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Microsoft-Citrix Pact To Focus on Office 365, Mobile and Cloud

Microsoft and Citrix this week laid out the terms of their partnership, including their plan to combine Microsoft's Azure datacenter solutions with Citrix's virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) offerings.

In an hour-long webcast on Tuesday, Brad Anderson, corporate vice president for Enterprise Clients and Mobility at Microsoft, and Bill Burley, corporate vice president and general manager of Workspace Spaces at Citrix, recapped their companies' strategic approach to that partnership. (The presentation is available on demand here.)

Back in May, Citrix had described the alignment of its Xen virtualization solutions, AppDNA application migration solution and NetScaler load balancing controller with Azure services. Microsoft announced that it would offer Windows 10 as a service hosted from Azure via XenDesktop VDI, without an extra licensing cost for Windows 10 licensees. In addition Microsoft's Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) mobile management suite was announced as supporting Citrix's NetScaler.

As a confirmation of this partnership strategy, Microsoft announced earlier this month that it plans to shut down its Azure RemoteApp service. The service will be supported through Aug. 31, 2017. Microsoft will work to transition its Azure RemoteApp customers over to Citrix's new "XenApp express" application virtualization service. Citrix, for its part, plans to release a Tech Preview of the XenApp express service in Q4 this year, with "general availability in early 2017," according to an announcement.

Calvin Hsu, vice president of marketing at Citrix, said at the end of Tuesday's Web presentation that the XenApp express service would get shown off at the Microsoft Ignite conference coming up next month.

Citrix's Focus
Burley said that Citrix's renewed partnership with Microsoft hinged on four elements: Office 365 services, mobile applications, private and public cloud, and Windows 10 support. Citrix is working to enable a smooth transition to the cloud for organizations, he added.

Citrix has been "delivering Office 365 for years as a service," Burley said, but Skype for Business has become a big part it and Citrix worked about two years ago to improve it architecturally. "And now we're delivering Skype for Business to companies all over the world. ... We're up to 40,000 users (it's a military customer). It's a lot of users, a lot of consumption, a lot of money being saved." Citrix is also helping with Office 365 macro support for Office apps developers, Burley said.

On the mobile side, Citrix found that its customers were consuming more and more mobile apps. They wanted greater flexibility. Citrix is delivering mobile apps such as WorxMail to that end, and also it has Secure Forms, which is being used by police departments around the world because it leverages location information via GPS.

Citrix is committed to public and private cloud support, and it plans to support Windows Server 2016 on Day 1 when it gets released, Burley said. Similarly, Citrix plans to support Windows 10 with XenDesktop and AppDNA. XenDesktop VDI allows Windows 10 to be delivered on Day 1 to an organization because it's centralized, Burley said. It can deliver Windows 10 images in hours rather than weeks, he added.

Citrix also is partnering with Microsoft on the Azure RemoteApp service to add more security with the new XenApp express service. It will be the easiest and fastest way to access apps from the cloud, Burley said. XenApp express will be housed in the Azure Marketplace.

"We'll go Tech Preview later this year," Burley said, regarding XenApp express. "Early next year we'll deliver our first release. We'll have even more features than it has today, and it'll be comparable pricing."

Microsoft's Partnership
Anderson explained that the majority of Microsoft's customers tapping Azure services "were doing it on Citrix." Customers want to leverage what they already know, he explained, regarding the partnership with Citrix. He said that Microsoft currently has more than 34 Azure datacenters, "more than Amazon and Google combined." Citrix has been building on top of that Azure global footprint, he added. Identity is the foundation of modern applications and Citrix has been enabling interaction with Azure Active Directory. Microsoft's EMS modern mobility platform gives organizations the ability to secure data and identities on devices. It's the fastest-selling product in Microsoft's history, Anderson said. EMS enables conditional access for mobile access to applications and Citrix has been integrating into this model, Anderson said.

The NetScaler integration will help bring EMS conditional access policies back to an organization's premises-based infrastructure, starting sometime next year, according to Anderson.

"We'll now be able to set conditional access policies based upon users, apps and devices through EMS," Anderson said. "As well, the integration we're doing with NetScaler is going to allow us to set conditional access policies back to your on-premises apps and data where NetScaler will be EMS enabled and will enforce that conditional access at the edge of your company. Look for all of that work to come out from Microsoft and Citrix in early 2017."

The Citrix Receiver client installation solution has already been added to EMS to enable it for single sign-on and automated user provisioning. That's available in EMS today, Anderson added. During the Q&A portion of the Web presentation, he also mentioned that beginning sometime next year, Citrix is planning to add its XenMobile mobile management solution to Azure.

Burley, in response to a question, said that Citrix and Microsoft aren't planning to charge customers double. The pricing would get "normalized," he added.

The session was moderated by Maribel Lopez, founder of Lopez Research and the Mobile Research Council. She offered a few stats from a recent survey on organizational attitudes. She said that that 75 percent of organizations surveyed found that securing applications across devices and clouds was considered to be a major challenge. There were 72 percent that listed mobile as a top concern. The survey found that 65 percent were evaluating cloud efforts. More than half of the companies surveyed were looking at Windows 10 upgrades happening sometime in 2017, she said.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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