Citrix Synergy 2018 starts two weeks from tomorrow. There’s no denying that the last twelve months have brought more rough patches for Citrix, with a CEO upset and a massive round of layoffs. However, despite past predictions, Citrix is moving on into 2018.
Beyond this acknowledgement, though, I’m not going to dwell on the turmoil. Instead, today’s article is about the product news, strategy, and messaging that I want to hear at Synergy.
XenApp and XenDesktop Service and Essentials
Ever since Citrix first talked about a cloud-based management plane for XenApp and XenDesktop all the way back in 2014, we believed that it was the future of these products. But as Jo Harder wrote last week, adoption of XenApp and XenDesktop Service, as well as the Essentials line, is still very low. (This data comes from a survey run by eG Innovations and DABCC; we’ll also get another look in a few weeks when the VDI Like a Pro survey data is published.)
As Jo outlined, there are plenty of reasons to either go ahead or to wait on XenApp and XenDesktop management from the cloud. But in the meantime, Citrix customers are getting bombarded with pitches from the likes of AWS, VMware, Frame, Workspot (who Citrix is suing), and others. In addition, there are still complaints that XenApp and XenDesktop Service are too expensive, just like when it first came out. So what will Synergy bring?
Last year, Citrix spent so much time in the keynote discussing security that they forgot to connect with their core audience. (We assumed that this was an overture to potential acquisition suiters.) Let’s hope that this year is different—it would be great to have some back-to-basics talk about the future of desktop virtualization, and why customers should be move on to Citrix Cloud.
(On a related note, one of Gabe’s articles reminded me that Citrix still needs to address RDmi, too.)
A better identity message
Last year at Synergy, when we first saw the Workspace Experience (aka Storefront++), I liked that they were talking so much about web and SaaS apps, identity, and SSO, but I believed they needed to provide a lot more clarity on the topic.
Here’s their plan, as I understand it: Citrix is delivering some basic identity capabilities—most recently, they announced SSO for web apps via NetScaler Gateway Service. But overall, they’re not planning to compete with the likes of Azure AD, Okta, Ping, or other major identity as a service providers—Workspace Experience is BYO ID.
Either way, they need to talk about this more. Identity management, conditional access, and similar topics are absolutely huge in EUC right now, and Citrix isn’t doing a good job of being part of the conversation and making their strategy clear. I want to see blog posts and sessions along the lines of “How to integrate Workspace Experience with your IDaaS” and “How to do conditional access.”
Speaking of Workspace Experience, Pete Downing recently wrote that it’s coming along, but there’s still work to be done to bring feature parity between the cloud and on-premises versions.
XenMobile and unified endpoint management
Another trend du jour is unified endpoint management and Windows 10 Modern Management. Here, Citrix has been on top of things. They started a series of blog posts on this, and not long ago I was briefed on recent and planned updates.
XenMobile has supported Windows 10 MDM for a while, but now they have a traditional management agent for Windows 10, too. It can take care of tasks like Win32 app management, running scripts, managing GPOs and machine policies, and so on. It can work alongside SCCM, and Citrix is planning some back-end integration, so they’re on the co-management train, too. (This is big news!) On the Mac side, XenMobile now has a traditional macOS agent, as well.
Lastly, I learned that Citrix is now de-emphasizing the on-premises version of XenMobile. It will still get a few updates per year, and customers can still buy licenses, but new features will only come based on customer and market demand. Most everybody is interested in XenMobile Service these days, which is of course getting all the frequent updates you would expect from a cloud-based EMM.
Regarding XenMobile at Synergy, my questions are less about specific product features, and mostly just about how much time they’ll spend on it.
We wrote about Citrix Analytics several times since last Synergy, so by now the concept should be familiar—it has visibility into your whole Citrix environment, and it uses machine learning to identity risky users and events. The big questions are what the final product will look like, how useful it will be if you’re not all-in on Citrix, and the pricing and packaging.
Citrix was touting the analytics service at RSA, and around the event I had a chance to talk to Citrix to learn more. Citrix now has a getting started guide available (PDF), and it lists all of the risk indicators that Citrix Analytics will initially surface, as well as the data sources. Obviously, you need to have a tenant in Citrix Cloud, but then you can plug in ShareFile Service, XenMobile Service, XenDesktop and XenApp (both the Citrix Cloud Service offerings and on-premises versions (via an agent you install in one of your delivery controllers)), and NetScaler Management and Analytics Service as well as additional on-premises NetScalers.
Citrix Analytics will ship with the security features we’ve been hearing about, but additional “Performance” and “Operations” dashboards are coming later, too. You can look at NetScaler Management and Analytics Service to get an idea of what these will do.
So what about extensibility and mixed environments? Stan Black, Citrix’s chief information and security officer, told me in a briefing that Citrix Analytics will have an API. This API will pull data in from other sources, for example from an identity management service; or export data to other security products that, previously, may have just seen Citrix as a block box. Overall, Stan gave me a much more collaborative vision of Citrix Analytics than we’ve seen previously. Citrix product managers told me they are looking at integrations along the lines of the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph API and Cisco.
General availability is planned for sometime this quarter. What’s still not announced—though likely to come at Synergy—is pricing and packaging. I don’t mean to be flippant, but the more I think about it, I think Citrix Analytics should just be enabled automatically for any Citrix Cloud tenant. As mentioned, there are complaints that XenApp and XenDesktop Service are too expensive already, and customers aren’t exactly flocking to them yet. And this just feels like the type of functionality that should come with modern cloud services. For comparison, VMware’s similar product, Workspace One Intelligence, is included in the higher Workspace One bundles. This could be a great value-add to get customers to switch up to XenApp and XenDesktop Service.
Back at Summit, we heard rumors of new product names and adjustments to SKUs, so be prepared! There’s only one keynote this year (there were two last year) so there’s going to be a lot to fit in. Hopefully Citrix will have a pitch that lands well with their core customers.
Anyway, I’m excited to head to the show, learn about the next phase of Citrix’s strategy, and connect with industry friends. See you in Anaheim!