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Citrix Makes Strong Moves to Stake Its Claim in EUC Space

I have been attending the annual Citrix Summit for many years now, and often, these events consist of reconnecting with former colleagues and valued friends that I have met over the years. While I enjoy the peer-to-peer connections I get to rekindle, I often miss the early years announcing huge technical upgrades and new features that we can bring back to our customers. This year though, it felt like old times again as Citrix made two big announcements that should have customers excited and will allow us at AHEAD to provide even more perspective and technical expertise in 2017.

Citrix and Unidesk

The first major announcement made was Citrix’s acquisition of Unidesk, an application packaging and lifecycle management software company that is a leader in the application layering space. This acquisition along with Citrix’s prior acquisition of Norskale (a UEM software package), gives Citrix a more complete and valuable solution portfolio for its customers.  

Application layering is a solution Citrix had been working on with a product they call AppDisk, even though it was never developed fast enough for a production solution for customers. With the acquisition of Unidesk, Citrix can focus on selling and integrating an enterprise-ready solution. VMware has been selling an application layering solution called AppVolumes that they acquired in 2014 when they purchased a company called CloudVolumes. Now Citrix can offer its customers this functionality without partnering with other third-party solutions.

At AHEAD, we help customers evaluate different technology solutions according to specific requirements and can assist with technical comparison between Unidesk and AppVolumes.

Some of the key differences between Unidesk and AppVolumes are:

  • AppVolumes operates above the OS Layer and therefore supports less features and applications than Unidesk
  • Unidesk layers support applications with system level driver requirements
  • Unidesk provides image management capabilities for customers golden/master images
  • Unidesk supports vSphere, XenServer, Acropolis Hypervisor, Hyper-V, and Azure Resource Manager natively
  • Unidesk layers get merged into the base image vs. mounting multiple .VHD or .VMDK files on the base OS which is the approach with AppVolumes

What This Means

So what does this mean for our customers and partners? First, for our customers, anyone currently utilizing Citrix at any platform now has access to Unidesk. This in itself is significant due to the features Unidesk provides. Customers will be able to run Unidesk on most hypervisors, including support for Nutanix Acropolis hypervisor so there is no re-architecting required. Cross-layer application mapping will make patching applications fast and easy, since applications can live on their own volume. This also allows application deployment to be handed off to the installation teams since there are no fears of application dependencies or groupings. Unidesk can be integrated into Provisioning Server or MCS for out-of-band layering, or can be used in an elastic layering mode (Platinum only) for hot add capabilities. Finally, with the push to the cloud, Unidesk can fully support application layering for providers such as Azure and AWS. Even more exciting is the opportunity for us as trusted advisors to help customers design, install, and configure the technology as there will be many customers wanting to take advantage of these features, although they might not understand how it fits into their overall strategy. This is where our consulting services can help deliver successful implementations.

XenMobile and Microsoft EMS

Next, Citrix announced a partnership in the mobility space between XenMobile and Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security. For those who aren’t familiar, this will allow for full integration and interoperability with Microsoft InTune and XenMobile. Microsoft’s mobility suite offering is being adopted by many companies and this will add more functionality and easier integration. Also with this integration, Citrix will be able to provide added security in policy control by integrating the Citrix NetScaler and XenMobile policy manager.

What This Means

What this means is that customers can create a single mobile application to be utilized by both XenMobile and InTune. Also, full EMS integration into the NetScaler is going to be available in Q2 of 2017. This will be significant for customers who are not only deciding between XenMobile or Airwatch, but contemplating InTune as well for mobile device and application management. This means that whether a customer chooses XenMobile or InTune, Citrix will be part of the deployment. This gives them an advantage over VMware as it will be an easier solution to adopt for existing Microsoft customers.

As it relates, this resulted in a major impact to XenMobile Cloud as it’s being moved from AWS to Microsoft Azure. While from a technology standpoint this means very little, the strategic partnership between Citrix and Microsoft is very real. This sets up for a direct competition against AWS and possibly a tighter relationship between AWS and VMware. With the recent announcement of AWS and VMware’s strategic partnership prior to Amazon re:Invent, we’re already seeing bold moves being made to strengthen this relationship. While this direct competition is not definite yet, if this were to occur, architecting cloud solutions could become very divided. If customers are looking at Azure, then the Citrix suite makes sense, but VMware customers may lean towards AWS. The good news is that at AHEAD, we are positioned to take on this competitive cloud landscape to give customers the best of breed technology for whatever business issues they’re looking to tackle. I am interested to see how this will continue to play out in 2017 and beyond and how it will affect our customers and partners moving forward.


To learn about end-user computing, mobility, automation and orchestration, or our relationship with Citrix at AHEAD, contact us today to meet with our experts one-on-one and for more information on our current offerings and solutions.