits around security and different economic benefits depending on the variety of parameters.

Hybrid cloud, on the other hand, is a mix between taking advantage of the economics and the flexibility you get with a public cloud provider. If you need to spin up some additional instances and resources for a short period of time, a very bursty requirement, for example, you may want a public cloud option.

In these environments you may have a mix of both hybrid and private clouds, because your workloads will have different requirements – a balance between the need for burstiness and for security, for example. So we see hybrid as being the most prevalent situation.

Gardner: And why is having that hybrid mix and choice a good thing when it comes to addressing the full desktop experience of VDI?

 Hannon

Hannon

Hannon: Cloud is not one-size-fits-all. A lot of companies that originally started down the path of using a single public infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) cloud have quickly come to realize that they are going to need a lot of cloud, and that's why multi-cloud is really the emerging strategy, too.

The ability to seamlessly allow companies to move their workloads where they need to -- whether that’s driven by regulation requirements, governance, data sovereignty, whatever -- gives users a seamless work experience through their workspace. They don’t need to know where those apps are. They just need to know that they can find the tools they need to be productive easily. They don’t have to navigate to figure out where stuff is, because that's a constant battle and that just lessens productivity.

Gardner: Let’s dig into how HPE and Citrix specifically are working together. HPE and Citrix have talked about using the HPE SimpliVityHCI platform along with Citrix Cloud Services. What is it about your products -- and your cloud approach -- that delivers a whole greater than the sum of the parts?

Master cloud complexity 

Hannon: HCI for the last several years has been adding a huge amount of value to customers that are deploying VDI. They have simplified the entire management process down to a single management stack, reducing all that complexity. So hyperconverged means you don't need to have as much specialization on your IT staff to deploy VDI as you did in the past. So that's great. 

So that addresses the infrastructure side. Now we are dealing with the app delivery side, and that has historically been very complicated. To address that, we have packaged the control plane elements used to run Citrix and put them in a cloud, and we manage it as-a-service.

So now we have Citrix-as-a-service up in the cloud. We call that Citrix Cloud Services. We have HPE SimpliVity HCI on the on-premises side. And now we can bring them together. This is the secret sauce that has come together with SimpliVity.

We have built scripting and tools that automate the process for customers who are ready to use Citrix Cloud Services. With just a few clicks, they get the whole process initiated and start to deploy Citrix from the cloud onto SimpliVity infrastructure. It really makes it simple, fast, and easy for customers to deploy the whole stack.

Gardner: We have seen new applications designed of, by, and for the cloud in a hybrid environment. But there are an awful lot of organizations that would like to lift and shift legacy apps and take advantage of this model, too. Is what you are doing together something that could lead to more apps benefiting from a hybrid deployment model?

Making hybrid music together 

Sailer: I give Citrix a lot of credit for the vision that they have painted around hybrid cloud. By taking that management plane and that complexity away from the customer --that is singing right off our song sheet when it comes to HPE SimpliVity.

We want to remove the legacy complexity that our customers have seen and get them to where they need to go much faster. Then Citrix takes over and gets them the apps that they need.

As far as which apps, there aren’t any restrictions on what you can serve up.

Gardner: Citrix has been the bellwether on allowing apps to be delivered over the wire in a way that's functional. This goes back some 20 years. Are we taking that same value that you pioneered from a client-server history and now extended to the hybrid cloud?

Hannon:One of the nice things about Citrix Cloud Services is that after we have established the relationship between the cloud service up in the cloud and the SimpliVity HCI on-premises -- everything is pretty much as it was before. We are not really changing the dynamics about how desktops and applications are being delivered. The real difference is how customers deploy and manage it.

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That said, customers are still responsible for managing their apps.  Customers need to modernize their apps and prepare them for delivery via Citrix, because that is a huge challenge for customers, and it always will be. Historically, everything needs to be brought forward.

We have tools like App Layering that help automate the process of taking applications that are traditionally premises-based -- not virtualized, and not available through app delivery -- and package them for virtual app and desktop delivery. It really amplifies the value of Citrix by being able to do so.

Gardner: I want to go back to my earlier question: What kinds of apps may or may not be the right fit here?

ROI with the right apps 

Sailer: Bernie, can you basically turn a traditional app into a SaaS app that's delivered through the cloud, in a sense, though not a traditional SaaS app, like a Salesforce or Asana or something like that? What are your thoughts?

