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Microsoft Replacing Azure RemoteApp with New Citrix XenApp 'Express'

Microsoft is in the process of replacing its 2-year-old Azure RemoteApp service for a new solution that it is currently developing with strategic partner Citrix called XenApp "express."

Azure RemoteApp was first unveiled at Microsoft's 2014 TechEd conference and has been generally available since December 2014. It was designed to be an online alternative to remote desktop Windows application services and Microsoft's application virtualization (AppV) technology.

On Friday, however, Microsoft announced in a blog post that it is planning to shut down Azure RemoteApp at the end of August 2017 as it works with Citrix to build extended virtual Windows desktop and application services via the Azure-hosted Citrix cloud.

Microsoft and Citrix announced a broad expansion of their decades-long partnership back in May. At that time, Citrix said it had agreed to use Azure as the foundation for its new portfolio of services. Kirill Tatarinov, Citrix's new CEO and a former Microsoft executive, pledged to move all of Citrix's core software offerings -- including Xen Desktop, XenApp and NetScaler -- to the cloud. The move to replace Azure RemoteApp with a jointly developed product is part of this effort, the two companies said.

"Customers have provided us consistent feedback that they want a comprehensive, end-to-end, cloud-based solution for delivering Windows apps," Microsoft said in its announcement. "The best way for us to deliver this is with Citrix through XenApp 'express,' currently under development. XenApp 'express' combines the simplicity of application remoting and the scalability of Azure with the security, management, and performance benefits of XenApp, to deliver Windows applications to any employee on any device."

Microsoft plans to continue to operate and support Azure RemoteApp through Aug. 31, 2017, and said that it is working with customers on a transition plan. Microsoft will stop offering new Azure RemoteApp purchases on Oct. 1, 2016.

A technical preview of XenApp "express" is expected to arrive from Citrix in the fourth quarter of 2016, with general availability set for early next year.

In a blog post, Bill Burley, corporate vice president and general manager of Citrix's Workspace Services Business Unit, described XenApp "express" as Azure "RemoteApp 2.0," in that it will provide the "simplicity and speed" of Azure RemoteApp with the core functions of Citrix XenApp. According to Burley, the collaboration is part of Citrix's new cloud focus that is centered around simplifying the delivery of virtualized desktop and application as a service.

"The Citrix Cloud XenApp and XenDesktop service provides our enterprise customers with superior performance and flexibility by moving the backend infrastructure to the cloud," Burley noted. "Now Citrix can combine the power and flexibility of our Citrix Cloud platform including the industry-leading HDX user experience and extend the original simple, prescriptive, and easy-to-consume vision of Microsoft Azure RemoteApp by orchestrating the applications in the cloud as well. This offering will radically simplify app delivery without sacrificing management or end user experience."

Burley also said Citrix and Microsoft are developing and delivering the new service in tandem with the planned XenDesktop for Windows on Azure service, which Citrix announced back in May at its Synergy conference.

"By integrating all these efforts across the board, both Citrix and Microsoft will be able to drive down the cost of app and desktop delivery while still providing enhanced security, management and application performance from one of the industry's largest public clouds: Microsoft Azure," Burley said.

In addition to XenApp "express," customers could opt for Remote Desktop Services deployed on Azure IaaS or work with Microsoft's hosting partners. It was not immediately clear how, or even if, Microsoft and its partners will sell XenApp "express."

The two companies said they will provide more information on XenApp "express" in the coming months, including at Microsoft's Ignite conference in September.

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.

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