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VMware is about to unleash its answer to Citrix's Workspace Cloud as the two vendors attempt to change the way IT deploys and manages desktops, apps and mobile devices.
Citrix Workspace Cloud (CWC) is essentially a cloud-based platform IT can use to design, deliver and manage "workspaces" -- a term that encompasses mobile devices, virtualized apps, virtual desktops and data. IT can run CWC in the environment of its choice, be it a public or private cloud, in their data center or all of the above.
Some expected CWC to launch during the Synergy conference in May, but Citrix made a "test drive" version available instead. Last week's general availability announcement was conveniently timed just ahead of competitor VMware, Inc.'s annual user conference, VMworld.
What to expect from VMware Project Enzo
VMware said in a recent blog post that a qualified public beta of its workspace project, codenamed Project Enzo, will be available later in the summer of 2015, which correlates with the timing of VMworld.
Project Enzo, in tech preview since May, is similar to CWC, but there is a key difference.
Steve BrasenAnalyst, Enterprise Management Associates
Like CWC, Project Enzo gives IT a way to build, deliver and manage virtual workspaces through a single Web-based portal that will be available as a cloud service. CWC allows more flexibility as it runs on any cloud, whereas Project Enzo is tied to VMware vCloud Air.
Project Enzo's two main components are a Cloud-Control Plane and Smart Node technology that works with hyper-converged infrastructure from VMware and its partners.
The big promise of Project Enzo is the speed and ease with which the company claims IT can create desktops; with Smart Node technology -- a combination of App Volumes and VMware User Environment Manager, along with the instant cloning technology in vSphere 6 -- admins will be able to create "up to 2,000 virtual desktops in under 20 minutes," the company said.
Instant cloning allows IT to create copies of running VMs quickly without powering them down. Project Enzo will also eliminate maintenance windows through the use of seamless updates that IT can apply instantly to Microsoft Windows images and apps, VMware said. In addition, admins can move desktops and apps back and forth from on-premises datacenters to the cloud.
A VMware spokesperson declined to comment on availability but said the company will share product updates at VMworld.
Citrix needs Workspace Cloud to succeed
Citrix, meanwhile, claims thousands of customers and partners test drove its Workspace Cloud platform and provided feedback in recent months, but the company declined to provide any reference users.
The CWC release comes in the middle of Citrix's reorganization, as it determines which products to unload to increase its overall profitability. The company also needs to find a new CEO to replace Mark Templeton.
CWC is foundational to Citrix's transition to a SaaS business, and it is a promising platform that has the potential to catapult the company to a higher position of value among customers -- if IT shops are ready to adopt it, said Andrew Smith, an analyst with Technology Business Research, Inc., an IT analysis firm in Hampton, N.H.
"What I’m most concerned about is the reality of customer maturity, around this type of end-to-end, automated [cloud platform]," Smith said.
The release of CWC may be an example of industry technology outpacing demand, or putting "the cart before the horse," he added.
Indeed, a big part of the problem is that IT pros, who are accustomed to managing and deploying desktops, apps and mobile devices separately, haven't fully grasped the workspace concept.
"When I talk to end users about this, I spend most of my time explaining what a workspace is," said Steve Brasen, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates, an IT industry analysis firm in Portsmouth, N.H. "The challenge of broad adoption will be the lack of understanding."
Citrix expended a lot of energy explaining just that at Synergy.
"Citrix is investing a lot in this; VMware less so," Brasen said. "It seems to be more of a reaction to Citrix. But Citrix is putting a lot of eggs in this basket, and they need [CWC] to succeed."
Citrix Workspace Cloud pricing
Citrix plans to continually release new technology services to Workspace Cloud. These service packages are available now:
Virtual Desktops, which allows IT to deliver Windows or Linux virtual desktops to any device. It includes file, sync and share services and predefined blueprints to speed up deployments. The price is the monthly equivalent of $20 per user.
Virtual Apps and Desktops, which adds security, performance and deployment flexibility to the desktops package. It also includes features to design, edit and deploy app and desktop blueprints, and to monitor and manage deployments, for the monthly equivalent of $35 per user.
Integrated Apps and Data, which combines all the capabilities of the Virtual Apps and Desktops Services package, plus mobile device and app management and productivity apps. It costs the monthly equivalent of $40 per user.
Lifecycle Management, which includes features to design, edit and deploy app and desktop blueprints and to monitor and manage deployments. The entry-level package is available at no charge to Citrix Software Maintenance subscribers. Other Lifecycle Management packages begin at the monthly equivalent of $2.50 per user.
VMware has not disclosed specific pricing for Project Enzo.