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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- One of the problems with using cloud desktop and application services is the lack of control IT administrators have over delivery and performance.
An upcoming platform called Citrix Workspace Services gives IT admins a way to design mobile workspaces and deliver them from various clouds.
Interestingly, Microsoft's Windows Azure serves as the control plane for the cloud desktops, apps, mobile services, data fabric and the delivery network. The actual workloads run on the cloud infrastructure that customers choose, be it Amazon Web Services, IBM SoftLayer or another.
Essentially, Workspace Services allows IT to deliver multiple services across both public and private clouds for hybrid environments. The Citrix management consoles live in the Azure cloud and workloads run on any infrastructure the companies choose.
"Workspace Services is the future of XenApp and XenDesktop , where there is orchestration framework, it runs on Azure and everything snaps into it," said Brian Madden, independent analyst and blogger.
The news, delivered here at Citrix Synergy this week, followed the release of Workspace Suite, a new bundle of end-user computing applications and services that IT shops can run on Workspace Services.
The consensus is that mobile and desktop management and delivery must converge for Desktop as a Service (DaaS) to work, and this is the beginning of that trend.
"The DaaS space without IaaS [Infrastructure as a Service] is too limited for success," said Paul Stansel, senior engineering advisor for Aetna, Inc., who presented a session here on his experience with DaaS. "Two years from now, people won't be getting pure DaaS, they'll be getting IaaS with mobile, and today's announcements only firmed that up in my mind."
A Workspace Services tech preview will be available in the second half of 2014.
Citrix typically doesn't reveal products this far in advance, so IT pros questioned the timing -- a week ahead of TechEd -- and suspect a tie-in with Microsoft long-awaited DaaS play, "Project Mohoro."
Mohoro presents a combined opportunity for Citrix, according to Rakesh Narasimhan, Citrix's desktop general manager in a recent interview. Two sources familiar with Microsoft's plans said more information will come to light during TechEd.
Workspace Services features and downsides
Workspace Services automates the setup, configuration, and management of desktops, apps and data on any cloud or, eventually, on-premises infrastructure. At first, it will only be available as a cloud service provided by Citrix, the company said.
It also automates on-going management with features including auto-scaling and auto-recovery. Citrix acquired ScaleXtreme, a San Mateo, Calif.-based company with technology integrated with Citrix CloudStack to deliver the automation capabilities within Workspace Services.
The standout feature is that IT can use Workspace Services to distribute workloads into resource zones, or separate infrastructure locations where they'll run best. This is important for companies doing DaaS because they must be close to their cloud provider to reduce latency.
In fact, one XenApp and XenDesktop user here who requested anonymity said the global company he works for has considered DaaS, but hasn't deployed it. Company employees dispersed internationally won't get good performance unless the company uses multiple service providers.
Workspace Services could give IT shops like his a way to deliver desktops, apps and data to remote locations, said Gunnar Berger, an analyst with Gartner.
"There isn't an easy way through VDI [virtual desktop infrastructure] to manage multiple branches," he said. "If I have hardware at multiple locations and I want to manage them all in one place, this is a way to do that."
Workspace Services include a cloud-based control to design and deliver mobile workspaces and view the environment through Windows Azure. IT can customize desktops, Windows apps and mobile apps using Active Directory, and enterprise app stores let admins personalize how the resources will be delivered.
The platform is built around Citrix technologies including XenApp and XenDesktop for application and desktop delivery, along with Citrix HDX, XenMobile, ShareFile and a customer service component through GoToAssist.
Workspace Services does not, however, help IT with its cloud security concerns, which remains a reason many companies will not put desktops and data in a public cloud, Berger said.
Another complication IT pros see with Workspace Services is that using multiple clouds to disperse workloads means managing multiple cloud contracts, and there isn't one throat to choke when something goes wrong.
Citrix addressed the question and vowed to take ultimate responsibility for support.
"If it is your problem, it's our problem and we'll take it on, along with our partners," said Mitch Parker, general manager of Citrix cloud services. "If we don’t know whose problem an issue is, it will become Citrix's problem."
Though Citrix Workspace Services remains behind lock and key, with no reference customers yet, Citrix plans to deliver feature releases at a rapid pace. The company has not provided any licensing or pricing information yet.