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Citrix Managed Desktops simplifies cloud desktop delivery

Citrix announces its new Managed Desktops service to unburden IT administrators by helping manage the back-end infrastructure during the provisioning process.

ATLANTA -- With an emergence into the desktop-as-a-service market, Citrix emphasizes the need for speed and one-stop shopping.

At Citrix Synergy 2019, the company announced Managed Desktops, a service that enables IT to quickly provision virtual desktops for their users while Citrix manages the back-end infrastructure, such as patching.

Many vendors are embracing the as-a-service model, especially as IT staff become overburdened with management tasks, said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates in Northborough, Mass.

"Microsoft's desktop-as-a-service [DaaS] model is mostly, 'I manage Windows on your device for as long as you pay me to do it.' Citrix looks at that and says, 'That's great, but there's more to it than that,'" Gold said. "Microsoft isn't going to manage all of your apps."

With Managed Desktops, Citrix hosts and manages the workloads in the Azure cloud. Citrix manages a variety of services with Managed Desktops, including delivery controller, databases and StoreFront, which was replaced by Workspace. Citrix provides customers with base images that IT can then roll out to their end users.

Managed Desktops will offer advanced management tools and additional security controls, said Carisa Stringer, director of product marketing at Citrix. The offering enables IT admins to spin up desktops more quickly than they could with Virtual Apps and Desktops.

"Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops is like the Swiss Army knife; it has everything," Stringer said. "Citrix Managed Desktops is just the knife."

Organizations with both Microsoft and Citrix licensing can use Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) with Citrix Managed Desktops to license Windows 10 desktops in the cloud. The lowest-level license that organizations need to use WVD with Managed Desktops is a Windows E3 license.

Use cases for Citrix Managed Desktops

Virtual Apps and Desktops is Citrix's robust virtualization offering with vast opportunities for customization. Citrix Managed Desktops, on the other hand, is more simple and agile. Citrix predicts a variety of use cases for the offering, including organizations that have undergone a merger or acquisition and organizations with temporary workers.

Eric Frost, manager of systems and storage infrastructure at AmeriGas, a propane services company in King of Prussia, Pa., deployed virtual applications to the company's employees but is interested in the concept of DaaS, especially with Citrix's support of multisession Windows 10.

"As we've grown and evolved, we've started having more developers come in from other countries, and those developers need access [to virtual desktops]," Frost said. "We're looking at [Managed Desktops] aggressively, and we're probably going to test that out over the summer."

A packaging company that wished to remain anonymous for privacy reasons is interested in Citrix Managed Desktops for a similar reason, according to an IT architect at the company.

"We have a bunch of designers that don't actually need their own desktops, but they need to do desktop work," he said.

The ability to spin up desktops to global users is an attractive benefit of Managed Desktops, said Jose Castro, senior solutions architect at insurance company Cigna.

"Our first use case would be disaster recovery," he said. "But, eventually, I think we could run production out of [Managed Desktops], because our company has users all over the globe. Latency is a big problem for us."

Citrix Managed Desktops enables IT to host Virtual Delivery Agents close to an organization's headquarters, but end users have the option to connect to one of 11 Azure Gateway points of presence that span from South Brazil to East Japan and beyond.

Cloud concerns

Still, compliance and security in the cloud remain a concern for many IT admins.

Much depends on the type of virtual deployment that an organization needs, said Neil Anderson, IT admin at insurance company Anthem.

"If I'm just serving up a website, then the cloud is an easy solution," he said. "But if I'm serving up an application that we're using internally with back-end application servers, SQL servers and databases, then there's a lot of concern about putting that stuff into the cloud."

The IT architect at the anonymous packaging company echoed similar concerns.

"When you have something like this that's hosted in the cloud or hosted by someone else, then you're completely at the mercy of whatever's hosting that service," he said. "You wouldn't have any control over bringing it back up; you can't do anything."

Cost is also a factor, he said. Citrix Managed Desktops will likely be more expensive than the company's existing Virtual Apps and Desktops deployment.

"It's less maintenance though," he said, "which may even it out."

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