Citrix Workspace Cloud to be the belle of the Synergy ball

Citrix is about to put its Workspace Cloud into the hands of IT pros who can use the company's awaited platform to design, deliver and deploy mobile workspaces.

Citrix last year revealed its plans to reinvent the wheel for end-user computing, and the new cloud-based workspace platform will finally see the light of day next week.

Citrix Workspace Cloud, initially called Citrix Workspace Services, has remained in limited tech preview, but next week at Citrix Synergy 2015, IT pros will hear from early users and learn, in technical sessions and hands-on labs, how to use it themselves.

The platform gives IT admins a new way to control how apps, desktops, mobility and data are designed, delivered and managed. It also provides IT with the flexibility to do those tasks using the clouds of their choice, whether they are public, private, on-premises or all of the above.

I don't know whether enterprise customers are truly ready for it.
Simon BramfittEntelechy Associates

In a recent interview, Citrix CEO Mark Templeton teased the upcoming release of Workspace Cloud, describing it as a way for IT to deliver a Netflix-like infrastructure, with Citrix providing the "House of Cards-like content."

Citrix declined to confirm general availability will come next week, but all signs point to yes.

The company expects its new platform to make such a splash that it will "overshadow anything competitor VMware has done," according to one software company executive who partners with Citrix and VMware.

And with disappointing Q1 2015 earnings, Citrix's software-defined workspace gamble needs to do just that.

VMware has stolen market share from Citrix everywhere in the enterprise, and Citrix hasn't had a visible answer to that, said Simon Bramfitt, an independent analyst and founder of Entelechy Associates in Concord, Calif.

While allowing customers to put their workloads wherever they want makes a lot of sense, it may be ahead of its time, Bramfitt said.

"I don't know whether enterprise customers are truly ready for it," he said. "It will take a while to ramp up, and they will continue to lose market share in the meantime."

For companies to embrace Workspace Cloud quickly, it has to be very simple to understand and use, but Citrix isn't exactly known for simplicity.

"My initial impressions are that it is a good strategy," said David Johnson, an analyst with Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. "But evaluation and access have to be easy, putting apps in has to be easy; it has to be turn-key simple. Admins who don't have experience with building in the cloud, migrating into the cloud -- it has to be easy for them."

Citrix is known for delivering a superior user experience, and that may be enough to get companies to give Cloud Workspace a shot, Johnson said.

"I expect the end-user experience will be very good across a wide range of devices, apps and various network conditions," Johnson said. "My hope is that this allows customers to focus on the user experience rather than the infrastructure."

A look at Citrix Workspace Cloud

When IT pros see Citrix's panacea cloud platform next week they'll learn how Cloud Workspace integrates with their existing infrastructure, including Microsoft Active Directory.

In technical deep dive and best practices sessions, IT pros will also learn more about how, without special skills, they can use the platform "immediately" to automate workspace design and delivery, according to the Synergy 2015 agenda. IT pros will also learn how to use Workspace Cloud to implement desktop as a service, XenDesktop, XenMobile, ShareFile and more.

Interestingly, because Citrix isn't a cloud infrastructure provider, the Workspace Cloud control plane that's integral to managing all of the services it supports will be based on Microsoft Azure --  at least, that was the plan as of last year. While Citrix's symbiotic relationship with Microsoft has been critical, this time, its reliance on Microsoft may hinder Citrix's cloud workspace strategy.

"Perception is important. Is Citrix perceived as a cloud company? No. VMware is more perceived as a private cloud company, and they've been in that space for a while," Johnson said.

"If Citrix can simplify their message with the Cloud Workspace model, then it will come down to capabilities and ease of use."

Citrix also plans to deliver software as a service tools for Workspace Cloud, such as Citrix Lifecycle Management, which will allow IT to manage and deliver Citrix and third-party apps in a multi-cloud environment. The lifecycle manager also automates regular maintenance tasks such as patches and backups in Workspace Cloud. 

Citrix's workspace management approach isn't entirely unique, however. There are smaller tech providers that deliver much of the orchestration that Citrix Workspace Cloud promises, Bramfitt said. For example, Independence IT's Cloud Workspace Suite serves as an orchestration engine that allows desktops and apps to be delivered from one console but also from multiple cloud providers.

Citrix isn't betting it all on Workspace Cloud, though. The company will also discuss plans for other products and services including the Internet of Things technology it acquired called Octoblu. The company hasn't forgotten about XenServer, either. Sessions on XenServer 6.5, released in January, are also on the docket.

Bridget Botelho is senior news director of TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization and End-User Computing media groups. Follow her on Twitter @bridgetbotelho.

Dig Deeper on Citrix virtual desktops