Citrix updates app servers for the Web

Citrix Systems officials believe the most recent release of MetaFrame will show there's still life in the 'old' ways of connecting to server-based applications

Citrix Systems Inc. officials believe the most recent release of its venerable MetaFrame product will show there's still life in the "old" ways of connecting to server-based applications, despite the inexorable march to the World Wide Web.

MetaFrame provides access to applications by running them on a central server, rather than running them on PCs. While the logic executes entirely on the server, a user works with the interface on a local client as if the application were also running locally, with data and files brought down from the server as needed.

By hosting applications on the server, according to Citrix officials, organizations can simplify and reduce the costs of managing desktop systems.

But Citrix is not blind to the inevitable. Many organizations have lowered management costs by providing access to applications and data via the Web. So Citrix has introduced a new product, NFuse Elite, for running Web portals.

"It was conventional wisdom several years ago that MetaFrame even then was becoming a legacy product and was getting long in the tooth," said Dwight Davis, a software industries analyst at Summit Strategies Inc. "But it seems there's still a healthy demand for it, and that shows that the world hasn't gone entirely to the Web yet, at least in a packaged sense."

The company also introduced MetaFrame XP for Windows with Feature Release 2 last year. The product gives users access to Microsoft Corp. Windows applications through any network connection, be it wired, wireless or the Web.

With Feature Release 2, Citrix has improved delegated administration, making it possible to more finely set the levels of control given to other Citrix administrators.

The new release also provides for content redirection, which enables an administrator to specify whether a server or local resources are used to open content. If a user tries to open a file on a local machine that doesn't have the right application, for example, that action can be routed through a MetaFrame session from the client to the application server and viewed there.

MetaFrame XP also has better security, using the popular Secure Sockets Layer protocol and the emerging Transport Layer Security to protect communications between the client and the server. Citrix also has added support for the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Federal Information Processing Standard 140 for data encryption.

Delivering Web Services

NFuse Elite, which is bound tightly to MetaFrame XP, is the company's first stab at a full-featured access portal. It enables users to set up Web pages customized to their needs and provides access to Web-based applications that are neither strictly Windows nor Unix.

Citrix is "very much aligned" with Microsoft.Net, with Nfuse Elite supporting .Net Web parts and forms, as well as Extensible Markup Language, said David Manks, Citrix' senior director of product marketing. Microsoft.Net automates key functions needed to run applications on the Internet.

With NFuse Elite, Citrix is entering a tough access portal market competing against software giants such as IBM Corp., BEA Systems Inc., Oracle Corp. and Sybase Inc., according to Davis of Summit Strategies.

Citrix is partnering with "best of breed" solutions providers and delivering NFuse Elite as a packaged solution, he said. This separates it from the "one-stop shop" offerings from other companies.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

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