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Citrix hatches early plans for virtualization management

With its end-to-end virtualization strategy already on the table, Citrix brass is now cooking up ideas for a management console as well.

LAS VEGAS -- One way Citrix Systems Inc. plans to win over enterprise IT managers with its server-to-desktop virtualization strategy is to build an all-encompassing management console that delivers a bird's eye view into application delivery.

Although the company's plans are still in the early stages, Prabakar Sundarrajan, chief technology officer and vice president in Citrix's application networking group, said at iForum 07 here this week that the company will create an application delivery management console.

Citrix executives are still kicking around the idea and do not want to supplant other management consoles. Rather, they want to plug into existing ones as well as offer a unique, drilled-down view of a Citrix environment, Sundarrajan said.

"Initially [the console] might be a collection of modules that would come together into one," he said.

The console would have to bring in three things. First is visibility into performance, security, audit services and access permissions. This information might also feed into another service desk elsewhere, he said.

A second feature would be system configurations and how information would flow into other devices. Third is the ability to provide an environment where the administrator does not need to log onto each and every device in the system.

The trick to any Citrix management system would be in getting everything to integrate, said Gordon Haff, a principal IT advisor at Illuminata Inc., a Nashua, N.H. consulting firm. "It can't be dependent on other management tools, but you do want to integrate with other management tools, such as Hewlett-Packard's [System Insight Manager]." Haff said.

Today Citrix offers a management console for Presentation Server, its thin client platform. The company focused on Presentation Server almost exclusively until 2005, when it started acquiring application delivery technologies, such as NetScaler Inc. in June 2005.

Other companies that sell virtualization tools offer their own virtualization management consoles. VMware Inc. sells VirtualCenter, which is strictly for server provisioning and consolidation. Ditto for Microsoft, which released System Center Virtual Machine Manager this month.

Because virtual environments are still so new to most IT managers, many aren't sure what they would need to have in a console. "We are just starting out so [one] of the problems we are having is making sure there are not too many virtual machines in any one place, in case a server fails," said Jeff Hoyle , a member of the IT staff at Ameritas Life Insurance Corp. in Lincoln, Neb.

At Providence Health & Services, a system of hospitals in Portland, Ore., the IT shop already uses Citrix management tools for its Presentation Server environment as well as Microsoft's System Management Server, now called Configuration Manager, to manage its desktops.

Virtualization environment management is very much on the mind of Richard Daily , a Windows system engineer for Providence Health & Services. He would like to convert many of the hospital PCs to thin clients.

"The best thing about a management console is you can manage desktop images -- who can get them and where the images can go," Daily said. "That's where I'm looking."

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