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Channeling the Cloud

On Citrix Going 'All In' with Microsoft in Cloud

Given Citrix's history with Microsoft and its decision to tap a former Microsoft president as its new CEO, it should come as little surprise the company is borrowing from Microsoft's script.

The relationship between Citrix and Microsoft goes back more than 25 years, but as both companies look to bring their respective customers and traditional channel partners to the cloud, they're embarking on their most extensive and symbiotic pact to date.

Microsoft Azure is the common denominator in the new multifaceted partnership announced in late May at the annual Citrix Synergy technology conference. Given the companies' history and the Citrix decision earlier this year to tap former Microsoft President Kirill Tatarinov as its new CEO, it should come as little surprise the company is borrowing from Redmond's script. Tatarinov, who led Microsoft's Dynamics business and later its Office group, announced that Citrix is going "all-in" with plans to offer its entire product portfolio of products as a service.

Azure will be the strategic cloud to deliver on that plan, which will bring Citrix-branded services that include VDI-enabled Windows 10 via XenDesktop, Office 365 and Skype for Business offered through XenApp, and integration of ShareFile with OneDrive and SharePoint Online. The two companies will also integrate and embed distinct features of their respective enterprise mobility management offerings -- Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) and Citrix XenMobile.

It's noteworthy that Citrix will be the first to offer Windows 10 as a service from the Azure public cloud using its existing software licenses. Using the Windows 10 Enterprise edition with the Current Branch for Business, customers will be able to deploy the VDI images on a multi-tenant architecture for the first time. Citrix hasn't said when the service will be generally available, but a technical preview is expected shortly.

The Citrix move to offer its core products both on-premises and as cloud services is good for customers, but like others who have gone this route, it puts the company in competition with its own cloud solution providers (CSPs), ranging from the likes of Amazon Web Services and IBM Softlayer to hundreds of regional managed services providers (MSPs). Kimberly Martin, VP of Worldwide Partner Sales & Strategy at Citrix, insists it won't disrupt the CSP program.

The Citrix Cloud, which was originally named Workspace Cloud when it rolled out last year, will appeal to the traditional systems integrator and VAR channel communities that have yet to extend their own on-premises offerings to the cloud, according to Martin. A program that is under development and internally known as "Project Lighthouse" will enable partners to offer managed services and will be unveiled at the annual Citrix partner summit in January.

The program will include a "bridge plan" to help current Citrix Solution Advisor (CSA) partners make the transition from offering traditional on-premises services to managed services. Given that most Citrix partners also are Microsoft partners and that both companies are creating bridges among their own products, the shift should be relatively straightforward. However, in recent years Citrix has had trouble leveraging the channel to grow its customer base, critics say. All eyes will be on Project Lighthouse.

More Columns by Jeffrey Schwartz:

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.