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Citrix acquires Unidesk for app layering software

Citrix acquired Unidesk to improve its application layering offering. Experts said it's a big deal that brings different delivery tools under one umbrella.

Citrix's acquisition of Unidesk will streamline virtual application delivery by bringing layering technology and user environment management together. 

Layering allows IT departments to deliver multiple combinations of applications to different desktop virtualization users. The Unidesk acquisition means Citrix shops won't have to use separate vendors' products to achieve those capabilities. IT pros who use Unidesk expect the deal to bolster the technology even further.

"I remain excited for the space because I've managed to get increased efficiency from the benefits of app layering for the past two-plus years," said James Gordon, senior vice president of IT at Needham Bank, a Unidesk customer in Needham, Mass. "This helps prove that my purchase in app layering was absolutely the right thing to do."

Citrix announced the deal today at Citrix Summit, its annual partner conference, in Anaheim, Calif. The company already offers app layering software in AppDisk, but Unidesk is one of the most established layering technologies, and it gives Citrix a larger market share.

Citrix plans to replace AppDisk with Unidesk, and the company said it will continue to support Unidesk customers that use VMware and Microsoft virtualization products. Unidesk will be integrated into Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp in the future, and it will be available as a stand-alone product only for VMware customers.

Needham Bank uses VMware Horizon, but Gordon said he is not concerned that his organization could lose out on future updates.

"App layering is a new market, so some disruption is absolutely expected," he said. "Being owned by Citrix, which has a ton of money, helps Unidesk innovate."

Citrix also said it will honor existing Unidesk support contracts and offer continued support following their expirations.

Peeling back app layering

In traditional VDI environments, every user receives the same virtual desktops and apps. But depending on their job or department, users need different applications. App layering tools allow IT to build different bundles of applications and deploy them to different users.

It's the modern way to deploy apps.
James Gordonsenior vice president of IT, Needham Bank

"It's the modern way to deploy apps," Gordon said. "Tools like Unidesk help me do that, with little complexity. Without app layering, [VDI] is not worth it for businesses."

Citrix bought Norskale in September 2016 to bolster its user environment management (UEM) offerings. Adding Unidesk allows customers to now use UEM and app layering to manage users' applications all via one vendor, said Robert Young, a research analyst at IDC. 

"Folks want it to be simple," Young said. "They want one vendor, and that's the value prop. It's a big deal that Citrix now has these offerings in [its] portfolio."

Unidesk, AppDisk, VMware App Volumes and Liquidware Labs FlexApp are considered the top four app layering tools on the market, but none of them can virtualize 100% of applications, Young said. As a result, some businesses opt to use a combination of tools.

Liquidware Labs -- now the only major stand-alone layering vendor -- will offer incentives for VMware customers that want to switch from Unidesk to FlexApp following the Citrix acquisition, a spokesperson said.

Citrix did not disclose terms of the acquisition.

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