Last week, Citrix announced their revamped Workspace app had made it to general availability. The release brings with it our first view of personalised workflows, showing how they have integrated last year’s acquisition of Sapho and gives us a clear view on how Citrix see the future of the workspace and ITs role in delivering business value. So why do Citrix and others believe this is so important? What benefits will it bring your users and ultimately your business.
Strap lines offering the ability to access to applications, desktops and data from anywhere no longer garner much interest. We’ve been saying it for so long that the Leonard Rossiter Cinzano reference is almost entirely unknown to the audiences that I present to and I have promised never mention it again. The problem users are wrestling with now is managing the bombardment of information that they now receive from an increasing number of platforms that were meant to make our lives easier. Citrix Workspaces approaches this by filtering relevant information in their Intelligent Feed and using personalised workflows that can automate complex tasks across multiple applications into a single click. Solve this ‘Digital Interference’ problem and you go a long way to making the user experience better and so ultimately more productive.
By 2021, IDC Predicts that 60 percent of Global 2000 companies will have adopted a future-workspace model — a flexible, intelligent, collaborative virtual/physical work environment. That seems to support the move to unified endpoint management delivering fluidity across devices and the reduction in reliance on the operating system, even from Microsoft. At the launch of the new Surface Duo and Neo back in October Satya Nadella said, “The operating system is no longer the most important layer for us”. It’s obviously a multi-billion-dollar business, so still quite important, but their future will be in the applications and services they deliver. As well as the APIs they produce to enable other software vendors to integrate with them.
So, what does this mean to users? Booking time off for many people means SAP. Opening a web page, logging in (not forgetting this requires a different username and password from your windows one), navigating the menus to the right area and requesting the dates you want. Closing the page, checking emails to see it’s been approved, noticing that a team member has requested their own holiday that you need to approve, back into the web page you go. Now what if that process could be provided via a micro app? You never need leave your workspace, never need to re-authenticate. Any approvals you need to do are also presented in here. As your Workspace is independent of device approve them from your phone on the way home. This is one example. Citrix Workspaces have integrations into hundreds of Enterprise applications. If they don’t, you can create your own.
It would be remis of me to talk about workspaces without mentioning VMware. Workspace One Intelligence has the same data-driven ethos to focus information for you. It allows the ability to automate processes that you find yourself doing repeatedly and has created an impressive eco-system of security vendors that can integrate to offer the Zero Trust architecture that will be key to securing an increasingly diverse device estate. I’m sure it won’t be long before Microsoft enter this market as well. The next iteration of Microsoft Teams could well deliver that. Whichever vendor you choose to deliver your future workspace with it’s clear that this is another change in the role of IT. One that continues to morph from worrying about locking down and controlling what users can do to one that needs to understand the business and work with users to deliver what they want.
Many of our customers are still wrestling with the challenges of delivering and keeping supported on Windows 10. To them, I’m sure, talk of the operating system becomes less relevant will seem like an oxymoron but once the dust has settled on Windows 7 your people will be working in the same way they always have. ‘Digital Interference’ is a real problem in all our working lives. These workspace solutions will start to solve that and hopefully in the near-future rather than a distant one.
World waits to see what it means.
Microsoft have almost always done virtual desktops, well, published desktops at any rate. So, why, since its announcement at last year’s Microsoft Ignite Conference, has Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) generated such interest? Last week, it was finally released as a public beta, so now we can validate whether WVD is aimed at small and medium businesses or can really compete in the Enterprise space.
Cloud desktop adoption is growing as organisations move more applications out of their datacentres and increase their consumption of SaaS, thus reducing the need to site resources locally. The attraction of the ability to deliver a disaster recovery platform without investing in ageing hardware is a compelling one. Similarly, the ability to deliver any virtualised desktop platform without paying for compute upfront removes a barrier to adoption. So far, VMware and Citrix’s Cloud desktop offerings have tried to remain platform agnostic, so can Microsoft make a success of an offering that limits you to only Azure? Here at four features that may convince you.
If you’re a Microsoft 365 E3/E5, Windows E3/E5 or M365 Business/F1 you are already licensed for it. You will, of course, still need to pay for your Azure VMs and any supporting solutions, but it removes the need for the additional cost of desktop virtualisation licensing.
- Windows 7 support
It should come as no surprise to any of you that Windows 7 goes EOL in January 2020. If you haven’t migrated all your desktops to Windows 10 and wish to remain supported, you are going to have to pay for that extended support unless you migrate those Windows 7 desktops to Azure. With WVD you will continue to receive security patches for the full three-year term, if needed, at no cost.
- Windows 10 multi-user support
Windows 10 multi-user is a feature of Azure, rather than WVD specifically, and will come with native Office 365 support. The expectation is that providing a session-based desktop on a client OS will give greater application compatibility, better GPU integration, and an improved user experience than you get with on a server OS. It also gives you an alternative solution for when support for Office 365 is dropped from Windows Server 2019.
- Office 365 support optimisation
Through Microsoft’s acquisition of FSLogix, WVD offers support for Office 365 in non-persistent desktops through their layering technology. This means you can deliver your desktops in the most cost-effective way while maintaining user experience and performance.
