Will Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop put the squeeze on Citrix, or give it a boost?

December 28, 2018

4 Min Read

By Jeffrey Schwartz

As Microsoft partners await the preview of the new Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), 2019 will begin with attention focused on how its latest attempt at offering a cloud-based VDI service will affect the fortunes of Citrix.

The annual Citrix Partner Summit will take place during the second week of January on Orlando, Florida, where the company is expected to share how Microsoft’s forthcoming Azure-based desktop as a service (DaaS) will impact its own new Workspace Cloud.

Microsoft introduced WVD in late September at its annual Ignite conference. Observers see the planned DaaS offering as a move by Microsoft to swoop into the virtual cloud desktop-services market offered by its alliance partner Citrix, as well as VMware and others. Those taking a more optimistic view see Microsoft’s WVD as an opportunity to boost demand for various DaaS offerings that have enhanced features.

“It’s too early to say because we still don’t know what WVD will ultimately look like, but Citrix has to realize Microsoft is creeping into their market,” said Nicholas McQuire, director of enterprise research at CCS Insight. “That’s the nature of the beast in today’s world. You know you’ve got to accept that some of your partners are going to be entering in big markets and possibly take a chunk of your piece of the pie.”

Citrix officials say that the pie is only going to get bigger. The company is among several Microsoft alliance partners that will provide connectors from WVD to their respective offerings. Citrix plans to launch its own DaaS offering that includes WVD with Windows 10. It will include secure remote access from any device using multifactor authentication.

The Citrix DaaS tied to WVD will also include a high-definition user experience with Citrix’s HDX virtual desktop optimization technology, using Azure compute and storage. Citrix also plans to resell Microsoft 365 licenses but will also let customers and partners bring their own licenses and desktop images. Back in September, Citrix became a Microsoft Cloud Service Provider (CSP), allowing it to bundle WVD with its workspace services.


Citrix’s Steve Blacklock

“Microsoft’s doing cool things around virtual desktops; our joint solutions are used by thousands of customers, millions of users,” said Steve Blacklock, Citrix VP of global strategic alliances. “Citrix is focused on what we like to call the ‘intelligent workspace.’ So, it’s different than just virtual desktops or virtual apps. Microsoft is talking about virtual desktops, but we’re focusing on the complete secure digital workspace, not just virtualization.”

Citrix was among several WVD launch alliance partners at Ignite along with CloudJumper, FSLogix, Lakeside Software, Liquidware, People Tech Group and ThinPrint. Microsoft has since acquired FSLogix, whose User Profile Disk (UPD) promises to boost performance of WVD.

But Blacklock underscored the fact that Citrix and Microsoft have had various partnerships for several decades. Among other things, the company uses Microsoft Azure as the control plane for the Citrix Workspace Cloud. Also, the two companies have provided integration between …

… Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS) and Citrix Xen Mobile.

However, various industry observers have privately wondered if customers will bypass Citrix when WVD becomes available. Others say that Microsoft is really taking another stab at offering a DaaS to go after Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Pete Downing, chief marketing and technology officer at XenTegra, a digital-workspace consultancy and Citrix and Microsoft partner, believes it’s the latter.

“Citrix will become a pseudo systems integrator to fill the gaps that the Windows Virtual Desktop service can fill,” Downing said. “Amazon seems to have a lead in the space, but in reality, [its] offering has always been limited because of the cost per desktop.”

Microsoft also has an edge over AWS because its Amazon WorkSpaces renders a Windows desktop and user experience from Windows Server, while Microsoft WVD is an actual Windows 10 desktop, Downing added.

“In either case, Citrix can fill the gaps that Microsoft and Amazon cannot,” he said. “Enter Citrix Workspace. At the end of day, an end-user only cares about their identity, their data and their apps. You ensure they can log in with a single password, have access to their data, and have access to their apps; the desktop is irrelevant. Citrix will be a huge asset to Windows Virtual Desktop service.”

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