Hannon: This is really something that is customer-driven. Our job is to make sure that when they want to make a traditional legacy application available either as a server-based app or as a virtual app on a virtual desktop -- that it is possible for them to do that with Citrix and to provide the tools to make that as easy as possible to do. 

Which apps exactly are the best ones to do? That's really looking at best practices. And there are a lot of forums out there that discuss which apps are better than others. I am not personally an expert on trying to advise customers on whether you should do this app versus that app.

Our job is to make a traditional legacy application available either as a server-based app or as a virtual app on a virtual desktop, and to make that as easy as possible.

But we have a lot of partners in our ecosystem that work with customers to help them package their apps and get them ready to be delivered. They can help them understand where the benefits are going to be, and if there a return on investment (ROI) for doing certain apps versus others.

Gardner: That's still quite an increase from what we hear from some of the other cloud providers, to be honest. The public clouds make promises about moving certain legacy apps and app modernization, but when the rubber hits the road … not so much. You are at least moving that needle quite a bit forward in terms of letting the customer decide which way to go.

Hannon: Well, at the end of the day just because you can, doesn't always mean you should, right?

Gardner: Let's look at this through the lens of use cases. It seems to me a killer appfor these app delivery capabilities would be the whole desktop, VDI. Let's start there. Where does this fit in? Perhaps Windows 10 migration? What are the other areas where you want to use hybrid cloud, with HPE SimpliVity on private and Citrix cloud on hybrid to get your whole desktop rationale process juiced up?

Desktop migration pathways

Hannon: The tip of the spear is definitely Windows 10 migration. There are still tens of millions of desktops out there in need of being upgraded. Customers are at a real pivot point in terms of making a decision: Do they continue down the path that they have been on maintaining and supporting these physical desktops with all of the issues and risks that we hear about every day? Do they try and meet the needs of users, who frankly like their laptops and take them with them everywhere they go?

We need to make sure that we get the right balance -- of giving IT departments the ability to deliver those Windows 10 desktops, and also giving users the seamless experience that makes them feel as if they haven’t lost anything in the process.

So delivering Windows 10 best is at the top of the list, absolutely. And the graphics requirements that go with Windows 10, of being able to deliver that as part of the user experience is very, very important. This is where HPE SimpliVity comes in and partners like NVIDIA who help us virtualize those capabilities, keeping the end users happy however they get their Windows 10 desktop.

Gardner: To dwell just for a moment on Windows 10 migration, cost is always a big factor. When you have something like HPE SimpliVity -- with its compression, with its de-dupe, with its very efficient use of a flash drives and so forth -- is there a total cost of ownership (TCO) story here that people should be aware of when it comes to using HCI to accomplish Windows 10 migrations?

Sailer: Yes, absolutely. When you look at HCI you have to do a TCO analysis. When I talk to our sellers and our customers and ask them, “Why did you choose SimpliVity, honestly, tell me?” It's overwhelmingly the ones that really take a close look at TCO that move to a SimpliVity stack when considering HCI. 

Keeping the cost down, keeping the management cost down as well, and then having the ability to scale the infrastructure up and down the way they need -- and protect the data -- all within the same virtualized framework -- that pays off quite well for most customers.

Gardner:We talked about protecting data, so security impacts. What are some other use cases where you can retain control over desktops, control over intellectual property (IP), and with centralized and policy-driven management over assets? Tell us how hybrid cloud, private cloud, HPE SimpliVity, and Citrix Cloud work together in regard to privacy and security. 

How much security is enough?

Hannon: The world is going remote, and users want to access their workspaces on whatever device they are most comfortable with. And IT is responsible for managing the policies – of who is using what on whatever devices. What’s needed, and what we deliver at Citrix, is the ability for these users to come in on any device that they have and uniformly be able to provide the same level of security. 

Because how much security is enough security? The answer is there is never enough. Security is a huge driver for adoption of this hybrid cloud app delivery model. It allows you to keep your apps and data under lock and key, where you need them; on-premises is usually the answer we get. 

But put the management up in the cloud because that's where the ease of delivering everything is going to occur. Then provide all of the great tools that come through a combination of Citrix, together with HPE SimpliVity, and our partners to be able to deliver that great user experience. This way the security is there, and the users don’t feel like they are giving up anything in order for that security to happen.

