Citrix shifts to the cloud with new Azure-based virtual desktop services

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Cloud computing is dominating the agenda at Citrix Systems Inc.’s annual partner summit today in Anaheim, California, as the desktop virtualization giant is unveiling services aimed at helping customers of its on-premises software switch to a more modern “as-a-service” model.

At the center of the new services is XenDesktop Essentials, a platform for creating cloud-based employee workspaces. The system makes it possible to migrate Windows 10 licenses that a company has installed on its internal hardware to Microsoft Corp.’s Azure platform.

According to Citrix, the idea is to save customers the hassle of installing and maintaining in-house virtual desktop infrastructure. Workspaces deployed on Azure using XenDesktop Essentials are instead managed through a service called Citrix Cloud that the company introduced last May. The platform doubles as a control layer for XenApp, the firm’s remote application delivery software, which is coming to Azure as well.

This means that organizations will soon be able to deliver both employees’ virtual desktops and back office applications from Microsoft’s cloud. Moreover, Citrix is pairing the new services with an upgrade for its Smart Tools suite that adds new capabilities for easing the management of such remote deployments. The additions are designed to make the transition from on-premises software to cloud operations as easy as possible for customers.

That’s essential for several reasons. The biggest is that Citrix’s enterprise clients rely on its software to support some of their most technology infrastructure, meaning any major change must be handled delicately to avoid business disruptions. Then there’s the fact that on-premises users have a lot of capital invested in their existing deployments, which Citrix hopes to address with a new trade-up program for swapping licenses.

It’s all part of an ambitious cloud push from the company that is similar to what Microsoft and other major technology providers have executed in recent years. Citrix Chief Executive Kirill Tatarinov, who came aboard last January, not coincidentally headed the technology giant’s Office 365 division before switching companies. He was hired after activist investor Elliott Management Corp. bought a stake in Citrix and started calling for changes to its competitive strategy.

It remains to be seen whether Tatarinov’s cloud push will reach all of its intended goals. Citrix is facing intense competition from bigger providers such as VMware Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. that offer their own managed desktop virtualization services. But it’s another step to address the growing industry shift away from on-premises software.

Image courtesy of Citrix