A Decade of Leostream
On my daily commute through the Boston traffic, every radio station I turn to seems to be discussing one “best of the decade” list or another. That got me thinking, “Does Leostream have a ‘best of’? How have we grown and changed over the last 10 years?”
The simple answer is, “We’ve changed a lot!” And those changes really are the “best of” our last decade. So, take a trip down memory lane with me to see how Leostream has kept pace with a market that has put many other independent VDI companies to bed over the last 10 years.
Out with the old – Connection Broker 5.3
Before we talk about this decade, let’s look at where Leostream wrapped up the last. I came to Leostream in 2008, which was the era of Connection Broker 5.x. Our somewhat dark interface sat on top of a platform that managed VDI, Terminal Services, Citrix Presentation Server (you heard that right), and not much else.
In 2008, though, there wasn’t much else on the market, which means that even when VDI was still in its infancy Leostream had already adopted the “hybrid” approach that would define our growth and the growth of the market for the decade to come.
From the beginning, the Connection Broker walked the path of being a vendor agnostic tool for mixed environments, with support for the various platforms in the market at the time, as seen in the types of Centers we supported in 2008.
While the Leostream architecture and hybrid philosophy would serve us well into the next decade, our web interface was decidedly 2008.
The Connection Broker Administrator’s interface contained many of the Leostream concepts you see, today. You defined authentication servers and centers, built pools, created policies, and assigned them to users. However, as is typical in early software versions, usability was a little lacking. I remember watching customers, even experienced ones, clicking around the menu structure seemingly at random to find the page they needed.
Looking back at our menu structure, I understand why.
Just as the Connection Broker already had its hybrid approach to hosting platforms, it already supported both commodity (RDP) and high-performance (HP RGS) display protocols, with some interesting options available, such as support for Neoware and Sun Ray clients.
In 5.x, Leostream policies were a long form that locked you into the same display protocol for every pool offered in that policy. That limitation was fine in 2008, but increasingly we heard the market asking for flexibility in managing user workflows in their VDI environment.
The Connection Broker 5.x branch lived on nearly to this decade, with its last release in September of 2009, but changes to the Connection Broker to support additional flexibly were brewing.
2010 Connection Broker 6.x
The decade started with our first rebranding and redesign of the Administrator Web interface. While the login screen didn’t change too much, what you saw after you logged in did.
The menus along the top weren’t quite as dark and foreboding, and contained new options such as plans.
Plans were split out of policies as reusable sets of rules for controlling user workflows. Our plans simplified policy creation and provided the flexibility the market was asking for to use different display protocols for different connections, as an example.
Our Protocol Plans even allowed you to prioritize protocols, so you could fail a user over to an RDP connection if their RGS Sender became unavailable, as another example. I will admit that our Protocol Plan form in 2010 was long and cumbersome, but we had another nine years left in the decade to tackle that usability problem.
As virtualization matured and new vendors brought solutions to market, such as Microsoft Hyper-V, we kept to our “Remote access for all” ethos and added support for the new platforms, even earning a Citrix Ready certification for XenServer 5.6 (yes, 5.6, this was still 2010). Our goal was, then as now, to allow our customers to future proof their data centers so they could try out new technologies while continuing to leverage what they had in house, including Citrix Presentation Server which had rebranded to XenApp.
The 6.x branch was full of features that started the Leostream Connection Broker down the path of being a complete connection management platform. Among those features: we added the ability to attach network printers to the remote VMs; added more administrator tools, like integrated search; and logged more and more events, giving administrators an audit-level look at what was going on in their system
And, in a tradition that continues to this day, we started publishing patch releases at a greater frequency, ensuring that we get customer-facing bugs and smaller feature requests into their hands as quickly as possible. Our fix-and-release customer-first attitude is one of the reasons customers have appreciated working with Leostream over the decade.
2011 Connection Broker 7.x
Being a company that doesn’t rest on its laurels, we pushed on to Connection Broker 7.x. Initially released at the very end of 2010, the 7.x branch lived on until late 2014.
