Citrix, Microsoft address common and competing virtual desktop goals

As desktop virtualization technologies evolve, no doubt so will the relationship between two companies with a long history together.

Microsoft and Citrix Systems Inc. have been cozy for years, with Citrix XenApp features on top of Microsoft's Terminal Services. Terminal Services will soon be renamed Remote Desktop Services when Windows Server 2008 R2 is available. As Microsoft broadens its relationship with other virtual desktop partners -- Quest Software Inc.'s virtualization suite, for example, now integrates with Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager and App-V -- the relationship between Citrix and Microsoft will no doubt evolve. Sumit Dhawan, vice president of product marketing at Citrix, and Scott Woodgate, director of desktop virtualization, chatted recently with about their common and competing strategies.

Q: Citrix just disclosed details about Feature Pack 1 for XenDesktop 3. Some people say that XenDesktop has had more improvements in the past 2 years than XenApp has had in the past ten. Is it fair to say that since XenDesktop is now the primary focus of the company?

A: Sumit Dhawan XenApp is in a multi-billion dollar market and XenDesktop is in a fast growing market with the potential to be a multi-billion dollar market in the next five years. As a result there is a significant investment in R&D. Both are considered core businesses in Citrix. XenDesktop is a new product with a smaller installed base. We will be innovating rapidly. We have the ability to because there is no current installed base. [There are fewer changes] when you have a large installed base [as is the case with XenApps]. This is why there are more frequent releases for XenDesktop.

The biggest differentiation between Citrix and [competitors] is HDX when applications are delivered from the data center. A lot of HDX features are common between XenApp and XenDesktop so we can leverage for XenDesktop and repurpose for XenApp as well. We announced [XenDesktop 3 Feature Pack 1] with Flash but we will roll it out for XenApp shortly. It happened in this order because it's more relevant to XenDesktop and the installed base is not a problem. But the common technology and code base makes it possible for us to repurpose [the technology].

Q: Microsoft is adding virtual desktop capabilities to Windows Server 2008 R2, and it has combined and renamed the historical virtual desktop and Terminal Services features into a single group called "Remote Desktop Virtualization." So Microsoft, like others, recognizes the value of having a single framework and single product to serve both Terminal Services and virtual desktops. Citrix still has two separate products. Why is this still the case?

A: Dhawan Both are packaged, built and delivered for separate use cases. We see the use case for XenApp, which is primarily a concurrent usage model, as applications being delivered to a set of users in an enterprise. It's been packaged, priced and built for that use case. For XenDesktop, the solution was built for delivering a full desktop. So that means a few things. Desktops could be hosted in a data center or on a PC. XenDesktop enables both of those delivery models. And, they can be managed in the data center or locally -- you can use a thin client or a [virtual desktop] delivery model in the data center.

We partner with Microsoft for application virtualization but then there are these big, client-server, legacy, network heavy applications. As part of XenDesktop, we have XenApp included. We partner with Microsoft with application virtualization and when applications need to be hosted separately we bundle XenApp.

Q: How will Citrix integrate with Med-V?

A: Dhawan At this point there is no integration with Med-V. Integration points are with App-V. You use Hyper-V in the data center and deliver applications using App-V.

Q: Windows 2008 R2 will be Microsoft's first entry into the {virtual desktop integration] market. Some might say that Microsoft is making a bare-minimum effort to placate those who say Microsoft is out of touch with how people want to use desktops today. What would you say to them?

More on Citrix, Microsoft:
  • Citrix XenDesktop
  • Three new Citrix XenApp 5 features revealed
  • Microsoft Hyper-V raises questions about Microsoft-Citrix partnership
  • A: Scott Woodgate There is a significant trend in the desktop space to move to mobility. You see it in networks and laptop growth rates. We don't think all users are moving to this infrastructure. Customers most interested are in highly regulated industries with sophisticated IT and they are enterprises. When we make investments, in Windows and servers, when there is more usage we invest more heavily. With Windows we are investing in laptops.

    We recognize there is interest in this scenario so with Windows Server 2008 R2 we created our first version. Customers looking to deploy more than a small number of seats have to look to Citrix.

    Q: When will we learn more about what Microsoft is doing with the technology it acquired when it bought Calista Technologies?

    A: Woodgate It's still in development. It's not something we expected to bring to market six to nine months after we acquired it.

    Q: Microsoft continues to add features to its baseline Terminal Services product and people are still questioning the value of [Citrix] XenApp on top of Terminal Services, especially since XenApp is expensive compared with something like XenDesktop. So how do you see your relationship evolving?

    A: Dhawan We offer three different versions of XenApp, all based on concurrent usage. In terms of our entry level product we are competitively priced but we continue to sell the most as a premium product to enterprises. It has come up that smaller customers want the same. This is something we didn't expect. As the Microsoft platform evolved with more functions and capability, it made more customers aware [of XenApp]. We don't' have to sell them on the value prop of the problem, just the value prop of the value add. So we think the relationship will get tighter. Microsoft has an interest in keeping the people who bought this product satisfied.

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