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Microsoft and Citrix join forces against VMware for VDI

Microsoft and Citrix make are joining forces that pit their core technologies against VMware.

At its annual Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, Microsoft and Citrix said they would collaborate to ensure that their respective desktop virtualization products would integrate smoothly.

On the surface this doesn't seem like much. "So what," you might think, "don't Microsoft and Citrix partner all the time?" Perhaps. But this declaration goes way beyond their existing partnerships and touches some of each company's core technologies. This announcement actually provides us with two other messages.

Citrix client software will also be able to access Microsoft-only apps.

At its annual "Synergy" tradeshow in Las Vegas this past May, Citrix announced a new universal software client called the "Citrix Receiver." They also publicized an iTunes-looking easy-to-use-for-consumers client application called "Citrix Dazzle." In both cases, the applications allow users to view lists of Citrix applications that are available where the users can simply click on an icon for instant access to the application. This instant access could be in the form of an ICA connection to a remote hosted app or via an app that's streamed down to the client directly.

In yesterday's announcement we learned that the Citrix Receiver and Citrix Dazzle client software components would also allow users to access Microsoft-only, i.e. non-Citrix, applications delivered via Microsoft's App-V streaming technology.

This is a big "win" for Microsoft and an important move for Citrix, since both companies have competing app streaming technologies. Now customers can truly get the best of both worlds, combing Citrix server-hosted apps with Microsoft streamed apps. Citrix "wins" because a Citrix client and infrastructure will be used to deliver both the Citrix and Microsoft apps.

Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager will soon deliver Citrix apps too.

Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) has been around for more than ten years, previously called SMS. One of SCCM's primary jobs is to remotely, and silently, install software onto user workstations.

SCCM used to do this exclusively with packages that "installed" the apps onto the desktops, although in recent years they've been able to deliver streamed apps from App-V as well.

This was all well and good, but a persistent problem has been that Microsoft's app architectures were always based on "local execution," while Citrix was all about the "remote hosted execution." Unfortunately, the real world required a mix-and-match of both, so SCCM has always been limited to a "niche" solution since it couldn't be used for the remote apps.

So yesterday's statement also told us that Microsoft will extend SCCM so it can deliver Citrix apps, both remote hosted and streamed, in addition to its own streamed and locally-installed apps.

It will now be easier for customers to integrate both vendors' application delivery systems into the other's system.

So why are Microsoft and Citrix doing this? Do they really care about providing integrated products to customers? Not likely. This deal mostly comes from the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" way of thinking. Even though Microsoft and Citrix sometimes compete, they both desperately want to beat VMware. And if that means dancing with the devil to do so, then so be it.

Regardless of their motivations, it looks like Citrix and Microsoft customers will be the ultimate winners.

Brian Madden is known throughout the world as an opinionated, super technical, fiercely independent desktop virtualization expert. He's written several books and over 1,000 articles about desktop and application virtualization. Brian's blog,, receives millions of visitors per year and is a leading source for conversation, debate and discourse about the application and desktop virtualization industry. Brian is also the creator of BriForum, the premier independent application delivery technical conference.

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