Citrix Synergy 2019: The preview

Citrix has to strike a careful balance between their constituencies, but no matter what, we’re looking forward to all the product and strategy news at Citrix Synergy 2019..

One week from today, we’ll be sitting down for the Citrix Synergy 2019 keynote. What should we expect? What questions do we need Citrix to answer? What has changed since Citrix Synergy 2018? I went through the Friday Notebook for the last year to make sure that I didn’t miss anything. Here’s the preview for the show.

Windows Virtual Desktop and Citrix

Without a doubt, the biggest news since Synergy 2018 has been Windows Virtual Desktop. Citrix has been right there since the beginning, announcing support for WVD in Citrix Workspace (here’s the architecture guide), a Citrix DaaS service based on WVD, and plans to become a Microsoft 365 reseller.

I don’t expect any huge new announcements for next week, but this is the first time they’ll be talking about WVD on a stage this big. After a few years where desktop virtualization didn’t get much time in the keynote, digging into WVD will be a chance for Citrix to really connect with their core audience. Also, there are a few questions to clear up, like how exactly Citrix DaaS will be architected.

Citrix Cloud

Yesterday Kyle covered Citrix Cloud revenue, and after years of wondering about the actual adoption, we now know that revenue for SaaS (which generally maps to Citrix Cloud) accounted for 9% of overall revenue in 2018, and almost 12% of revenue for the first quarter of 2019.

Citrix Cloud has been dinged for sometimes being unreliable and difficult to troubleshoot, and licensing of course is still complicated. So, I’ll be watching for anything that addresses this—perhaps talk of code refactoring, monitoring, or more services to keep customers up and running and happy.

More new products and strategies

Desktop virtualization and VDI are generally considered to be mature, but there are always plenty of refinements to be had. The last year has been no different, with a full stream of tweaks to Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops, HDX, the Workspace App clients, endpoint management, and so on. For today, I’m not going to spend too much time on these speeds and feeds; instead, I’m going to look at what’s happening around some of Citrix’s newer product areas.

One recent focus has been modern, cloud-based identity management as a service. Prior to Synergy 2018, I had been wondering when Citrix would finally make a move in IDaaS, and we were rewarded with a comprehensive strategy and set of new products, including IDaaS functionality in Citrix Gateway. I’m also especially a fan of the embedded browser in Citrix Workspace App.

For Citrix Synergy 2019, Jo Harder recently wrote that some of the identity features are still coalescing, so there’s that to sort out; and I’ll be curious to hear if they have more to say about integrating other cloud identity providers.

Another big change in the last year is that there has been more talk about contextual access and zero trust in the EUC space. For those who weren’t really sure what Citrix Analytics was all about when it was first announced, it should all make much more sense now. Almost every vendor in the EUC space is building a strategy the involves bringing more security and endpoint data into authentication and access decisions.

For next week, I’ll be looking for more news about partner integration with Citrix Analytics. Citrix announced a security partnership program back in October, and Analytics can now take in data from the Microsoft Security Graph; the next step would be to bring in data from more other endpoint and mobile security vendors.

Overall, there are a ton of identity and access management sessions on the schedule, so I’m going to be in paradise.

In endpoint management, we’ll be watching for the latest features coming out of the Intune partnership. I’m also curious how much momentum their Windows 10 and macOS management efforts have. Are there any big deployments? We just haven’t heard as much on that from Citrix lately.

Citrix’s flashiest acquisition in the last year was their $200 million purchase of Sapho, makers of what are known as micro apps and workflow apps. We already know that Citrix plans to incorporate Sapho into the Workspace App clients, so expect lots of demos at Synergy 2019. It could be quite useful, and I’m sure CTPs will like see what they can build with this, but the overall question is how much will it make Citrix more attractive to general-purpose customers. (More on this later.)

In other projects, Citrix continues to work on Citrix Workspace Hub, and recent updates include the GA of Citrix Casting. Also, remember last year that Citrix was talking about managing Alexa for Business. These types of projects always add some fun and spice to Citrix Synergy, and while they don’t always end up taking off, it wouldn’t be Synergy without them.

The negative parts

There is a lot going on in Citrix products that I think is really exciting, but unfortunately, we can’t ignore the negative news from the last year.

There was the data breach—Citrix products and customer data apparently haven’t been affected, but employee data apparently was. Breaches can happen to anyone, but now it’s a headwind that they just have to deal with. I’m wondering if they’ll acknowledge it from the keynote stage at all. And then there were more layoffs, another round of sales rumors, and overall growth just at 3%. To top it all off, rival VMware is now much closer to Microsoft than in the past, with plans to support WVD and big ambitions in Windows 10 modern management.

How Citrix go-to-market is changing

As I mentioned upfront, Citrix has a couple of new go-to-market plans with Microsoft. As a Microsoft partner, they’ll resell Azure as part of their Citrix DaaS offering, and also resell Microsoft 365. At the same time, many of Citrix’s newer products are going up against established competitors. Noting both of these effects, back in October I wrote that this makes them look more like a systems integrator. To be clear, this is not a bad thing—this is a big opportunity.

Another part of their strategy is to go after more “general purpose” digital workspace use cases—i.e., go after end users that might not have virtual desktop and app use cases, but still could use other parts of Citrix Workspace, like the identity and access management, SaaS security, device management, Sapho, and so on.

This is a fine strategy, but also, I can’t help but thinking it’s similar to what we’ve heard before, with ShareFile, XenMobile, Podio, and other products. I can say that what’s different now that the EUC world is more ready to talk about modernizing the end user experience and creating a “workspace”  than it was in the past. We had to get our hands around mobility, and then cloud apps, but now that we get those, we’re getting ready to talk about a modern workspace, underpinned by identity and conditional access.

To capture general-purpose users, Citrix will have to carry its message far beyond its existing desktop virtualization audience. So, while I expect a lot of talk about WVD and Citrix DaaS at next week at Synergy, I’m curious what Citrix will have to say to address this broader audience. In December, Tim Minahan told me about their plans to uplevel customer conversations to address employee enablement. The key will be getting partners and CTPs interested and incentivized to evangelize and build workspaces that don’t necessarily involve a virtual desktop or apps.

Final thoughts

Citrix has to perfect a tough balance between addressing their core desktop virtualization audience and their attempts to expand by addressing identity, security, and general purpose workspace users.

Last year after Citrix Synergy, I went away being impressed with what they had to say about their products and strategy. A lot has changed in the last year, so I’m looking forward to hearing what Citrix has to say this time around.

I’m also looking forward to seeing many industry friends at the show. See you in a week!

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