Citrix's buying Unidesk sits atop 2017's list of desktop virtualization acquisitions

Citrix, Ivanti, HPE, and NComputing were busy acquiring companies in 2017 (and in one case, selling off a business). We take a look at all the M&A activity in desktop virtualization for 2017.

2017 was the year that kept on giving, with a relatively uninterrupted stream of news that kept us busy throughout. I'm going to kick of year-in-review season by looking at the mergers and acquisitions in the desktop virtualization space, and we'll be following this up with several other articles in the coming weeks. Let's start at the beginning of the year, with Citrix's acquisition of Unidesk.

Unidesk acquired by Citrix

At Citrix's partner-only event last year, Summit, they announced that they'd bought Unidesk which, among other things, finally made Ron Oglesby a Citrite (everyone thought he worked there at some point in the past anyway). The move was lauded, primarily because Citrix's AppDisk never lived up to the expectations we all had after they acquired its predecessor, Ringcube.  Unidesk immediately vaulted Citrix into app management picture.

Though it was needed, Unidesk is not the least complex platform on the market. It's not just application management, either. In order to use it, you have to commit to Unidesk's image management, which is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, you get all the great features Unidesk offers (true layering, along with elastic layers, plus cloud connectors, and more), but switching to a new method of image management means that the implementation is not simple. The result is good, but the process is long enough to turn some customers off.

It will be very interesting to see what Citrix has in store for Unidesk in 2018. We'll see if they can find a way to pare off the application management and allow customers to use it without having to change the way they manage images. At the very least, I expect they'll find a way to make the migration process easier.  This will be necessary because, at least in part, Citrix laid off the Unidesk SEs in their October round of layoffs.

Citrix Online (GoTo)

While we're talking about Citrix, it's worth mentioning that they successfully spun off Citrix Online. It was actually "merged" with LogMeIn, which I'm sure is somehow different than selling Citrix Online to LogMeIn. Regardless, GoToMeeting is a LogMeIn product now. The move bolstered Citrix's stock price, which is keeping its investors happy as they work to either point the company in the right direction or sell it off altogether.

LANDESK became Ivanti, then bought RES

The "How do you pronounce that?" award this year goes to LANDESK, which changed its name to Ivanti last year after merging with HEAT. The combined company does more things than our CMA will allow us to list, but it's safe to say they run the gamut of IT. They have products that help organizations manage security, ITAM, ITSM, supply chains, reporting & analytics, and, of course, the user environment by way of their 2016 acquisition of AppSense.

With so many pieces to tie together, and with a few holes in their User Environment Management capabilities, Ivanti acquired RES Software in July. RES and AppSense were fierce competitors throughout the 2000's, but being under the same roof makes a lot of sense because Ivanti can pick the best features from both platforms and combine them into one package.

Plus, and this is probably the biggest reason for the acquisition, RES had put a lot of work into automation, which can help tie together the many different products under the Ivanti umbrella. Though you probably won't see a single management console from them (who needs to manage the user environment from the same pane of glass they use to optimize their supply chain?), Ivanti can still benefit by integrating their entire platform together on the back end.

HPE went storage crazy

At separate times, HPE bought both Simplivity and Nimble Storage. When storage companies were beginning to make it known that they had come up with desktop virtualization-oriented platforms, both of these companies were followed very closely: Nimble for its all-flash and hybrid storage arrays, and Simplivity as a hyperconverged platform before it was even called that.

We spent a lot of time covering these vendors, making sure everyone knew that this is not just another SAN, and the desktop storage is vastly different from any other workload. Today these platforms don't seem like the exotic dreams they once appeared to be, and people generally understand that there are many storage vendors that have platforms made for desktop workloads, and that they need them for their projects.

By acquiring Simplivity, HPE indicated that they were losing business to HCI platforms, and/or they saw HCI as a growth market. Odds are it was both, and Simplivity allows them to retain existing customers that would have gone with an HCI vendor while also attracting new customers that are looking to move from some of their classic competitors. The Nimble acquisition gives HP a more robust mid-tier storage message by offering all-flash and hybrid-flash storage arrays that complement HPE's other storage offerings.

NComputing bought VERDE

Last, NComputing bought KVM-based desktop virtualization platform VERDE, which was previously owned by Nimboxx. It's a long story, but Nimboxx bought Virtual Bridges in February of 2015 in an effort to build a Software-Defined Data Center platform. By December of 2015, Nimboxx had folded, leaving the future of Virtual Bridge's desktop virtualization platform, VERDE, up in the air. VERDE itself was purchased back from Nimboxx, and eventually was sold to NComputing early this year.

For NComputing, VERDE, which has been re-branded as VERDE VDI, represents its first true VDI platform. Prior to VERDE, they had vSpace, which was a session-based platform only. VERDE VDI has been updated with support for Windows 10, as well as a new HTML5 client. They compete directly with companies like Workspot, Parallels, and Ericom in the "Any platform besides Citrix and VMware" market, but with NComputing's footprint in Asia, they could make a big impact there.

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