So, this is great, WVD will replace the need for additional licensing from Citrix and VMware? Well, don’t forget Microsoft has always delivered basic services in this area and other vendors have enhanced that functionality for people that needed it. So, is WVD any different? At present, Citrix can sell WVD (there’s a whole other discussion here…) and intend to offer Citrix DaaS as an enhancement but what that means isn’t clear. VMware have yet to make any announcement but continue to develop their own Azure offering to rival Horizon Cloud on AWS.
The Microsoft of today is all about agility. WVD is only at the public beta stage, over the coming weeks and months, we’ll see the product rapidly mature I’m sure. But, and it’s a big but, do you want to put everything into Azure? Every customer I talk to has a multi-cloud strategy. Even those that have gone heavily into Azure are transforming their applications to microservices and containers to simplify their portability. Perhaps Microsoft will look to use Azure Stack to extend their functionality to on-prem. They are unlikely, however, to ever allow you to run workloads in other Clouds. In the past Microsoft had little incentive to make massive investments in RDS because every Citrix or VMware license pulled through a Windows one. Now though, those investments are going to drive Azure consumption. Citrix and VMware both have mature virtualisation solutions that offer flexibility as well as wider desktop portfolios, but will it be enough to fight of this new competition?
If you are looking at a tactical desktop virtualisation project and/or you have decided that Azure is the platform for you, WVD needs to be considered. Let’s not forget that this solution hasn’t even been released yet, but Computacenter are certainly investing time to understand what it means for us and what it will mean for our customers.
I am fresh back from the biggest ever VMworld Europe, buoyed by the numerous announcements and developments in their end-user capabilities. On the back of our strengthening strategic partnership I thought it was time to address that age-old question; which is best Citrix or VMware?
It’s not easy being a consultant. It’s even harder when you don’t work for a vendor and so aren’t invested in a specific technology stack. Yes, I get it, there are worse things in life, but all things are relative. For me, nothing represents that better than organisations asking whether they should choose VMware or Citrix? The response ‘it depends’ is often met with exasperation, but it’s key to everything we do, by focusing on the value to a business and the requirements they are trying to meet.
Back in 2014, VMware bought AirWatch for $1.54 billion; a staggering fifteen times it’s reputed worth. We had already seen the explosion of mobile devices into organisations and the realisation of how much more productive they could make people, but it was also evident that managing mobile devices was a different proposition to managing static PCs.
Pretty soon that was looking like a smart move. However, roll forward to 2018 and the benefits of Mobile Device Management are being exploited across the wider estate. Making the purchase look like a fabulous move. The development of Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) has allowed VMware to talk not just about virtual desktops, not just about mobile devices but the whole end-user estate. With this the focus has shifted just from competing with Citrix to move directly with Microsoft. With virtual desktops constant at around 10% for most customers the bigger opportunity remains the physical world hence the development of Workspace ONE. The prize now is looking beyond the Microsoft ecosystem at how the workplace is becoming more disparate, driven by consumer/colleague choice. This strategic, holistic, vision is now more often what drives solution choice.
In August 2017, VMware bought Apteligent, nine months later they bought E8 Security and delivered Workspace ONE Intelligence to improve user experience, optimise resources and strengthen security and compliance. In May of this year, they announced their strategic partnership with Okta which increased their capabilities to deliver a compelling identity story. I said above that the focus has shifted from Citrix to Microsoft, with these acquisitions and the capabilities they bring, in truth VMware is battling against their partnership.
The decision to remain on a certain virtual platform should be considered alongside how devices will be managed, how identity will be handled, what cloud investment strategy has been decided, which endpoint security requirements you have. Most organisations have existing investments in technology that come up for renewal at different times so changes need to be modular and fit an end vision. They must interact and exist alongside other products until the time is right to retire them. So where do you start? In Workspace ONE I see four opportunities.
Device diversity – organisations are increasingly looking beyond Microsoft Windows to support greater user choice. The drive from Apple and Google into Enterprise organisations is, so far, better supported and has more focus from VMware
Consumerisation of IT – as the consumer world now leads the Enterprise world there is an expectation of a certain user experience and ease of use. Workspace ONE delivers a consistent consumer-like experience across multiple OS platforms and form-factors.
Existing AirWatch investment – where mobile devices are already being managed via AirWatch the ability to extend that management to the primary device estate through a ‘single pane of glass’ can make a strong case for retaining and strategically developing investment in VMware.
Existing virtual desktop and app investment – where VMware Horizon has been deployed the built-in integration into Workspace ONE and potential licence benefits could make the case for deploying the wider portfolio of products. Publishing applications through the Workspace ONE app can be a key driver to greater end-point diversity.
VMware can co-exist with traditional management systems to manage a wide range of devices and form factors. Using analytics, they now have insight into the user experience, with their open security platform they can take advantage off best of breed vendors and with their partnership with Okta they have an identity solution to integrate any application strategy safely and securely. That gives them the capability to offer a direct comparison to Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility and Security suite.
