Microsoft and Citrix's new XenApp collaboration is the latest and biggest sign that the desktop virtualization industry is shifting focus toward cloud app delivery.
The vendors' new XenApp express service will let IT deliver virtualized Citrix apps on Microsoft's Azure cloud platform. It offers the functionality of Microsoft's Windows cloud app delivery tool, Azure RemoteApp -- which the company will discontinue -- with Citrix virtualization technology on the back end.
Microsoft and Citrix also partnered in May to allow Citrix shops to deliver Windows 10 virtual desktops from the Azure cloud.
"The industry is moving toward cloud-based app delivery for enterprise apps," said David Johnson, analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass. "App delivery will be more important than desktop delivery in the future."
It is easier for businesses to adopt cloud-hosted virtualized applications because cloud is not as complex as on-premises systems, Johnson said. IT shops don't have to invest in the infrastructure needed to support these tools on premises.
Further, "it's easier securing just the apps rather than a desktop," Johnson said.
Demand for individual app delivery is increasing -- especially among companies that only deal with a few enterprise apps, said Allen Falcon, CEO at Cumulus Global, a Microsoft partner in Westborough, Mass.
"As companies realize they can simply remote-push the applications they need, it will become more popular," Falcon said.
Robert Younganalyst, IDC
Still, a rise in cloud-based virtual app delivery may not indicate that businesses are moving away from VDI. The XenApp express service could simply be about giving more varied options to businesses, said Robert Young, analyst at IDC, a research firm in Framingham, Mass.
"Folks want choices," Young said. "There is a lot of disparity of how IT wants to consume these types of services."
'Commitment from Microsoft'
What is interesting about the XenApp express service is that Microsoft discontinued its own product, RemoteApp, to build the service with Citrix, Young said.
"It's a product in the market that could potentially compete with anything Citrix would do as far as putting virtual apps in the cloud," Young said. "The fact that Microsoft would wind down that product and assist Citrix in migrating apps, it really shows the commitment from Microsoft in this partnership."
Microsoft and Citrix said they will release the XenApp express service sometime early next year, with a preview coming at the end of this year. IT pros can expect more information about the cloud app delivery service at Microsoft's Ignite conference in September.
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