Citrix acquires RingCube for application personalization

Enterprises that use the XenDesktop virtual desktop software from Citrix Systems can expect to see more personalized user applications with the company's acquisition of RingCube.

IT shops that use Citrix Systems XenDesktop virtual desktop software will likely see new personalized user application technology added to the product with Citrix's acquisition of RingCube Technologies Inc., this week.

RingCube's software delivers dedicated virtual desktops, which Citrix calls a personal vDisk. This includes a full operating system and user profile settings, plus all of the applications users require -- whether local or streamed -- said John Fanelli, vice president of Citrix desktop products and applications.

End users can also install apps to their personal vDisks themselves. Additionally, RingCube makes it easier for IT to move users from physical to virtual desktops by isolating user-specific applications and settings in vDisks. Citrix said RingCube's software reduces the cost of storage, but did not specify by how much.

Since RingCube does store profiles, there has been speculation about how this acquisition could impact profile management tools from Citrix partners, such as AppSense. But RingCube won't take the place of the built-in User Profile Management tool Citrix acquired from Sepago, nor does it replace third-party management tools from its partners, said Gartner Inc. analyst Mark Margevicius.

"Citrix doesn't want to directly compete with partners, which is part of the reason it bought RingCube," Margevicius said. "It provides the ability to treat user apps as profiles, but the profile management stuff in RingCube is pretty weak. So, this is really about integrating apps into the user profile layer."

Former Citrix CTO Harry Labana, who is now CTO of AppSense, said he wouldn't have left Citrix for AppSense in May if the RingCube acquisition was a threat to profile management tools.

The value of RingCube, he said, is that it lets IT create a personalized application image layer from a common base image. The end result is a "Russian doll" like desktop environment with layers that can easily be deconstructed and reconstructed to deliver desktops to any device, he said.

"This is another layer in the multi-layer cake," Labana said. "So, if you have a finance department and an engineering department, both can have a common base image, and off that base image you can deliver finance apps to your finance employees' vDisk layer and engineering apps to those employees."

The common images, such as Windows and corporate apps used by all employees, are stored in the data center and centrally managed using a company's existing management products, such as Microsoft Systems Center. 

Citrix did not disclose how much it paid for venture-backed RingCube, or how it will license the product with XenDesktop.

RingCube started in 2004 and some customers include ING bank, CSC and Convergys, and the start-up has over 250,000 registered users, according to one RingCube investor's website. RingCube's VDI Edition of vDesk workspace virtualization product already integrates and extends Citrix XenDesktop -- and VMware View.

This acquisition comes as VMware Inc. prepares to launch View 5 with the user profile management technology acquired from RTO Software baked right in. Industry watchers wonder if VMware will make a similar acquisition to stay in step with Citrix. Citrix would not address questions regarding competition with VMware.

The RingCube product line ships now with full support for Citrix XenDesktop 5. Citrix will support existing RingCube customers.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho or follow @BridgetBotelho on Twitter.

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