Citrix Acquires Unidesk

At the Citrix Summit conference in Anaheim, California, yesterday, President and CEO Kirill Tatarinov announced the acquisition of Unidesk. Congratulations, Citrix, on a fine acquisition!

Applications are by far the most complex aspect of a virtualized environment, and the work effort associated with maintaining applications is often underestimated. Because vendors frequently release application updates, both minor and major, administrators expend many hours playing catch-up in order to keep applications up to date.

Unidesk focuses on a flexible application layering technology that can be applied to base images and specific resources, also called elastic layers. Further, Unidesk’s application layering technology can easily be applied to all types of virtualized environments, including the cloud, which makes it an ideal fit for Citrix.

Citrix announced that it will be included with XenApp/XenDesktop but will also remain for sale as an independent product for VMware and Microsoft environments. It is expected to be generally available later this quarter.

Application layering is the latest technology to address separating the application from the operating system. Numerous technologies have tried to address application complexities over the years, and Unidesk appears to be the best solution to date.

App Virtualization and Streaming

App-V held the promise of enabling administrators to package applications such that they could be put into a library and then be applied where and when necessary. App-V was conceptually great but realistically fell short due to the overhead and complexity associated with creating and maintaining packages. While some applications packaged flawlessly and without tweaking, there were many that required time and expertise to function correctly.

Citrix introduced its own Application Streaming feature with XenApp 6.0 and then declined to append it to XenDesktop 7.x. While the inherent Citrix feature reduced the overhead required to package applications, it likewise included a significant amount of complexity that was unwelcome and ultimately not widely accepted.

Five to ten years ago, application virtualization and streaming were touted as the ultimate application deployment solution, and some organizations went so far as packaging all of their applications this way. It still has some use cases, but these seem to be giving way to application layering.

App Layering

Citrix originally started down the layering path six years ago with the acquisition of RingCube in 2011. This technology was folded into XenDesktop 5.5 as Personal vDisk, more commonly known as PvD. PvD was seen as an alternative to allocating persistent desktops for each user, which is laden with a significant amount of disk space and management. Instead, by using PvD, administrators were able to designate a common, static VDI image for everyone along with a personal disk for users to independently install applications, as well as space for the user profile.

PvD enables administrators to focus on the major applications and allow users to address specific application requirements on their own. Although PvD can be a bit quirky, this use case is still an important one.

App Layering is a “bolt-on” type solution and was introduced in XenDesktop 7.8. Citrix clearly acknowledged that it was a basic feature; it was easily recognized that other vendors provided more robust app layering solutions. Obviously, we know now that Citrix has conceded its own AppDisks feature in favor of Unidesk.

Unidesk…Much More than App Layering

While many focus on the app layering capabilities of Unidesk, the user personalization features are just as powerful. Conceptually, the Personal vDisk solution was spot-on, and the Unidesk functionality will take that solution to the next level with its user personalization features.

What this means is that within a Citrix environment, the Unidesk solution enables administrators to mix and match the applications that are made available to users, as well as allowing individual users to install their own apps and have the user profile follow them. From the administrator standpoint, this means that the use case for individual persistent virtual desktops is minimized or even eliminated.

From a cost standpoint, this is a giant leap forward. Although storage costs have been reduced significantly, offering persistent desktops to users represents a massive storage and maintenance cost, whereas common static desktops are less costly and easier to manage. Further, the Unidesk acquisition provides a solid mechanism for administrators to adhere to the 80/20 rule: i.e., focus on 80% of the applications that are common within the enterprise and allow users to self-service the remaining 20% of the applications.

Unidesk is definitely a home run for Citrix!

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