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Citrix Cuts Ribbon on Self-Service App Store

By Jack M. Germain
May 6, 2009 2:15 PM PT

Virtualization and cloud computing specialist Citrix wants to do for its IT customers what Apple does for users of its App Store. Instead of selling programs like games or restaurant finders for the iPhone or iPod touch, however, Citrix's new Dazzle service will provide on-demand business applications.

Citrix Cuts Ribbon on Self-Service App Store

Citrix announced its Dazzle online storefront service on Tuesday at its Synergy 2009 event in Las Vegas. Dazzle, a lightweight application for Windows PCs and Macs, allows users to search through, select and buy business software products based on the application's name, description or type, or by an IT department-defined category.

The offering is the first self-service storefront for enterprise applications, according to Citrix. Dazzle will work as a companion to Citrix Delivery Center products, which include Citrix XenApp and Citrix XenDesktop.

Dazzle will also interface directly with Citrix Merchandising Server, a new head-end management system that enables IT departments to merchandise apps to users, not just deliver them. Plus, it is integrated with Citrix Receiver, a new universal software client the company announced this week, which allows users to access corporate apps and desktops from any device they choose.

"The best way to think of Dazzle is not as a standalone product or capability, but as a way to provide user access to virtualized applications in a more familiar way," Gordon Haff, Senior Analyst/IT Advisor for Illuminata, told the E-Commerce Times. "It's a form of Web 2.0 meets enterprise IT -- and by making it easier to use products like XenApp, it makes them useful for more different situations."

Fills Big Gap

The ability to buy applications on-demand in the workplace fills a growing gap between Web-based consumer services and traditional enterprise computing, maintained Citrix.

In most companies, applications, desktops and other services are predetermined by IT and secured into hard-coded desktop images that are pushed to users based upon their role, physical location or employee status. These applications are rarely updated for anything other than maintenance and security patches, according to Citrix.

If employees want access to something new, they either wait for IT to respond to a help desk ticket, or they simply figure out a way to go around IT altogether, using something found online. This approach not only limits employee productivity but also introduces security risks -- and can be extremely expensive to maintain.

"Every day, employees are presented with an amazing array of exciting apps and services on the Web that spark their imagination and put them in full control of their experience," said Mark Templeton, president and CEO, Citrix Systems. "Then they come to work, and their IT experience is mandated by a bland 'general issue' sameness that threatens to drive every ounce of productivity and innovation out of them."

Dazzle is designed to change that experience. It gives IT a tool to let employees select the apps, desktops and services they need, whenever they need them. The hidden reality, of course, is that by giving employees choice, IT actually gains even more control over the things that really matter, Templeton explained.

Citrix is laying the foundation for an alternative industry process that moves away from push methodology, which has been hindering IT organizations financially, according to Citrix.

For instance, IT organizations will spend over US$6 billion on systems designed to enable traditional push-oriented desktop management systems, the company said.

Using It

Subscribers to Citrix can select an application in Dazzle by browsing and clicking an icon on a Windows computer or dragging the icon into the Applications folder or Dock on a Mac system.

Once the application is active on the computer, users can organize selected applications into user-defined playlists. They can also find the Dazzle apps in the Start menu.

One feature designates those applications that are available for offline use in the Dazzle console. This makes selection easy for laptop users who need to work while disconnected from the network, noted Citrix.

More to It

Companies that use Dazzle in conjunction with the Citrix Merchandising Server can create a list in Dazzle that highlights applications they want to promote to employees. IT managers can post advertisements for new or underutilized IT applications.

Dazzle is designed as an open, self-service storefront. It can be used to offer a wide range of IT services to users:

  • online and offline Windows applications delivered by Citrix XenApp, Microsoft Terminal Services, or other app virtualization solutions;
  • online and offline virtual desktops delivered by Citrix XenDesktop and other virtual desktop solutions;
  • Web-based applications published through XenApp or linked directly to external Web sites for native delivery;
  • SaaS applications such as GoToMeeting and;
  • enterprise content including documents, videos and intranet sites like Microsoft SharePoint; and
  • virtual machine compute capacity requested by technical users for self-service server provisioning.

Pricing and Availability

Citrix will make many of the applications available for free with unlimited use for any employee within a given organization. Other apps may carry a chargeback to employees' departments or require approval from managers. Applications that are only needed for a specific project can be set up to expire after a certain number of days.

Citrix Merchandising Server is available now and will be free to all Citrix customers actively subscribed to any Citrix Delivery Center product. Dazzle for both Windows and Mac will be offered at no additional charge to customers on active subscription on a when-and-if-available basis.

A technology preview of Dazzle will be available later this year.

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