Cloud platforms diminish Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp's value. *This* is the opportunity for VMware!

Yesterday Gabe wrote an article questioning whether Citrix would be able to catch up to VMware if VMware extended Horizon View to support RDSH and/or app publishing. Many of the reader comments on that article were variations of, "XenApp has many features and it's more than just a protocol on RDSH.

Yesterday Gabe wrote an article questioning whether Citrix would be able to catch up to VMware if VMware extended Horizon View to support RDSH and/or app publishing. Many of the reader comments on that article were variations of, "XenApp has many features and it's more than just a protocol on RDSH. So Citrix has no need to worry."

It's true that XenApp has a lot of features that are important for on-premises, traditional hardware-based deployments. But how many of those features matter in today's environment where everything is virtualized? And how much will they matter as we evolve from virtual datacenters to cloud-based datacenters?

What?? The cloud is years away!

Whenever I try to explain this to people, people are quick to disagree, protesting that the cloud is years away and that many companies won't trust the cloud. That's true for the public cloud. But remember those same platforms that run public clouds are making their ways into on-premises corporate datacenters. So when we talk about a particular technology running on a cloud platform, that doesn't automatically mean that we're talking about the public cloud.

For example, Microsoft has started talking about how future versions of Windows Server will be more like "mini on-premises instances of Azure." This is part of Nadella's whole "boundaryless datacenter" concept, (or what others are calling the hybrid cloud). The idea is that you run the same platform in-house as the cloud providers, which allows you to seamlessly move VMs and other workloads between your on-premises installations and public cloud providers.

But what most people miss is that this concept applies even when companies are afraid of the public cloud. If you don't trust the public cloud, fine, then don't use it. But everything you run in house will still be based on the same platform (PaaS or IaaS or whatever) as the public cloud providers.

So Microsoft is going after this big time with future versions of Windows Server. VMware is doing this with vSphere, Citrix has OpenCloud, etc. This is more than the pejorative "everyone is calling their traditional datacenters 'private clouds' now." This is the future on-premises datacenter that will run the exact same cloud platform as public cloud environments.

What's the value of XenDesktop / XenApp when running on a cloud platform?

Given that, let's go back and look at the main features of XenDesktop and XenApp today:

  • HDX protocol
  • Seamleass Windows / app publishing
  • Session brokering / load balancing
  • Server & app provisioning
  • Monitoring
  • Image management

Now think about what features these cloud platforms provide:

  • Image management & assembling
  • VM deployment
  • Connection brokering / load balancing
  • Monitoring
  • Elasticity / VM migration
  • Dynamic resource allocation
  • Orchestration

So if you're running a desktop virtualization environment on a cloud platform, what features of XenApp or XenDesktop do you really need from Citrix that your cloud platform doesn't provide?

  • HDX protocol
  • Seamless Windows / app publishing

Now, imagine if VMware wanted to enter the space to compete more broadly with Citrix XenApp? If VMware builds their solution for their cloud platform, suddenly the list of things VMware has to offer isn't a huge massive list. Instead it's pretty much just a protocol and seamless windows / app publishing. VMware already has the protocol. So now all they really need is app publishing. (Which itself is seamless Windows, a way to assign apps to users, knowing which apps are available on which hosts, etc.)

This is the only logical path for them, both in terms of the ease of building something and the chance of success with it. If were were VMware right now, would you really try to do a feature-by-feature replication of XenApp, especially when you're trying to elevate your customers to a true cloud platform instead of a bunch of Windows VMs running on hardware in your own datacenter? Of course not! Trying to build today's XenApp-for-VMware would be like Gretzky's whole "skating to where the puck is instead of to where the puck is going" thing. At this point in 2014 VMware specifically should not try to do that.

Instead VMware needs to leverage the capabilities of their cloud platform and just add the few bits they're missing instead of trying to build a XenApp clone from scratch.

What does this mean for the value of XenDesktop and XenApp?

The other interesting thing to think about here is that in that future world where everything (public and on-premises) is a cloud platform, what value is Citrix XenDesktop/XenApp really adding on top of a cloud platform? Are they just a protocol and seamless apps? If so, can that continue to be a multi-billion dollar business for them?

We've also speculated that Citrix might be able to tweak XenDesktop/XenApp so they can run on top of any DaaS offering that Microsoft would do from Azure. (i.e. "Mohoro.") But considering the points in this article, if Microsoft released Windows desktops and apps from Azure, why would Microsoft need Citrix? Microsoft already has RemoteApp and RDP 8. Seems like if they got their act together with some decent clients (including RDP zero clients), then seamless windows from Azure doesn't need Citrix at all?

Meanwhile Citrix is struggling to convince customers to move from XenApp 6.5 to XenApp 7.5, which is tough because 7.5 loses a lot of features and is still designed as a legacy platform. ("Legacy" in that XenApp itself handles many of the tasks that are built-in to the cloud platforms.) Customers have shown little interest in 7.5 (partly due to the lack of features and partly because it's a "rip and replace.") So it seems like this would be a great opportunity for customers to rip out XenApp and replace it with an on-premises cloud platform from VMware or Microsoft if such a product were to exist.

(Combine all this with the uncertainty around Citrix's new CEO, and yikes, there are a lot of balls in the air right now . . . )

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There's a certain amount of irony here that Citrix spent the last year adding Cloud integration to XenApp/XenDesktop 7.5 when if you are correct, a better strategy would have been to get XenApp 6.5/7.5 feature parity and migration tools in place and play around with Cloud later.

