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Citrix CEO Mark Templeton is known for making a Steve Jobs-style “one more thing” announcement at his annual Synergy keynote. This year's conference, which took place in Los Angeles in May, was no different -- Templeton announced and demoed Citrix Workspace Services (or CWS) at the end of his keynote.
Unfortunately, the CWS announcement came after the audience members had been in their seats for well over two hours. At the moment of the reveal, most people were more preoccupied with whether it would be rude to get up and go to the bathroom than with the actual announcement. So I want to address it head-on: Workspace Services is a big, big deal. It is the single biggest change to Citrix's desktop products since the WinFrame days of the 1990s, and it absolutely represents the future of XenApp and XenDesktop.
Why Workspace Services deserves some hype
Put simply, Workspace Services is about taking all of the management consoles for Citrix's various products and moving them up to the cloud -- Azure, in this case. Then you can log in to that cloud-based management console and plug in all of your resources, which could be things like XenDesktop and XenApp servers, file systems, ShareFile servers, XenMobile applications and policies, NetScaler devices, and more. These resources can come from anywhere -- your own on-premises servers, colocation facilities or cloud infrastructure providers like Azure or Amazon Web Services.
To be clear, CWS is not about moving your servers to the cloud. Rather, it's about moving the management of your servers to the cloud. It doesn't matter whether your actual servers are on-premises or in the cloud (or both).
To understand how cool this is, let's look at an example. In today's world, one option for Windows desktop delivery is virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Some people build their own on-premises VDI environments themselves; some build their own VDI environments which they host at colocation facilities; some outsource the management of their VDI to service providers; some people just pay for Desktops as a Service (DaaS). There are a lot of arguments about which approach is better, and various reasons given why each choice is ideal.
But with CWS, the concept of DaaS doesn't exist per se, nor does the concept of VDI. You just have desktops. Whether those desktops run in your data center, a colocation facility or from a cloud provider makes absolutely no difference. In fact, you can mix-and-match and migrate back-and-forth as needed. That future is not “VDI versus DaaS;” it's, “Here are some desktops, they can be wherever we want, and we can move them at any time.”
The same will apply to Windows applications, mobile apps, file services, authentication, profile management, security, desktops, databases and all other aspects of IT.
Citrix is not the first to announce a strategy like this. The aforementioned approach is very similar to what Microsoft is doing with Azure and future versions of Windows Server, and close to what VMware announced with its vCloud Hybrid Service. So while the Citrix plan isn't necessarily unique, that last-minute announcement gave us a glimpse of what desktop virtualization will look like in 2020.
About the author
Brian Madden is an opinionated, supertechnical, fiercely independent desktop virtualization and consumerization expert. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Synergy 2014 hits and misses
Comparing VDI and cloud-hosted virtual desktops.