With 7.0, the look-and-feel of the Web interface stayed mostly the same and, instead, the depth of the product features grew. The first release of 7.0 enabled Leostream to model non-persistent workflows, and introduced our collaboration feature, where users with active desktop sessions could invite other Leostream users to shadow their session.
As disaster recovery and high availability became greater concerns for the market, Connection Broker 7.x introduced backup pools and failover desktops to expand our goal that Leostream always get the user connected to a desktop where they can get their job done, even if their primary machine becomes unusable.
And, of course, the 7.x branch continued to add support for more platforms, including Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View. (All third-party product names are referenced as they appeared at the time.) It was these 7.x releases that earned Leostream the name, “the one Broker to rule them all.” Props to Paul K. for the quote, where ever this decade has taken him.
There are too many features to mention over the four years of 7.x. The release notes bring to mind the customer conversations that lead to many of the features. Many of those customers are still with us (a couple may even still be on 7.x!) To all of you, for your years of loyalty, I thank you!
2014 Connection Broker 8.x
Onward to Connection Broker 8.x. Like Connection Broker 7.x, the 8.x branch lived on for four years until 2018. Unlike version 7.x, Connection Broker 8.2 is still under support as we close 2019. While the last update was made in November 2018, the 8.2 release is supported until the end of 2020, and we have many, many customers that are still on that release.
Why are they still on that release? Well, because it’s a rock-solid battleship of a connection broker.
Connection Broker 8.x took the “one broker to rule them all” notion even further, adding in support for more and newer platforms. Leostream recognized how important the cloud was going to be in the market and, with Connection Broker 8.x, Leostream added support for Amazon Web Services and Azure, well before AWS had their Workspaces offering.
We also added support for additional high-performance display protocols. In addition to the support we already had for Teradici PCoIP and HP RGS, Connection Broker 8.x introduced new partners such as Mechdyne and their TGX protocol, and NICE with DCV. With the number of supported display protocols at 13, in order to make the Protocol Plan form less intimidating, we collapsed sections that weren’t in use, but the form still displayed the full breadth of our protocol support.
Connection Broker 8.2 hammered out the edge cases of nearly every VDI workflow you could possibly want, persistent, non-persistent, pooled, dedicated, and everything in between. Our policy logic and session management became second to none. That said, we still had a problem.
Throughout 8.2, we made slight usability enhancements like the change to the Protocol Plan page to try and make our product easier to understand and use. The feedback overwhelming stated that we weren’t succeeding. After eight years of building the most robust, scalable, feature-rich, and platform-agnostic connection broker on the market, we were just too hard to use.
Thankfully, in the summer of 2017, we had the time and resources to tackle our usability issues head on.
2018 Connection Broker 9.0
Enter Leostream 9.0. With the help of a graphic designer and the usability input of a number of our customers, we retooled the Administrator interface and redesigned our licensing scheme to turn Leostream into a product that provides “Remote Access for All”, without the confused looks.
Our new sign in page was sleek, and web and mobile friendly
Our new Administrator Interface was organized and intuitive, and our licensing scheme allowed us to hide the platforms, display protocols, and features customers weren’t planning to use, so we could simplify long forms.
I do a lot of demos for prospective customers. At the end of showing off Connection Broker 8.2, I was typically greeted by blank stares and crickets. With Leostream 9.0, I literally always hear a variant of, “Well, that’s straight forward.”
Leostream 9.0 isn’t just about a new look and feel, though. Leostream 9 extended our platform to include the Leostream Gateway and HTML5 viewer, it finished our journey to the big-three cloud with support for Google Cloud Platform, it expanded our reach from enterprise to SMB with our integration with the Scale Computing HC3 hyperconverged platform, and it saw our MFA capabilities grow with support for SAML-based identity providers and Duo.
True, we retired support for some older technologies (sorry Citrix), but only those that the market told us were going by the wayside.
Leostream 9 will be with us for a while. Our new packaging and update method make it easy for us to get updates to our customers as soon as we can, so they can keep their Leostream environment running smoothly.
Maybe, by the end of the next decade, we’ll see a Leostream 10. For now, in 2020, we’ll continue updating Leostream 9 to add the features and functionality our customers need to get their jobs done, on-premises, in the cloud, or at the edge.
We hope you decide to take this journey with us.