While Desktops as a Service (DaaS) can provide infrastructure-free access to Windows apps, there are still challenges:
- How to upload and manage custom Windows applications and images in the cloud.
- How to provision unique applications to different users.
- How to manage multiple Windows images and keep applications up to date.
Unidesk solves these challenges today for Azure IaaS and Azure RemoteApp. We also enable apps to be seamlessly migrated from on-premises VDI and XenApp/RDSH environments to Azure, without having to build new images or re-package apps. These are two of the reasons we won Best of Citrix Synergy for New Technology at Citrix’s annual conference in May.
Recently, it was announced that Azure RemoteApp is being deprecated, and that Citrix will take over the Microsoft service. Citrix plans to enhance the cloud-based service with its industry-leading XenApp capabilities, and deliver Citrix XenApp Express in 2017. Who can solve the application lifecycle and image management challenges for this new Citrix service? Unidesk, of course!
Let’s take a deeper look at what Azure RemoteApp is, why Microsoft is discontinuing it, and why Citrix is taking it over. I’ll also explain why this is great news for Unidesk; we’re able to extend the new cloud-based capabilities that Citrix is adding to XenApp and accelerate adoption of the service.
Azure RemoteApp - Run Windows Apps Anywhere
When Azure RemoteApp was first announced in 2014, the industry was excited that Microsoft had entered the Desktop as a Service (DaaS) market. But the service didn’t fit the traditional definition of DaaS, as there was no desktop presented to the user. Only applications were published to users.
Azure RemoteApp was architected as a cloud service that hosts Windows-based applications in Azure. The apps could be accessed using the Remote Desktop client on a variety of platforms. The same type of RemoteApp (RDSH) solution that IT Pros had been using on-premises for years could now be deployed without having to purchase, configure and maintain complex back-end infrastructure.
Azure RemoteApp offered two deployment options: Once the solution was deployed, users could seamlessly work on a variety of clients with access to the same data and resources.
- Cloud Deployment – all data and resources are run in the cloud. Applications and data are hosted in Azure.
- Hybrid Deployment – applications are run in Azure, but data and resources can be stored back on-premises.
Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVP) and Citrix Technology Professionals (CTPs) such as Benny Tritsch and Freek Berson have accurately captured the market sentiment about Azure RemoteApp. Although they really appreciated the ‘promise’ of the service, they just didn’t think the service was enterprise ready. From Freek’s blog post Azure RemoteApp is being deprecated, Microsoft partnering up with Citrix to create the next iteration on Azure in spirit of Azure RemoteApp:
- "What does it really mean to take an Azure RemoteApp Collection into production?" Our conclusion in those sessions was that Azure RemoteApp could work in smaller use cases and we explained why we believed Azure RemoteApp was not enterprise ready.
In his post My Take on Microsoft’s Announcement to Retire Azure RemoteApp, Benny Tritsch outlines some of the issues with the service, including an architecture that negatively impacted performance, and hindered usage in enterprise deployments.
- Despite the great idea, ARA has several architectural shortcomings and missing features that negatively influence scalability, load balancing, user assignment, administrator experience and application management. It’s a great solution for application testing, demo environments, proof-of-concept installations and for homogeneous groups with less than 500 users and only small application sets.
While the industry was positive about the Azure RemoteApp solution, there were issues that only enabled the solution to be effective in smaller deployments.
The recommitment of the partnership between Citrix and Microsoft is promising news for the future of desktop virtualization and Azure RemoteApp.
Respected tech journalist, Mary Jo Foley has a good overview of the announcement in her post Citrix replacement for Microsoft Azure RemoteApp is coming in 2017. It explains how Microsoft’s strategy moving forward is to concentrate on developing the underlying desktop virtualization components, RDS and RDP, to ensure that the many solutions that build on these components have a scalable, high-performance platform.
Citrix will focus on creating the additional features and functionality needed by large organizations to provide true enterprise-grade cloud-based solutions.
Per the Microsoft Partner blog there are three options for Azure RemoteApp users going forward:
- Citrix XenApp Express that is currently under development
- Remote Desktop Services deployed on Azure IaaS that you can deploy today to deliver cloud hosted remote desktops and applications (Unidesk supports this now to make app and image management easy)
- Third party solutions such as MyCloudIT that can help you automate Azure desktop hosting
At the Synergy conference, Citrix announced it is embracing Azure and delivering Windows 10 desktops in the cloud. Now they’re taking Azure RemoteApp to the next level. Citrix excels at creating enterprise-ready solutions, and plans to do just that for Windows applications in the cloud with the new and improved Citrix XenApp Express.
Unidesk Fills App Lifecycle Management Gap
A missing component in the Citrix/Microsoft strategy is seamless application lifecycle and image management for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid deployments. Multiple images must still be patched and updated for XenApp and VDI regardless of where they are hosted. Application packaging is still difficult. It gets even worse for hybrid implementations, where apps and images have to be managed separately on-premises and in the cloud, adding cost and complexity.
Unidesk addresses this missing component. We’re the only solution that eliminates image management inefficiencies in XenApp/RDSH and VDI environments today. We’re also the only solution that’s Azure Certified and available in the Azure Marketplace to solve the same challenges for Azure IaaS.
Unidesk is available in the Azure Marketplace.
Plus, we have the unique ability to seamlessly migrate apps from on-premises XenApp and XenDesktop deployments to Azure. Package an app once with Unidesk, and it’s portable across any cloud or hypervisor, including Azure, Hyper-V, and vSphere (and soon XenServer and Nutanix AHV); any workspace delivery solution including Horizon, RDS, XenApp, XenDesktop, or Workspot; or any provisioning solution including Citrix Provisioning Services, Citrix Machine Creation Services, and VMware View Composer. This gives you the agility to adopt any infrastructure or switch infrastructures without disrupting your application and user experiences.
There is great promise for these new cloud-based solutions, and I’m looking forward to seeing the Citrix XenApp Express and Windows 10 cloud-based desktop solutions. The exciting news is that Unidesk can help you manage these cloud migrations simply and effectively, giving you the flexibility to select what’s best for your enterprise.
What are your thoughts of Citrix developing the next version of Microsoft Azure RemoteApp? Write a comment to let us know!