Is is time for Microsoft to create "User Center" to complement System Center?

There had been rumors floating around that Citrix would buy a profile management (or "user environment management") company like AppSense, RES, triCerat, RTO, Sepago, or one of the countless others out there. But it appears that (for now) there are no acquisitions happening in this space.

Prior to this week's Citrix Summit, there had been rumors floating around that Citrix would buy a profile management (or "user environment management") company like AppSense, RES, triCerat, RTO, Sepago, or one of the countless others out there. But it appears that (for now) there are no acquisitions happening in this space. But that really got me thinking.

Managing user profiles with what Microsoft provides out-of-the box tools is a huge pain. Frankly I'm surprised that in 2008 it's still as big of a pain as it was when Terminal Server was introduced ten years ago. The fact that Microsoft hasn't changed anything is fine with me. But why hasn't Citrix? Citrix bought, built, or OEM'ed technology for all the other traditional "pain points" (printing, slow networks, CPU utilization, memory optimization, etc.), yet profile management is absent from that list. (Maybe it's because they wanted to push Citrix Consulting Services' "Hybrid Profiles," but even that is super old now.)

If you follow Citrix's ultimate delivery vision, they're talking about delivering any app and any desktop to any user anywhere. So we're talking remote apps, streamed apps, local apps, remote shared desktops, remote individual desktops, local streamed desktops, online, offline, etc, etc. And if you want to manage all of this under one big umbrella called Citrix, how in the world is this possible without a profile management tool? So regardless of the reason as to why Citrix hasn't done anything to help customers in this space, rumors of acquisitions have been circulating for years since it's such a big hole in their offerings.

I don't mean to only come down on Citrix about this. Microsoft has done nothing here. And now that VMware is hard-core into VDI as well as application virtualization with Thinstall, the lack of user environment management is also a big hole in their offerings.

But this got me thinking: All three of these companies are really good at managing "systems." They're good at managing disk images and applications and inventories and specifications and computing resouces. But these three companies stink at managing users.

What if Microsoft built a new product that was like System Center, except it was for managing user envrinoments instead of systems? You could use it to build out use cases for specifics users or groups, assign applications, manage profiles, configure what users can and cannot do, user security, preferences, user data locations, availability, and replication. They could call it Microsoft "User Center" and it could be extensible just like System Center so that Citrix and VMware and everyone else could plug into it. I would imagine that User Center would tie-in to System Center so that any user anywhere could connect and get their settings, applications, data, and everything else they needed--regardless of where their desktop was executing or where their applications were coming from.

It would be cool.

Or, as an alternative, Citrix could buy AppSense, Microsoft could buy RES, and VMware could by triCerat, and the market could decide.

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I think Microsoft developing or purchasing something in this area would be admitting that profile management in Windows is currently not where we would like it to be (I'll avoid the word broken).

A product here would detract from the new profile enhancements in Windows Vista/2008. I think any improvements Microsoft would make to profiles will always be tied to the OS to improve the appeal of new versions.

Microsoft has made some improvement in this area with the purchase of the DesktopStandard product, but it's now tied to Windows Server 2008 as Group Policy Preferences.

As you say though, a profile management product would fit nicely into Citrix's portfolio and I'm sure would be taken up readily by their customers.

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This is an issue that the platform vendors (MSFT, CTXS, (VMW, etc) have all ignored for far too long. While it's nice that third party products exist, it's an expense that I shouldn't have to deal with directly, at least for basic profile management. The platform vendors should be providing a solution, even if it is a "Lite" version of what is being offered from RES or AppSense or triCerat or...
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I agree that this is a missing part and Citrix (etc) should be thinking about this.  These products that exist are providing a real value to a real problem and even if they are not bought by a major vendor, customers should be looking at them.

However, as I have argued before, we have a data problem (not just a profile problem) and nobody is addressing this.

