User Virtualization Vendor AppSense Lands Key Citrix Exec


AppSense, a pioneer in the user virtualization space, tackles the IT challenge of preserving and managing an employee's personal workspace across a range of different devices and connection scenarios, whether the desktop is locally installed, virtualized, published, or streamed. Not only is AppSense's technology ideal for desktop migrations, it also helps maintain user profiles across virtual, cloud and mobile user environments.

Labana, who joined Citrix in 2009, is still bullish on desktop virtualization but sees AppSense poised on the brink of something just as big.

"User virtualization represents the next generation of evolution of desktop virtualization because it enables many different desktop models to be considered simultaneously, such as VDI, hosted shared desktop, server based computing," Labana said in an interview.

The profile management capability that AppSense brings offers organizations a way to lower TCO and wring greater efficiency from virtualization today, and it also sets them up for the future, according to Labana.

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"It's not just the different Windows desktop models, it's also cloud and SaaS apps, mobile apps, and how to bring those experiences to users, devices and desktops," Labana said. "The future desktop will be a mashup of all these legacy apps and services, so the more we understand about the environment the more agility we can acquire."

AppSense was founded in 1999, but it wasn't until Goldman Sachs decided to invest $70 million in the company in February that people outside the virtualization sphere began to take notice.

Some of AppSense's competitors also fall within the upstart category: Philadelphia-based RES Software was also founded in 1999, while Liquidware Labs, which last week named Jason Mattox, a 15-year virtualization industry veteran, as its new CTO, was founded in 2002.

The surging interest around user virtualization, and the older age of the incumbent players, raises the question why the larger virtualization players haven't developed the technology on their own.

Labana notes that big players have, in fact, begun to move in this direction: Citrix User Profile Manager comes from technology acquired in 2008 from Sepago, VMware is in the process of integrating technology from its acquisition last February of RTO Software into VMware View, while Microsoft calls it user state virtualization and bundles it into Windows.

The different between these offerings and AppSense is technical sophistication, Labana said. "When you get to the level where print mapping and group policy management is in the user environment, this requires a lot more granular control. The technology needs to be more sophisticated," he said.

In addition to technical expertise, Labana also brings AppSense a fiery disposition and a willingness to engage rivals in public debates around the topic of virtualization. In February, Labana accused VMware of using "underhanded tactics" by inferring in a press release that its desktop virtualization offers the same cost benefits as so-called server-based computing.