Can Citrix Make Any Windows App or Desktop a Cloud Service?

By , IDG News Service |  Virtualization

Citrix is focused on helping enterprises deal with the challenge of running desktops and applications in a new mobile-centric world where tablets and smartphones proliferate.

"The technologies that we have, including application and desktop virtualization, allow companies to deliver applications to any type of device with control and security," says CTO Martin Duursma.

The Company: Citrix Systems

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

Employees: 6,936

2011 Revenue: $2.21 billion

CEO: Mark Templeton

What They Do: Citrix offers products for virtualizing desktops, servers and applications, along with products for building private or public clouds. The lineup includes XenDesktop for desktop virtualization, NetScaler for cloud networking, and CloudPlatform for cloud computing. Its portfolio also includes GoTo collaboration services.

In addition, Citrix will be rolling out Project Avalon, which aims to transform any Windows application or desktop into a cloud service that's delivered across any network, to any device. It will also offer integrated management.

"Just like cloud platforms allow enterprises to industrialize the way that enterprises do compute and storage workloads, Avalon is bringing some of that technology to Windows applications and desktops," says Duursma.

The Catch: Complexity

Citrix's biggest strength is that it offers multiple delivery models for applications and desktops. But that flexibility comes at a cost, since enterprises have to use multiple consoles to manage those technologies. That is Citrix's biggest weakness, according to Brett Waldman, an analyst at IDC (a unit of CIO's parent company).

Nathan Hill, an analyst at Gartner, agrees: "The feedback we are getting is that it can still be quite complex to configure and deploy a Citrix architecture."

Project Avalon aims to fix this. A recent IDC report said that the cloud offering "will finally bring a unified interface to managing the different client virtualization products Citrix has created or acquired." But it remains to be seen how well Citrix can execute that vision.

While there is a lot of customer interest in running desktops in the cloud, software licensing has to change. "One of the big barriers to any service provider trying to offer a virtualized desktop service is how Microsoft licenses access to a Windows OS," Hill says.

Project Avalon Gets Personal

Citrix claims that Project Avalon will allow CIOs to rapidly deploy personalized Windows applications and desktops in a private cloud across multiple sites, and to use public clouds in a capacity-on-demand fashion to support business initiatives such as business continuity, offshoring projects, or integrating mergers and acquisitions.

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