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Well put Brian!  This is definitely a piece of the puzzle that is missing.  Granted there are some great offerings from 3rd parties currently, so it's not completely missing.  However, if Citrix really wants to put this multi-layered pull each piece out and replace it concept, they are really missing the User part of the mix.  I think breaking apart the App from the OS and the OS from the Machine are all great ideas and have great merit.  However, you also have to pull the User Environment, Personalized Settings (aka profile) out as well.  That way you can actually begin to reach the true Stateless machine that we all keep talking about.  Any user to any app to any machine...  AND they still get their own personalized look and feel with their settings.  All of this new technology is great, but if user experience doesn't meet or exceed the current technology... then it will never win!
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Tim,

Can you go into detail by what you mean by "data" problem?

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I remember reading about desktop manager and metaprofiles from Provision.  Is this what we're talking about?
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Hi Brian,

 Great blog, but where is the focus on the river pikeys?

Simon 

 

 

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I absolutely agree!  However,  I think RES would be a better fit for Citrix.  Why let Microsoft take the best of breed product and tie it with an OS Update.  Microsoft would only be interested if it sold more 2008 licenses and not because it provides a better user experience.
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Yeah they do. Provision offers pretty much everything out of the box it seems. Too bad they're not that popular. Hopefully Quest will change that!
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Too much for this little space.  Hopefully I will be doing a session on this at briForum Chicago.  But then "guest" would have to show a face?

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Hi Brian,

Nice article! However, I would not be too quick to dismiss the rumors. I spoke to a rep from Appsense at summit who said the Appsense product will be included with the next TPK of Xen Desktop Server, what does this mean for RES, Tricerat or RTO and does that mean an OEM may happen?

I agree with Joe, RES would be a better fit for Citrix. Appsense is a large product, possibly too large.

Keep up the speculation!

Chris

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I agree.  More focus on the River Pikeys and less on Application Delivery Infrastructure (Citrix/Microsoft), not VMWare (who?).  With global warming we will all be living on boats!
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Tim, am I right that by data you mean how to reliably roam all of the data (from everywhere) application uses together with user, not just things that are stored inside profile? Or is it something completely different you had in mind (I don't want to wait 'till BriForum :-)?

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They do offer quite a much, but some of the value-add features are still relatively rudimentary. Don't take me wrong, I'll absolutely love the PN VAS but I'm also pretty sure that over time they will gain some elements from ScriptLogic's products (being part of the same Quest umbrella) that - as I understand - have lots of functinality in that area. Much in the same way as they look into having Vizioncore technology for offline VDI clients.
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Microsoft bought Desktop Standard and is rolling up profile management, in some capacity, into Windows Server 2008 via Group Policy Preferences. This alone is interesting and a strong reason for me to upgrade my farm to Windows Server 2008. May not be a panacea but better than what we currently have out of the box.

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Brian,

I Agree:  "Microsoft should buy RES", That would realy finish "the job" for complete management.

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Just to keep you waiting....

 

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Just to keep you waiting....

 

 
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Just to keep you waiting....

 

  
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Just to keep you waiting....

 

   
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Wow, that just flaked out (the 5 posts without the message was a glitch, not me). 

What I was trying to say is that you will have to wait.  It is really about the life cycle of all the bits you have.

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I don't think RES would be buyable, at least not as a whole ; they have PowerFuse (which seriously kicks ass), they have Wisdom (deployment and administrative automation), and soon they'll have Orchestra (entitlement/provisioning terms of apps, authorizations etc). These three pillars are crucial to RES, and you cannot take one away from them. I also don't think Bob would be jumping to sell ; they're pretty proud of not being up for sale in the market.
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RES is a really screwed up company.  Bob's a nice guy (CTO) and all but they have a CEO that is asleep at the wheel and is gunshy when it comes to really taking tech (BMC type).  They've been successful in Europe for years but had more starts and stops in the states than Hillary on campaign tour.  Also, who the H-E-Double hockey sticks doles out $175 per seat for PowerFuse let alone the other tools that are worthless (AKA WISDOM is a poor excuse for and SMS replacement).  If Citrix were to even consider buying PowerFuse they'd be scraping 60% of their own technology because it overlaps with Presentation server.  If you think that RES is not for sale you are kidding yourselves....they just want some unreal sum for the company that makes the deal stoopid.
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