We’ve all had a little while for the Windows Virtual Desktop news to sink in (BrianMadden.com is at four blog posts with 86 comments and counting). Today, I’m going to add to that by looking at what WVD means to Citrix.
I’ve been of a few different minds on this. I went from thinking this was yet another DaaS offering that’ll Citrix will have to compete with; then to thinking that this is the exact bit of infrastructure that they need; and finally, to thinking that this could be indicative of a whole new lucrative business for Citrix, based on their plans to become a Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider.
Citrix’s stated plans
Citrix DaaS will be a full end-to-end offering based on WVD:
- Citrix will become a Microsoft 365 reseller, as well as a Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider.
- The offering will include Azure compute and storage for the desktops, and will be available in the Azure Marketplace.
- Citrix will prepare, manage, monitor, and maintain the desktops, as well as take care of remote access, MFA, and of course provide HDX.
- They’re also pitching the offering to IT shops that are less experienced with desktop virtualization.
Citrix customers will also be able to plug WVD-managed desktops into Citrix Workspace:
- From both the end user and IT admin perspective, this is yet another resource that can be pulled into Citrix Workspace.
- Customers can use WVD with Citrix app layering, desktop monitoring and management, profile management, and Citrix Analytics for security.
- The WVD/Citrix combo can take advantage of Azure Virtual WAN optimization.
Cycles of different thoughts
When I first heard the news, my knee-jerk thought was that it was bad for Citrix. It sounded like just the latest in a long line of desktop virtualizations/DaaS offerings that aim to compete with Citrix by being cheaper and simpler.
But once you think about it, you realize that Windows Virtual Desktop is basically just a broker—one that happens to work with a cool new multi-user version of Windows 10, and be restricted to Azure-based workloads.
The cool new version of Windows aside, a broker does not make a whole desktop virtualization stack—customers also need security, app management, profile management, a high-end protocol for some use cases, native modern “workspace” clients for all their devices, and so on. Let alone does a broker make a whole EUC stack, where customers also need UEM, EFSS, identity, and more.
So in this regard, Windows Virtual Desktop is not a threat to Citrix. Rather, it’s a bonus, since it’s a useful component that they can integrate with as they desire. In today’s world of microservices and serverless computing, breaking out a few components and integrating them from another provider makes more sense than ever before.
However, I still have some concerns. With Windows Virtual Desktop, Microsoft is yet again moving in on part of Citrix’s core territory. How far can “embrace and extend” go?
This has happened plenty of times before: Microsoft bought Softricity, and Citrix let their own app virtualization efforts fall by the wayside; Microsoft RDP is “good enough” for many use cases; Hyper-V has much more market share than XenServer; and you can manage all the XenMobile apps with Intune. And in the future, Microsoft could eventually add more profile and app management features to WVD.
Citrix has a broad portfolio of strong EUC products. (I think the identity and security products, especially as related to SaaS apps, are indeed interesting and important developments.) But I found myself thinking of something Gabe wrote a few years ago when Elliott first made their investment.
Gabe wrote: “Citrix does a LOT of stuff, but they no longer have the ‘undisputed leader’ tag on anything they do, especially their bread-and-butter desktop virtualization.” I think this is still true today. As “embrace and extend” continues, they’re entering areas where they have more and more competition.
This also reminds me of another article from around the same time, when Brian wrote that Citrix needs to embrace competition in areas where they don’t lead. This is also still true today.
The one asterisk on this whole conversation is the question of how successful will Windows Virtual Desktop actually turn out to be. There’s a lot of optimism that it will be way better than Azure Remote App, but still, ARA left a bad taste in lot of people’s mouths.
Citrix’s future as a vendor and Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider
This brings me my most recent thoughts. As Citrix is becoming a Microsoft 365 reseller, and will be a Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider, I think they could become a powerhouse systems integrator in desktop virtualization/DaaS and end user computing.
Most will agree that they have more experience than anyone in desktop virtualization; they have tons of mindshare; and they have their whole existing customer base. Citrix can use those advantages to sell a combination of their own products, Microsoft offerings, and other offerings, as needed.
Like Brian’s article said three years ago, “The most important thing is that Citrix has to let their customers build custom solutions around best-of-breed products, even if those products are not from Citrix!”
Transitioning from a pure software vendor to more of an SI means that they might miss out on some of the prestige of being the “undisputed leader” in some software categories, but they would still be top of mind in desktop virtualization.
More importantly, being a top systems integrator isn’t a bad place to be—many are considered thought leaders, and they’re healthy, strong businesses. Being a combination software vendor and SI would be a good future for Citrix.