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Understanding Citrix VDI: XenDesktop and VDI-in-a-Box

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Could changes to Citrix VDI-in-a-Box be around the bend?

Citrix CTO Gunnar Berger's cryptic response to a question about the company's short and long-term goals has influenced speculation about what's to come. It could be changes to Citrix VDI-in-a-Box, or new features in other products.

In an interview last week, Citrix's new CTO of desktops and apps hinted at just enough vague future plans to make us wonder what we should expect next from the company.

SearchVirtualDesktop's Bridget Botelho interviewed Gunnar Berger in a must-read article, but one part in particular drew extra attention. When asked about the short and long-term improvements to come, Berger replied:

"Short term, there are various products we should invest in further, and the leaders here are in agreement. We are shoring up our engineering resources. And we don't want to give away our coach's playbook, but we are in the heavy investment phase now in places we may not have invested in before -- in strategies that we see as the future -- and de-investing in strategies that don't."

Berger's answer is absent of any specific information, and though I'd like to think I know what he is talking about, Citrix has so many products and customers that would like attention, it makes guessing difficult. Let's take a look at what these could be.

Could it be VDI-in-a-Box?

The key thing to note is that Citrix is investing in places where it has not invested before. That limits the scope some, but looking at all 30 products listed on the Citrix website, I can only see one product that has received little to no investment: VDI-in-a-Box.

Since Citrix acquired Kaviza in 2011, many of us have wanted to see the company combine VDI-in-a-Box's easy-to-use grid architecture and Virtual Desktop Access license setup process with XenDesktop. But we continue to want and wait each year. VDI-in-a-Box has always been a second-class citizen at Citrix, relegated to small businesses despite being able to support thousands of users.

Still, adding resources to VDI-in-a-Box might be too little too late. The world has re-focused on applications, and there is no such provision in the VDI-in-a-Box platform. Sure, Citrix could add that feature, but then the company would have two separate desktop and application virtualization platforms. Sadly, I think that ship has sailed.

So where else could the energy be focused? It could be on features and not necessarily products. Berger mentioned the importance of mobility, and wrote in his introductory Citrix blog post about how much he likes Framehawk. Citrix has yet to incorporate the Framehawk LFP protocol into HDX, though we expect to see that in the first half of next year. While that improves the performance of Windows applications over inconsistent wireless connections, it doesn't help make them more device-friendly.

To date, the product to make Windows apps more useable from mobile devices has been the Mobility SDK, which uses XenApp to transform an application into something mobile-friendly with larger buttons, an interface broken into multiple screens and more. But the Mobility SDK only works on applications to which the customer has source code access. So while it's a good solution, it isn't an option in the vast majority of use cases. That's why I expect to see Citrix put resources into creating or acquiring a more comprehensive app-refactoring tool.

There are a few guesses at which technologies could be the benefactors of these re-allocated resources. There are many others -- such as Worx Mobile, Citrix Workspace Suite, DesktopPlayer for Windows, XenClient, overall code quality and more -- that could go either way. Of course there are only so many resources to go around, so you can expect that if one area gets more attention, another area will have some taken away. Some things, like VDI-in-a-Box, might not have enough resources to stay afloat.

Let's not forget that Berger could simply be referring to Citrix Workspace Services (CWS), although that seems more like a long-term goal. I agree that CWS is the future of Citrix -- if the company can get it done right and pushed to the market in the near future.

This was first published in August 2014

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Essential Guide

Understanding Citrix VDI: XenDesktop and VDI-in-a-Box

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