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Gardner: Let’s pursue another hybrid cloud use case. If you’re modernizing an entire data center, it might be easier to take everything and move it up into a public cloud, keep it there for a while, re-architect what you have on-premises and then bring it back down to have either private or hybrid production deployments.

Is there a hybrid benefit from the HPE and Citrix alliance that allows a larger migration of infrastructure or a refresh of infrastructure?

Opportunities outside the box 

Hannon: We know that a lot of customers are still using traditional infrastructure, especially where VDI is concerned. Hyperconverged has been around for a few years, but not that many customers have adopted it yet.

As the infrastructure that they have deployed VDI on today begins to come to end of life, they are starting to make some decisions about whether or not they keep the traditional types of infrastructure that they have -- or move to hyperconverged.

And more and more we are seeing our customers adopt hyperconverged. At the same time, we are presenting the opportunity for them to think out of the boxand consider using a hybrid cloud model. This gets them the best of both -- the hyperconverged simplicityandrelieves the IT department of having to manage the Citrix environment, of constantly doing updates, patches, and watching over operations. They let Citrix do that, and let the customers get back to managing the things that are really important -- and that's their applications, data, and security.

Gardner: Speaking of management, we are seeing the need as complexity builds around hybrid models for better holistic management capabilities across multi-cloud and hybrid cloud environments. We have heard lately from HPE about OneSphere and even OneSphere-as-a-service, so HPE GreenLake Hybrid Cloud.

There is probably no end to the things that are possible after this. We are going to start mapping out a roadmap of where we want to go. 

Is this an area where the requirements of your joint customers can benefit, around a higher-order cloud management capability?

Hannon: We have just stuck our toe in the water when it comes to hybrid cloud, VDI, and the relationship that we have with HPE as we deploy this workspace appliance capability. But there is probably no end to the things that are possible after this.

We are going to start mapping out a roadmap of where we want to go. We have to start looking at the capabilities that are inside of HPE that are untapped in this model -- and there are a lot of them.

Take, for example, HPE’s recent acquisition of Plexxi. Now, software-defined networking has the potential to bring an enormous amount of benefit to this model. We have to sit down and think about how we can apply that and then work together to enable that in this hybrid cloud model. So I think there is a lot of opportunity there.

More to come

Gardner: So we should be looking for more to come along those lines?

Hannon: Watch this space.

Gardner: Before we sign off, there was some news at the recent Citrix Synergy show and there has been news at recent HPE shows, too. What are the specific products in the workspaces appliances space? What has been engineered that helps leverage HPE SimpliVity and takes advantage of Citrix? 

Sailer: The Citrix Workspace Appliance Program enables customers to connect to the Citrix Cloud Services environment as easily as possible. We stuck with our traditional mantra that the interface should live where the administrator lives, and that’s within System Center Virtual Machine Manager, or within vSphere, depending on what your hypervisor choice is.

So in both locations we place a nice Citrix connector button right next to our own SimpliVity button. Within a few clicks, you are connected up into the cloud, and we just maintain that level of simplicity. Even through the process of setting all of this up, it's a very easygoing on-ramp to get connected into the cloud. And that ease of management continues right through the cloud services that Citrix provides.

We had this available in tech preview at the recent HPE Discover show, and we will be releasing later in the year the plug-ins.

Gardner: Bernie, tell us about your vision for how this appliance approach can be a go-to-market benefit. How should people be thinking about such ease in deployments?

Your journey to the cloud, at your pace 

Hannon: At the end of the day, customers are looking for options. They don’t want to be locked in. They want to know that their journey to the cloud, as Phil said, is not a destination; it’s a journey. But they are going to go at their own pace on how they adopt cloud. In some cases they will do it wholesale, and others they will do it in small, little steps. 

These kinds of appliance capabilities add features that help customers make choices when they get to a fork in the road. They ask, “If I go hybrid cloud now, do I have to abandon all the infrastructure that I have?”

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No, your infrastructure is going to take you on that journey to the cloud, and that's already built in. We will continue to make those capabilities integrated and built-in, to make it possible for customers to just elect to go in that direction when they are ready. The infrastructure will be simplified and enable that to happen.

Listen to the podcastFind it on iTunes. Get the mobile app. Read a full transcript or download a copy. Sponsor: Hewlett Packard Enterprise

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