Yesterday (August 25), Citrix formally announced XenDesktop 4 Feature Pack 2. It’s expected to be available by the end of September, and, of course, will be available at no charge to existing XenDesktop customers whose Subscription Advantage is current. The big news in this Feature Pack is the incorporation of XenClient and XenVault.
We’ve talked a lot about XenClient here, but haven’t said much about XenVault. It’s high time we did, because it’s a pretty cool piece of technology in its own right.
If you’ve used Citrix products in the past, you know that we have administrative control over whether, for example, users who are running applications on a XenApp server are able to save data back to a disk drive on their client device. With the advent of Smart Access (enabled by Access Gateway Enterprise policies), we can get even more granular: we might allow a user to save data to a client drive if they’re connecting from within the protected network, or connecting from a corporate-owned laptop, but deny that same user the ability to do so if they’re connecting from a personal device or public location like a hotel business center.
Unfortunately, once the data is on a client device, you now have a security risk. It could potentially be copied to a USB drive. The corporate laptop could be lost or stolen. (For some of the more high-profile examples, check out the “laptop losers hall of shame.”) Nevertheless, it’s often viewed as a risk we have to take so that our mobile users can be productive.
XenVault, which was first previewed at the Synergy event last May, is designed to address this risk. XenVault is a new plug-in for the Citrix Receiver. As such, its deployment and configuration are controlled through the Citrix Merchandising Server. To quickly review, Merchandising Server is the preferred tool Citrix has provided for installing and configuring client software. The first time a user authenticates to the Merchandising Server (through a simple browser interface), the Citrix Receiver will be pushed down and installed on the client device, together with whatever plug-ins and configuration details the administrator has defined for that user. Subsequently, the Citrix Receiver will check back with the Merchandising Server behind the scenes, and receive any configuration updates that may be available.
The XenVault plug-in creates a secure, encrypted (256-bit AES) storage area on the client hard disk. Typically, any application that is running remotely on a XenApp server or XenDesktop virtual PC will only be able to store data in the secure, encrypted location, if it is allowed to store data on the client drive at all. Same for an application that has been streamed via XenApp for local execution on the client (regardless of whether it was packaged with the Citrix streaming tools or with App-V). While the user will be able to use Windows Explorer to look at the secure location and see what files are there, the user will not be able to copy files from the secure location to a non-secured area of the hard disk, nor open the files with applications other than those specified by the administrator. For a deeper explanation of how this works, see Joe Nord’s blog post on the subject.
If the laptop is lost or stolen, the administrator can issue a “kill pill” that will cause the secure, encrypted area to be locked or deleted the next time the Receiver checks in with the Merchandising Server. Pretty cool.
If you can’t wait until the end of September to try it out, and you have a mycitrix login, you can download the XenVault technology preview now. And keep watching this space, because I’ve got a feeling that this will be a good subject for a future video blog.