Tech Brief: Workspace Microapps
Organizations understand that when employees are forced to use complex, hard-to-use applications, they become frustrated and less productive. Employees spend 20% of their time searching for information while utilizing 4 or 5 key functions in about 80% of all business applications. Citrix Workspace allows users to access all their resources—SaaS apps, web apps, Windows Apps, Linux apps, desktops, and data through a single pane of glass. Citrix introduces intelligent features to the workspace which extend these capabilities by adding machine learning-fueled microapps and workflows, and universal search.
Citrix is a leader in delivering a secure digital workspace. This next generation Citrix Workspace will deliver all the capabilities of the secure digital workspace, while also enhancing the employee experience by guiding work and providing time-saving workflows. Workspace intelligent features give users a single unified experience to all apps and data no matter where they reside while, incorporating machine-learning microapps and workflows to guide and enhance productivity, and universal search to quickly surface data no matter where it’s stored. Analytics and automated intelligence make it possible to customize the experience for individual users. Citrix Workspace is designed with security in mind—all data and keys are encrypted; therefore, Citrix admins do not have access to customer information.
To create this workspace with intelligent features, we are unbundling the applications to provide the end user with simple actions right within the Citrix Workspace feed. Actions are user-initiated activities taken within the microapps that provide inputs to the business applications. The actions a user performs within the microapp are designed to address specific common problems and use cases quickly and easily, adding to increased user productivity (for example: request PTO, submit a help desk ticket). All actions are performed using the users own account and not a generic service account, this ensures the action is auditable. We can also push event-driven microapps and notify users of something that requires their attention (for example: approval of an expense report, new course available for registration).
Universal Search provides users the ability to search for relevant information across all files and apps. A simple keyword search can be used to find app resources, SaaS apps, desktops, and files. This functionality enhances user productivity and efficiency as app and data sprawl is prevalent across all organizations.
Microapps and workflows
A microapp is a single use case made available to users to streamline functionality from complex enterprise applications. Microapps utilize APIs available within SaaS, web, or home-grown applications to allow users to see content without needing the full launch of the application or the need to switch context. Before utilizing microapps, users would have to launch an application, navigate to the action they need to perform, and then perform the action. Microapps streamline routine tasks for frequently performed actions and provide users the ability to perform actions within their Workspace app without having to launch the native application. The workspace app feed, aggregates relevant notifications, tasks, and insights; giving the end user a dynamic productivity tool. The feed is intelligently populated by utilizing machine learning and AI algorithms. Notifications are targeted driven notifications that have expirations once they are no longer relevant. This allows users to have a finite feed with exactly the information they need depending on their role. Microapps are configured within the Citrix Cloud; giving administrators a powerful tool to create more productive workflows, without the need for extra infrastructure. Whether pushed to a user or initiated by a user, microapps are short cuts that simplify and streamline key tasks that would otherwise require opening full enterprise applications.
Citrix’s “Extract, Transform, and Notify” (ETN) methodology enables focused integrations by targeting active data that is actionable. Those actionable events are put into a database and then events are created based on what is changing within that data. Citrix is securely integrating with back-end systems and building on top of their existing APIs to build a solution that is scalable. With out-of-the-box templates, administrators with API account permissions are able to build microapp solutions targeted for their needs. Administrators also have the tools necessary to build custom microapps.
Below are some sample applications (Systems of Record) which have out-of-the-box microapp integrations:
- Atlassian Jira
- Google G-Suite Calendar
- Google G-Suite Directory
- Google G-Suite Drive
- Microsoft Dynamics CRM
- Microsoft Power BI
- SAP Ariba
- SAP Concur
- SAP SuccessFactor
Over 100 out-of-the-box microapps are available. Also, we have a community portal available so as partners and customers build microapps, those can be shared with the community at large.
Although there are many out of the box integrations, Citrix Workspace offers the ability to create custom integrations. This is done through the HTTP connector which allows communication to systems of record (SoRs) that are not included in the out of the box list. It utilizes REST APIs to pull the data and update the specific custom SoR. It supports applications that are compatible with REST APIs and JSON. For those applications that don’t speak JSON/REST, an API wrapper is required to communicate with the microapp builder. Also, Citrix Workspace integrates with on-prem SoRs, giving customers extra flexibility to integrate with legacy and homegrown applications. This requires customers to have connector appliances for cloud services, which are managed appliances that establish the connection between the on-prem SoRs and the microapp service.
