For a while, we’ve been watching VMware make moves that get it closer to Microsoft, and at the same time, take away Citrix’s unique selling points. Examples include support for Skype for Business, and more recently, support for Horizon on Azure.
One of Citrix’s current advantages is on the mobility management side, with XenMobile and Netscaler integrating with Microsoft EMS and Intune.
However, this is a place where VMware could again get a notch closer to Microsoft and take away at least one more of Citrix’s unique selling points: VMware AirWatch could add support for the Microsoft Graph API for Intune.
What does the Graph API for Intune do?
The ability to directly manage Office Mobile apps (i.e. at the app level, not using MDM) has always been proprietary to Intune, frustrating other EMM vendors and customers. So when Citrix announced integration with Intune MAM (among other things, which I’ll get to in a minute), it was a big differentiator.
As it later turned out, this particular aspect of the Citrix/Microsoft integration is done through the public Graph API for Intune. Using the API, Citrix—or any other EMM vendor, potentially including AirWatch—can finally get at those proprietary app-level MAM controls for Office Mobile and other Intune MAM-enable apps. In essence, Intune can act as middleware, and customers can manage Office Mobile without switching EMM providers.
There are two caveats:
First, to be clear, VMware hasn’t actually announced any plans to support the Graph API for Intune. They did have a blog post in April that implied they were thinking about it, but I can’t find any mention of it anywhere else, nor are there any clues in the VMworld session catalogue. Still, VMworld is two weeks away, so we might get an answer.
Second, the Citrix and Microsoft EMM integrations covers more than just the Graph API for Intune. Some of the components aren’t released yet, but the a recent description can be found in this video from Synergy. Other parts include: conditional access using NetScaler and Intune; NetScaler per-app VPN connectivity in the Intune Browser and Intune MAM-enable in-house apps; XenMobile MDM on Azure; and XenMobile apps enabled with Intune MAM.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that VMware decides to support the Graph API for Intune MAM. For devices that are enrolled in MDM, they could cover all of the same scenarios as the Citrix and Microsoft integration. But for unmanaged devices where only app-level MAM is used, there would be a few gaps.
We’ll have to take a closer look at the AirWatch and Intune MAM SDKs and app wrapping tools to say precisely what the gaps would be, but off the bat, we can say that when using two completely different app-level MAM frameworks, doing something like a secure copy and paste from VMware Boxer to Microsoft Word probably isn’t going to be possible. The only alternative would be for VMware to integrate the Intune SDK into their apps (like Citrix has done), but somehow this feels less likely to happen than just supporting the Graph API.
(Side note: Here’s a primer on MAM SDKs, app wrapping, and MAM that comes with MDM enrollment.)
I can’t predict what will happen at VMworld, but if VMware supported the Graph API for Intune, it would be yet another area where they would be getting closer to Microsoft, and yes, it would also take attention from Citrix. More importantly, it would satisfy the long-desired goal of directly managing Microsoft Office Mobile apps without having to switch EMM provers.