Partners can now use Igel’s Linux client access to Windows Virtual Desktop.

Jeffrey Schwartz

January 29, 2020

5 Min Read
Igel's Jed Ayres Disrupt 2020

(Pictured above: Igel’s Jed Ayres on stage at Disrupt 2020 in Nashville.)

IGEL DISRUPT 2020 — Igel has released the first Linux client operating system designed to connect endpoints to Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), the new Azure cloud-based desktop as a service (DaaS) offering.

Igel OS 11.3 and higher now work with a limited preview of Microsoft’s RD Core SDK, which went live Tuesday. The release coincided with Igel’s Disrupt conference for partners and customers, taking place this week in Nashville. Igel, a German provider of thin client hardware and its Linux-based thin client OS that only sells through the channel, caught the attention of Microsoft’s WVD team about a year ago. Microsoft subsequently partnered with Igel and showcased their integration efforts in November at the Microsoft Ignite conference.

Executives at both companies believe that enterprises and commercial users will increasingly shift from traditional “thick” client PC operating system environments to cloud-based multi-session Windows DaaS, to some degree mirroring how organizations have transitioned to Office 365 and other SaaS applications.

WVD, which Microsoft released in early October following a yearlong, closely watched technical preview, is poised to kickstart the relatively flat market for virtual Windows, or VDI desktops. Igel’s Linux client can run on older hardware, or in BYOD scenarios, with UD Pocket, a USB-based flash device that automatically boots the sandboxed Igel OS. Partners are pitching the latest cloud DaaS offerings as an alternative to shifting to Windows 10 configuration and management, which has a new model than prior versions of Windows. Cloud DaaS is also a viable option for those with managed desktops and customers seeking more secure client environments.

Microsoft’s WVD is notably attractive because use rights are already included in many commercial and enterprise license agreements. There are roughly 100 million virtual workspaces today, said Igel co-CEO Jed Ayres, who  predicts that will grow 50% over the next three years. Nevertheless, that’s a small fraction of the estimated 1 billion traditional Windows desktops, many of which are on aging hardware, a significant percentage of which are still running Windows 7, now an unsupported OS.

“It’s a very big addressable market,” Ayres told attendees at this week’s conference. “There’s a big attack surface for us to help you repurpose those devices to become secure, highly manageable, high-performance devices in your virtual workspaces. And then what happens when Microsoft and Amazon get into this space? We predict that at least 50 million more seats of virtual workspace can be sold in the next few years. This market has a lot of tailwinds behind it. It’s again, very exciting.”

Ayres said Igel is the No. 3 provider of thin-client endpoints behind Dell and HP, but with revenues doubling every year, he believes Igel will surpass both players and become No. 1. Last year, Ayres said Igel partners sold 749,000 seats, up from 484,000 in 2018. Revenue doubled last year as well, totaling $150 million.

“We think we can be a billion-dollar company, and we think that looks like 10 million licenses,” Ayres said.


XenTegra’s Pete Downing

MSPs and systems integrators attending the Igel conference are engaged in numerous proof-of-concept projects with enterprise customers who are considering WVD — typically enhanced with workspace solutions from Citrix, CloudJumper and VMware, among others.

“When it comes to the endpoint, we discuss Igel, and three out of five times it results in us creating a [proof of concept],” said Pete Downing, chief marketing and technology officer with XenTegra, an MSP and Igel partner. “We are involved in some interesting efforts around how we’re going to get better penetration into accounts and net-new whitespace, and even replacing HP and [Dell] Wyse clients that many shops now have.”

“For HP and Dell, it’s just one of many, many things they do, where Igel’s advantage is …

… that this is what they do,” said Gartner VP and analyst Mark Lockwood. “Igel is laser-focused. Their control plane software solution is the best in the market. So, they have an opportunity.”

Lockwood noted that Igel’s hurdle is that the company needs to invest more in marketing.

“They need to get the word out on who they are,” he said. “They have a loyal following. When people get to use them, they really love them. But Igel has to get their name out there.”

Presidio is among those partners that have worked with Igel for several years, said Paul Stansel, director of the MSP’s national end-user computing (EUC) practice.


Igel’s Matthias Haas and Microsoft’s Scott Manchester enjoy a high-five on stage at Disrupt 2020.

“They have a great solution and they’re a great partner,” Stansel said. “We see them as our primary go-to thin client vendor. So, we tend to pitch them in conjunction with a lot of deals in the EUC space.”

During the technology keynote session, Igel CTO Matthias Haas, joined on stage by Microsoft corporate VP for WVD Scott Manchester, logged into his WVD account with the updated Igel OS over an LTE connection, which presented a virtual image of his Windows 10 desktop.

“That just shows that you can use WVD as any other operating system to go with Igel OS,” Haas said.

“One of the things I think that’s most interesting, is that Windows Virtual Desktops support thin clients,” Microsoft’s Manchester said. “Igel was our go-to-market partner. We were so excited to be on the stage with Jed last November and share with the world the great innovation that we’ve done and to see some of these exciting endpoint devices and to see those little USB drive. What an exciting thing to be able to just simply put a flash drive in your machine and boot to an operating system that gives you access to another world of corporate applications.”

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About the Author(s)

Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz has covered the IT industry for nearly three decades, most recently as editor-in-chief of Redmond magazine and executive editor of Redmond Channel Partner. Prior to that, he held various editing and writing roles at CommunicationsWeek, InternetWeek and VARBusiness (now CRN) magazines, among other publications.

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