Administrators can determine the scope of the data pulled during each sync. A full and incremental synchronization schedule is also defined by the administrator per each individual integration. The microapp service, caches the data from the SoR between syncs. This means that this is not a real-time system so this must be considered when architecting the solution.
An end-user authenticates to Citrix Workspace to access their intelligent feed. Citrix Workspace supports Windows Active Directory, Azure Active Directory, or third party identity provider via Citrix ADC. To read the data from the SoR, the microapp builder utilizes a service account. Many systems of record offer granular permissions for service accounts. This should be used whenever possible to restrict the microapp platform from accessing sensitive information due to misconfiguration. When a user performs an action, the system writes back using a per-user account. This ensures that all write-backs are compliant with the permissions in the SoR. The protocol depends on the SoR but the most common include: OAuth, Basic Auth, and WS-Security. OAuth tokens can be derived for user writes seamlessly by enabling SSO through the Citrix Gateway service. Most systems allow for admins to pre-consent the use of per-user OAuth accounts, so no user interaction is needed. In case the back-end system does not support admin pre-consent, the user would have to consent on first-time use.
Citrix’s Identity Mapping allows the system to understand who the user is by looking at EMMs, IdPs, and directories while mapping the user identity across all solutions to see what is relevant for that end user. It provides unified user data lookup and single sign-on for the end user. Also, permissions to access the microapp are based on membership in groups from the systems of record. Therefore, not only can we assign microapps based on AD groups, but also based on target groups that are part of the application.
Microapp architecture and process flow
Citrix Workspace with intelligence is made up of different μ-services as part of the Citrix management plane and interacts with existing Citrix Workspace services:
- The Systems of Record (SoR) are the applications Citrix Workspace interacts with to create microapps. These applications can be SaaS applications, legacy applications, homegrown applications and can be hosted on-prem or cloud. There are connectors with out-of-the-box templates for several applications (see list above), however integration with other applications can be configured through the low-code microapp page builder. The microapp page builder connects to legacy, on-premises, and SaaS systems by creating streamlined user workflows via microapp actions. The microapp page builder supports REST API, JSON, OData-JSON, and XML. The system can write back to the SoR using OAuth2 or a service account.
- The microapp service is a single-tenant service responsible for creating the microapps and sends raw events to Citrix Analytics for processing that it pulls from the SoR. The microapp server is periodically pulling active data from the Systems of Record. Synchronization periods are defined by administrators to determine how often the microapp service should complete a full sync or an incremental sync.
- The active data cache µ-service is single-tenant and stores all configuration information and microapp data. It utilizes a per-tenant database encryption key and per-tenant database credentials.
- The credential wallet µ-service, stores encrypted service credentials for the system of records and user OAuth2 tokens.
- The data integration provider µ-service interacts with the SoR to decrypt end-user credentials and write back actions to the SoR under the identity of the end-user. The write-back actions utilize a user’s actual account to ensure all actions performed are compliant with the data policies of the system we’re interacting with.
- The notification µ-service processes the notifications created. It either stores them in a database to be later served in a notification feed, or sends the notifications out immediately as a push notification to the end user. Administrators can configure and limit what is shown in the notification cards to limit exposing sensitive content. Notifications can have expirations so that they disappear from the end-user’s feed once they are no longer relevant.
- Finally, the Analytics Service processes the raw events and creates targeted scored notifications and sends them to the notification service.
The management plane is available in the US, EMEA, and APS region.
The data flow of the workspace with intelligence can be found below:
Citrix Workspace customers are able to build microapps to increase end-user productivity. It eliminates the need for users to parse through complex enterprise apps to complete a single task. Citrix Workspace is designed with security and end-user experience in mind. It encrypts all the data and keys; therefore, admins do not have access to customer information. The system only stores the data it needs to create events. By utilizing public APIs, admins completely control which microapps are made available. No audit trail is lost because everything is written back in the context of the user. Microapps organize, automate, and guide your employees through their work day; maximizing productivity and boosting the overall user experience.
For more information about Microapps, see Microapps in Citrix product documentation.