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Citrix Showcases Workspace Cloud, The Product On Which It's Staking Its Future

The cloud management console ties together the virtualization vendor's core technologies while tapping public cloud resources.

Citrix Systems, grappling with the influence of an activist investor and mired by an acquisition rumor, on Thursday showcased for invited guests at its Silicon Valley headquarters a comprehensive cloud management platform intended to blaze a new path for the company and its product portfolio.

Citrix Workspace Cloud is the linchpin of the virtualization vendor's greater strategy to establish a strong foothold in the cloud era. The product, which quietly hit the market a few weeks ago, builds off the company's core virtualization solutions, XenApp and XenDesktop.

Workspace Cloud essentially offers a control plane in the cloud through which Citrix partners and IT administrators can rapidly provision and manage a diverse array of cloud resources: virtualized applications and desktops, data files, ShareFile documents, public IaaS providers and on-premise infrastructure.

[Related: Analysts: Signs Show Citrix Not Likely Considering Dell Buyout, Or Any Other Acquisition]

As the company navigates an especially turbulent period in its history, with New York-based hedge fund Elliott Management having secured a board seat and demanding sweeping changes, Citrix in many ways is staking its future on the new product, several Citrix executives and partners told CRN.

Jesse Lipson, vice president of the data sharing group, told ISVs, channel partners and customers attending Thursday's event that Workspace Cloud was built on the theory that "management should happen in the cloud and your intellectual property should live anywhere the customer wants it to live."

Lipson, formerly CEO of ShareFile, which Citrix acquired in 2011, said the benefits for customers are especially pronounced when considering speed of deployment and time to value.

Iterations of the product have been demonstrated to the Citrix community several times over the past two years. But Citrix has been cautious in bringing Workspace Cloud to market.

Calvin Hsu, vice president of product marketing, told attendees that Citrix Workspace Cloud was built on the same architecture and platform as mainstays XenApp and XenDesktop. For that reason, users familiar with the Xen line should immediately feel comfortable with the new service.

"All those things come together in a common platform, with one code base," Hsu said, providing far greater choice in how resources are deployed and provisioned.

Workspace Cloud will drive further innovation in those well-established Desktop-as-a-Service and application-delivery technologies, he added.

"It's also a platform for innovation for our channel partners," Hsu said. "It offers them an opportunity to engage with customers in a different way, to expand their services, to leverage the skills they have from XenApp and XenDesktop and bring those into a cloud environment."

Dane Young, virtualization practice manager at Entisys Solutions, a Citrix partner based in Concord, Calif., described Workspace Cloud, and the lifecycle management capabilities that it makes possible across a broad spectrum of environments, "as the single biggest innovations brought into Citrix in the last five years."

"It's more than just an iterative upgrade to the traditional Xenapp and XenDesktop," Young said.

Environments that would normally take days to stand up can be deployed in hours with the new product, he said.

In the past, when Citrix developed products and made acquisitions, integrating management consoles and interfacing new platforms had been difficult, he said.

Citrix Workspace Cloud, as the first management console delivered through a SaaS model, offers a web-based user interface that enables far quicker installations and management from a single pane of glass, Young added.

By placing the control layer in the cloud, computing resources are liberated across diverse environments, making it easy to take advantage of public clouds like Amazon Web Services or IBM SoftLayer.

"Workspace cloud is better enabled to burst because of the public cloud aspect," he said. That opens new lines of business for the channel.

Randy Kearn, a systems engineer at Choice Solutions, a Citrix partner based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said Citrix is launching the right product at a time when the entire IT industry is in flux.

Citrix Workspace Cloud "is starting to give us that flexibility to couple things together," Kearn told CRN. "Delivering a service, rather than just delivering a solution that has to fit the masses."

Now starts the slow process of figuring out the business details of delivering Workspace Cloud, from pricing, to supporting and enabling the delivery model, to integration with the NetScaler application delivery controller, to packaging what is essentially "the cross space of all the products."

"They're putting together a foundation and a framework. CWC is really the first step around their core stack," Kearn said. "There's a real business opportunity here."

The lifecycle management component is crucial, Kearn added, because it allows companies like his to do automation and orchestration, transforming customer environments into private clouds.

As they prepare to bring Workspace Cloud to customers, both Young and Kearn told CRN they are attentively following the boardroom drama involving Citrix and Elliott Management.

"I understand the concerns," Young said. "We're definitely faced with weekly fear, uncertainty, doubt from the customer perspective as to the future of Citrix."

A lot of that, however, can just be competitors being opportunistic and taking potshots.

"It's definitely exploitative in nature. I've worked with Citrix for a long time, I know they'll definitely make it out on the other end. But it does have the impact of affecting our business in the short term," he said. "Customers are watching the media as well."


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