Competition provides benefits for the user and drives vendors to be innovative. If you believe that your future desktop strategy extends beyond the Microsoft world, then Workspace ONE is something you need to consider. Let’s have the conversation, just don’t expect a simple answer.
Now landed back in the UK after yet another very impressive VMworld event (3.30am start for a 5.50 flight – ouch!). It has been a whirlwind few days of executive meetings (a number of really fundamental catch ups), extremely concise and well-formed session content from the VMware team (congrats to all) and potentially our best customer event yet (every year we invite a number of our key customers to spend time with us at VMworld – with nearly 200 people at the Computacenter event I think you can say it was a success).
This VMworld may prove to be a watershed event. VMware reinforced the perspective a software defined future is no longer optional but instead the “new normal” – now. The business agility and operational flexibility essential for ongoing success through the current ever changing digital age is forcing enterprise IT environments to “act like code” to deliver services, consistently at warp speed. Common to other VMworld events, the VMware team demonstrated the technology is ready (and it has been for quite a while), but human inertia continues to stall the growth of the software defined enterprise as the very last few points of concern are digested and overcome.
NSX (the VMware advanced software defined networking layer) is moving from the background to a centre stage role in the VMware enterprise transformation strategy. As the digital data transport layer that simplifies and optimises traditional networking, delivers a policy based pathway from private, through hybrid to public cloud and back plus enhances security along the way – NSX may offer VMware one of the real keys to the enterprise kingdom. But this event wasn’t all about networking, major enhancements to core VSphere to make it enterprise robust but cloud ready arrived on mass and the additional light shone on the devops world with greater support for containers, workflow and API driven operations ensured a welcome and steady stream of impressive announcements.
The arrival of such a blur of product updates and developments are timely. I noticed a change in attitude and tone with the mass of attendees at this VMworld cramming into the rooms of the “how” sessions no longer deliberating over “why and when” – I think they are now ready!!
Does this sign post a VMware only world to realise the enterprise software defined IT dream, definitely not with the vendor village of eco system partners and past and present competitors all offering valuable services and solutions to enable effective completion of the software defined jigsaw puzzle. But it is clear VMware are leading the charge as they have been for many years and present a compelling end to end, top to toe story of software led transformational business change.
I think the needle has now shifted and the brave new world of enterprise IT still running on high performance hardware, but defined dynamically by software is now upon us and will deliver the hybrid cloud digital super highway that will propel businesses forward both now and into the future. Job well done VMware, the stage is now set for partner, customer and industry cast members to act.
Until next time
Chief Technologist Computacenter UK. Networking, Security and collaboration.
Software defined networking (SDN) continues to be a major customer discussion within both the specialist networking and enterprise datacenter arenas. After bubbling under in the mindshare league well below cloud, virtualisation and mobility for quite a while SDN is starting to move up the ranking. However this is not without a fair degree of murmured discontent.
Enterprises, whilst digesting the technical concepts behind SDN are struggling to understand the most effective SDN solution design approach and focus in on the business problem / outcome resolved by SDN. At the highest most strategic level, there are numerous benefits that can include operation efficiencies, network agility and simplicity to name a few. But however compelling they all are, they currently do not seem compelling enough (unless a convenient infrastructure upgrade requirement is often factored into the SDN discussion). This could be the result of looking at something so hard that the some of the more obvious benefits are overlooked and in the case of SDN one said benefits is certainly security.
Networking in software (prior to SDN) had already found its home in the middle of a hypervisor as part of a virtualised compute environment, with the result some degree of understanding of the use of software in enterprise computing to realise networking outcomes is already known. But with the unrelenting growth of server virtualisation beneath a hypervisor with the resulting change to network traffic flows (much of it remaining within the hypervisor or physical host) a hidden challenge became the norm – securing virtualised workloads. The drive by many towards a virtualised enterprise changes decades of traditional design norms of physical perimeter security device placement with the requirement to reproduce a revised ideal for the virtualised workload world.
Enter software defined security (SDS) included within or as a by-product of an SDN strategy. The ability to micro segment virtual workloads using internal virtualised firewalls and controls in software with the reduced need for traffic to flow out of the virtual environment and back to determine the security state is surely a “killer outcome mobilised by SDS or SDN. And before you state it, a secure environment in a virtualised context can be realised today without the use of SDN and software defined security implementation, but SDN makes it much easier, tightly couples it with management and automation frameworks with the result reduced time to value. There are numerous software defined security approaches from standard functionality within specialist SDN overlay networks through to dedicated SDS (software defined security) solutions from specialist vendors with next generation security at the heart. And with enterprises wrestling with the urgent need to secure physical, virtual, hybrid and cloud environments working together as one, a new approach to solving this KEY enterprise IT infrastructure security challenge is surely required.
Software defined security alone isn’t the answer, SDN in isolation isn’t the answer but they are both serious and viable considerations to deliver security outcomes today aligned with problems of tomorrow. To that end, software defined security (SDS) may well be the “killer outcome” that kick starts the SDN change.
Until next time.