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Virtualization vendors in 2014: Citrix XenApp returns, CWS is born

In 2014, Citrix brought back XenApp and revealed Citrix Workspace Services, but VMware is hot on the company's heels, which will keep things interesting in 2015.

It's time to wrap up what went on with the top virtualization vendors in 2014. At the end of previous years, I've written articles about the good and bad things that happened, but to be quite honest, it's hard to come up with anything all that terrible in 2014.

Of course, it was easy last year -- my headline "bust" of 2013 was Windows 8, followed by Microsoft licensing.

To the astonishment of many IT professionals, both of those were both addressed this year. In that spirit, I'll keep the good mojo working for us and not dig too deeply looking for anything negative. 

Citrix rights a wrong

Citrix made a few splashes in the first half of the year. First, the company brought back XenApp to appease customers angered by the fact that it rolled XenApp-like functionality into XenDesktop and killed off XenApp as a standalone product. Initially this was good news, until customers learned that Citrix XenApp 7.5 not only ran on a different platform than XenApp 6.5, but it also had fewer features.

By the time Synergy rolled around in May, Citrix released XenApp 7.6 and closed the feature gap to a more acceptable level, though the migration remains a hot button issue. VMware, in what was either a stroke of genius or stroke of luck, took full advantage of the situation.

Late in 2013, VMware hired several Citrix executives. This occurred right around the time that Citrix XenApp was canceled, so VMware clearly had its finger on the pulse of the Citrix customer base. While Citrix was figuring out how to manage the situation, VMware was working on creating a Remote Desktop Session Host (RDSH) product of its own that would finally put the two virtualization vendors on a level playing field.

On April 9, just a month before Citrix Synergy, VMware announced Horizon 6 with application publishing from RDSH servers. This is a remarkable change in direction from the VMware of two or three years ago, and shakes up an area of the market that has been dominated by Citrix for nearly 20 years.

Citrix wasn't just going to lie down, of course, and at Synergy, the company talked about two things that kept people talking. One was DesktopPlayer for Windows, a manageable client hypervisor that runs on top of Windows PCs. It will slide into Citrix's product lineup alongside DesktopPlayer for Mac and XenClient, which runs directly on hardware.

The other new product Citrix paraded at Synergy was Citrix Workspace Services (CWS), which people have called everything from a desktop as a service (DaaS) platform to a cloud architecture.

In truth, CWS is more like a cloud-based management plane that lets you integrate and manage desktop, application and mobile services that are both on-premises and off.  We still don't know how it will all pan out, but hopefully by Synergy 2015 that will be put to rest.

Next Steps

In part two of Gabe's 2014 wrap-up, read about the Year of DaaS. Part three recaps advancements in application management and what's to come in 2015.

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