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Citrix To SaaSify XenApp, XenDesktop with Citrix Workspace Services

Citrix proved at Synergy 2014 last week that mobility and end user computing is at its core DNA and that the company is still able to innovate and think outside the box. I was completely surprised when it announced Citrix Workspace Services. It is not even beta yet, but what Citrix previewed was really cool and very telling as far as where the company will take its flagship products and how it intends to compete in the future.

The keynote announcement around CWS definitely left us all asking a thousand questions. To simplify what Citrix is trying to do here, Citrix is SaaSifying its XenApp and XenDesktop platforms -- as simple as that. Instead of the customer having to install and configure XenApp and XenDesktop, that configuration will be simplified and streamlined on top of Microsoft Azure. There will be connectors available to plug-in resources from on-premises to public clouds like Amazon and others, I am sure. In essence, Citrix has separated the management plane from the resources plane.

Let's break this down even more. The management plane lives on Azure and is a managed instance that Citrix makes available to customers. As the architect, engineer or admin of your company, you can log in to CWS, select the version of XenApp or XenDesktop that you wish to build and configure your database (hosted on CWS), and maybe even choose the geography where you want to deploy that instance.

Once you've configured your management plane, you can then start connecting resources. If your hypervisor of choice is vSphere and that happens to be on premises, you install a connector on vSphere and attach that to the management plane. Now from within your CWS, you can see vSphere available for you to provision against. You can do the same with others on a geographical scale, where Hyper-V is used in one location and XenServer at another, and so on.

Once you've identified resources, you can then provision VDI instances, XenApp instances or a mixture of all the above. This is definitely a positive mutation from DaaS, this carries the best of both worlds and simplifies upgrades and migrations to new versions or even newer platforms.

What I like even more about this is the ability to plug in additional Citrix products. So, by following this approach, if a customer wants to use ShareFile, they would simply enable it and connect it at the management plane level and that would make it available for immediate use. Think about how simplified licensing would become as well and how quickly you can consume licensing. Unexpected blizzard in Chicago that shuts down the city and you need licenses immediately? No problem, how many do you need?

CWS does not mean that you will not be able to install XenApp, XenDesktop and all the other Citrix components the traditional way anymore, you will always have that option, but CWS significantly simplifies that. Heck, I am willing to bet that once CWS is rolled out, we will see Citrix rolling out CWS virtual appliances for on-premises deployment. Just like Microsoft promises that future versions of Windows Server will look like Azure, future versions of Citrix products will also look like CWS in that they are containerized virtual appliances. This opens up a slew of managed services offerings that Citrix can directly manage or that partners can manage on behalf of customers.

I was pressing Citrix hard for a cloud strategy and I still am -- I don't think one clearly exists yet. Still, I will also admit that CWS is a very interesting take on innovation without trying to build it themselves and get into this DaaS turf war. Citrix with CWS will be able to carve out a large piece of the pie and with a single master blow address any questions around deployment complexity, time to deploy, platform for deployment and many more. You want DaaS? CWS offers it. You want on-premises? No problem, you want both? Sure thing.

Citrix definitely continues to lead and innovate in the end-user computing space and has shown time and again that they are able to get out of a pinch, out of a corner. I say this because prior to Synergy, that's where VMware had Citrix. Now I feel that Citrix not only is out of the corner but will also force VMware to follow this model because it makes perfect sense. It's as if the competition is making these companies feed off each other in this space, and the innovation as is a result is bringing out the best in each company.

Posted by Elias Khnaser on 05/12/2014 at 1:32 PM


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