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.