ORLANDO: While Citrix's Synergy 2015 conference was a flurry of product releases and updates, few announcements really galvanised the 12,000 delegates packed into the Orange Country conference centre in Orlando.
The extension of XenApp 6.5‘s life to 2017 received applause from the crowd, while the new concierge feature for Receiver received a few approving whoops.
But overall the conference followed a theme of Citrix evolving its products rather than shaking up its portfolio.
In an interview with V3, David Johnson, principal analyst at Forrester, said such an approach was no bad thing for Citrix.
"What they are doing is making relatively small but pragmatic improvements across the product line and none of them alone are ground-breaking, but haul them together and you improve the experience and satisfaction that Citrix customers will have," he said.
Head in the cloud
What did catch Johnson's eye was the reveal of Citrix Workspace Cloud (CWC), a single service that acts as a cloud-hosted control layer to deploy and manage virtualisation across user-selected clouds.
"It helps paint a picture for the next generation, if you will, of the digital workspace as Citrix sees it," he said, noting how the company is exploring the cloud as a way to bolster the services it offers customers.
Johnson (pictured left) said that when it launches in June, CWC will offer Citrix customers a way to set up virtual workspaces without the hassle of managing complex IT infrastructures.
"What's important is removing a pretty significant barrier to adoption for conventional digital workspace technologies," he said.
"Right now when companies think about a desktop virtualisation initiative of any kind, they know that they have a lot of research to do, they know they have a lot of work to do to set up the environment, to procure hardware, to get everything set up and configured and learn how to operate and manage it.
"Those are all expensive activities that need specialist skills. If [companies] can remove the operational side of infrastructure, then it's easier for them to adopt and do something quickly.
"But the platform has to be sophisticated enough as well to do things like support multiple different users, but still get IT out of managing the infrastructure."
Johnson said Citrix can offer that service, calling CWC a "pretty powerful platform".
Christian Reilly, chief technology officer of Workspace Services at Citrix, understandably echoed Johnson's comments and told V3: "It's really about helping customers remove complexity and add speed."
Steps to the cloud
V3 noted that by offering a cloud-hosted management layer rather than a full end-to-end cloud-powered virtualisation service, Citrix could be enticing customers not already using cloud platforms to move in that direction.
Given that CWC supports control of virtualisation on both on-premise and multiple cloud deployments, it may effectively act as a stepping stone to the cloud for companies that are still reluctant to abandon their legacy infrastructure.
Reilly agreed, in part: "We're not saying [customers] have to go to Citrix Workspace Cloud but we're trying to point out that there are significant value points to going that way."
Johnson said that CWC should make it easier for IT teams to set up virtualised workspaces, and therefore could also help pave the way to deeper cloud adoption.
"It does make it easier for companies to develop a cloud strategy for their desk environment," he said. "Nobody wants to manage Windows PCs anymore; they don't want that cost or complexity.
"If they can provide more flexibility and get out of the PC management business by moving to a cloud-type model then that's pretty compelling."
Given Citrix spent most of Synergy 2015 bulking out its product portfolio, V3 asked Reilly how Citrix plans to develop CWC after its launch.
"Once we get some good traction behind [CWC] we will be figuring out which services to add as part of that," he answered.
"I think it's a very clear statement that our intent is to look at cloud first as a very viable option; the short-term roadmap will include the addition of features as and when we get the market on board."
Johnson said he sees Citrix continuing this trend of expanding its portfolio to offer customers more options and flexibility rather than surprise them with a radical new product.
"Citrix has made some investments in user experience and that's an area where it continues to maintain high ground - that's where its golden goose is - it spends a lot there to innovate and do that, and that's what I see Citrix continuing to do," he concluded.
Workspace Cloud demo appears ( by applause ) very well received by attendees #CitrixSynergy— Bob Egan (@bobegan) May 12, 2015
With positive reactions to all of Citrix's announcements, it would appear that the company is on a winning path with incremental innovations.
However, it is worth noting that on the software side of IT, few companies can afford to rest on their laurels unless they wish to be rapidly left behind; particularly if your rival is virtualisation giant VMware.
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