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Citrix's Secure Forms And MAM-First Approach Focus On Customer Needs

By - Source: Toms IT Pro
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At the annual Citrix Synergy user conference, there was a lot of buzz around XenMobile. In the keynote, Citrix CEO Kirill Tatarinov noted that over 50 million users start their day using XenDesktop and XenMobile, showing the tremendous user adoption of these tools.

There are a number of enhancements that were presented at the conference, notably around authentication, rapid app development using Secure Forms, as well as the company's mobile application management (MAM) first approach for support of personal devices without mobile device management (MDM).

MORE: Citrix XenMobile Review

MORE: EMM Reviews

Authentication Improvements

With XenMobile 10.3.5 (released in early May), users can use strong two-factor, certificate-based authentication or Apple Touch ID for access to WorxMail. There is support of derived credentials coupled with a PIN for mobile users, which eliminates the need to remember a specific mobile or Active Directory user name and password.

In line with other announcements, this is enabled by a partnership with Intercede. The solution is a U.S. government-based Personal Identity Verification (PIV) model that works with smart cards, rather than the standard username/password trusted pair.

Digital credentials are deployed to the Citrix shared vault, including keys and certificates, eliminating the need for long passwords.

Citrix Secure Forms

The most significant enhancement to the Worx personal information management (PIM) suite doesn't even have Worx in its name. Originally conceived to be part of the Worx suite of apps, Secure Forms is now a standalone rapid app development kit. Unlike Box Notes and similar value-added demo-ware functions in mobility tools, Secure Forms drives business value by helping organizations move away from paper forms to intelligent apps. 

To extract maximum value from its portfolio, Citrix was able to quickly develop Secure Forms in-house leveraging IP from many of its already excellent products. For instance, Secure Forms uses ShareFile (Citrix's enterprise file sync and share platform) as the storage layer, and leverages the device-level control functionality in XenMobile.

At its core, it's a system to build form-based apps. Instead of strictly using simple form input and data output, Secure Forms has enhancements thanks to XenMobile's direct connection (or universal abstraction from) the hardware contained in mobile devices. For example, cameras can be used to read full barcodes or take photos and videos. Audio can also be recorded, and signatures captured via generated apps.

Even better, Secure Forms works offline, so users can interact by filling out forms and sync when they're back online. Data is stored in standard formats (CSV or XML), routed to relational databases and then PDF files can be generated for record keeping.

Since the tool has been in beta for some time, Citrix had a number of customers that offered case studies. Representative industry-specific apps included law enforcement, government and healthcare, with more generic demonstrations of typical horizontal workflow approval.

Mobile Application Management (MAM) First

With a continued increase in bring your own device (BYOD) policies across organizations, Citrix customers say that their users (and device owners) were pushing back on full installation of an MDM controller. In response, Citrix configured XenMobile to provide only MAM functionality. This MAM first approach balances security with a better user experience on personal devices.

In general, a MAM first approach allows for app-specific controls, such as wiping or locking an app, single sign-on (SSO) across all apps in the container, encrypted data at-rest/in-use/in-motion and a seamless delivery of productivity tools with inter-app workflows.

While solutions from enterprise mobility management (EMM) competitors, such as VMware AirWatch, offer similar privacy first options, Citrix's MAM first approach actually doesn't touch anything on a device outside of the containerized apps. This  should overcome the stigma that "big brother" is watching everything people do on their phones or tablets.

Citrix NetScaler

Two big announcements were made around NetScaler, Citrix’s network application delivery controller (ADC) and acceleration tool.

The first is support for DevOps. NetScaler CPX is a new form factor that runs natively on Docker and can provide rich ADC functionality in dark containers. Citrix is the first major vendor in the space to support this.

NetScaler Management and Analytics System (MAS) 11.1 has an updated management console for setting policies and configuring automation scripts. The benefits of MAS automated configuration and discovery are faster device deployments, reduced errors during upgrades and streamlined service delivery.

As part of the Day 2 Keynote, Citrix CTO Abhishek Chauhan showed the Project LogStream, Project StyleBooks, and Analytics. NetScaler was able to handle over 1250 transactions per second in the demo, with 25,000 servers and 1,000 NetScalers spread across seven data centers.

Finally, as part of the Microsoft partnership, Citrix announced that NetScaler and XenMobile will be EMS-enabled. This will help bridge the gap in shops that have deep investments in overlapping Microsoft and Citrix technologies.