For the first time in a while I can't really call this one, I can see the real benefits of exposing the orchestration capabilities of Cloud Platform / AWS / Azure and allowing XenAppDesktop to push services seamlessly into these environments, but I also see the danger in alienating customers by telling them that their shiny new XenAppDesktop platform lacks many of the features of it's predecessor!!  Cloud enablement is something only a very few customers will really use immediately, so surely feature parity and added XenAppDesktop usability  features would have been a better bet?  One example is the multi-site management console they talked about being in Merlin...what happened there....although I suppose Citrix don't have a good history when it comes to console improvements!!

In years gone by someone senior from Citrix would have chimed in here are said 'Hey, wait a minute...don't you realise how smart we're being', but I just don't see that happening. I think a simple lack of direction and/or publicly advertised strategy is the issue here!!


As usual, well written and thought provoking. There is some truth to what you are saying but also a lot of doom and gloom.

The same argument with exactly the same points can be made for VMware if we consider that Microsoft, the company that everyone is trying to virtualize desktops and apps for also has all the components you mentioned and in many cases has better offerings.

Take for example Azure, if they get Mohor right, then Azure AT THIS POINT is better than vCHS from a scale perspective, from a maturity perspective etc.... many points here.

Microsoft has an arguably better App virtualization technology with App-V, Hyper-V R3 is good enough, they have RDP and RemoteFX.... they basically have all the components so my question then becomes WHY would anyone want to use VMware?

But, it's not that simple, features do matter and a lot more goes into the selection criteria that whether or not a product has all the boxes checked. Features, security, performance, maturity and other factrs absolutely play a role.

Citrix and VMware will both be fine.... I will say that Citrix has been a bit behind on cloud strategy, what they are lacking today is a clear vision on cloud strategy and what they will do in that space OTHER than enable service providers, that would be a mistake. IMO, Citrix needs to get into the cloud service provider business via an acquisition like Rackspace which would shoot Citrix to the forefront, some CloudStack / OpenStack bickering on the side, Rackspace would be a perfect addition for Citrix

Rackspace today is struggling with a Salesforce scalability issue, Citrix can immediately address that, Rackspace has limited partners and limited enablement capabilities, Citrix would address that right away. Rackspace is trying to train its Salesforce to work with partners, to work with the enterprise etc.... Citrix has that covered. Racksapce has a great business selling directly to the consumer and has built a great brand and they are struggling a bit with a new CEO and some other things. Perfect union in my opinion



Elias is right on the Microsoft portion. They do have all the parts needed to cause a LOT of damage to every player in the cloud business. They control the OS, they control the protocol, they control the cloud platform AND they control the licensing. Cannot get easier than that on paper. Thing is we know Microsoft and how quickly they move so this is still years away. And yes, when they have all this why would anyone care about VMware for delivering apps/desktops?

I see of course a lot of opportunities for a vendor to put a nice interface on top of all the Microsoft stuff as they suck at make things simple on the hosting side of the house. LOL

And regarding all your other points Brian, I had to write a post about these. Just check it on my blog.




Maybe Citrix will announce their new CEO during their earnings call to distract from the Q1 numbers.


There are multiple points in Brian's posting and to stay on topic and not be Silly I will offer to the forum that Citrix should be focusing more on their SaaS offerings and less on their XenBubble stuff since it (VDI/HDV) is becoming a commodity across primary "cloud" providers. How this affects the hybridization of clouds (intranets and extranets relabeled) is still TBD BUT larger enterprises (F1000's) have already adopted these HA infrastructures.

Having stated that, I believe there are more opportunities to license their XenApp technology to providers rather than to offer their service via larger acquisition.


As a die hard hockey fan I can appreciate the reference to The Great One but I can't excuse the abomination of a hack job on spelling his name!! It's GretzKy. :)


Oh Geez! I just fixed that.

It's funny because when I wrote that yesterday it didn't look right. I wondered if it was with a "z" or "s"... I even googled it and found, "Nope. It's a 'z' My spelling is right" without even noticing the ky versus gy.




Caught an interesting conversation regarding Mohoro.  It was stated to me that Microsoft is leveraging a separate kernel implementation for the Mohoro platform so as to not circumvent nor change the EULA with regard to SPLA and VDA.  Are you able to confirm this conversation?  If this is indeed the case, I expect there will be a good bit of conversation to be had on this topic.

Citrix has missed the cloud as clouds are driven by data center operating systems (the hypervisor).  The failure of XenServer is in my view a large contributor to the decline Citrix is facing today.  

Additionally, the XenApp IMA/FMA transition has been handled poorly.  There was a time in my life when I signed the POs to purchase Citrix products.  To sign the PO I had to battle with financial management for every feature within the product set that defined value for our organization.  To consider all the years of cajoling and effort customers put forward on the behalf of Citrix to push these conversations and purchases through only to find in the end that the features and value they have stood for are among the 17 features deprecated in the IMA/FMA transition.  To compound the issue XenApp becomes a site based technology....  But I digress.

You are on the money here.  This Vmware Remote App versus XenApp is not about check boxing features.  The conversation is about the future of business in the context of the cloud.  The enterprise has transformed itself leveraging the data center OS.  The ability vendors have to leverage this business investment to drive cloud adoption for the enterprise is the line that defines success and failure today.  The future is a big place, and as always it will be interesting.  Thanks for the article.