Congrats to Citrix… Welcome to layering… uh, well, congrats on having A Layer.

Posted by Ron Oglesby on Aug 12, 2011

Wednesday at 4PM Eastern Citrix announced it had acquired Ringcube. I will talk geek here in a minute, but this was probably one of the worst kept secrets in the VDI world in the last year or so. Brian Madden had an article a week ago about a possible acquisition. And he mentioned HOW he figured it out in his Live radio show.

Of course once it was announced twitter lit up for those of us in the Desktop/RDS space. Harry Labana from AppSense (formally of Citrix) had a tweet exactly 5 minutes after 4:00.  Then of course came the atta-boys, the talk of personalization layers and even the talk (led by Harry and AppSense) about Department Installed Apps or DIAs.

While I think this is a decent pickup for Citrix, I summed up my feeling (in under 140 characters) with this:

Funny... User installed apps, DIAs, full personalization... Big guys didn’t want to talk about this until 1 hour ago. Unidesk... 2+ years.

So basically Citrix is admitting there is a hole in VDI. As I and many others that have been around centralized desktops for a while have pointed out…. VDI without full personalization should be a set of load balanced terminal servers. Of course Citrix and VMware haven’t acknowledged this “problem” until Citrix purchased Ringcube. Now it’s out there for all to see and discuss and I am sure Citrix will now parrot something we have been saying for a while:

In order for VDI to really succeed you have to get beyond locked down desktops and task workers. You have to support one-off apps, locally installed apps and web plug-ins. You have to let the user HAVE A DAMN DESKTOP not some locked down session that we could supply in 2001 via Terminal Server. You need to expand the use cases and centralize more… without trading off either single image management OR personalization OR adding a ton of storage.

And now… the world and the analysts have to figure out what all this means.

Technology wise? Is this good or bad for Unidesk and your, politically incorrect geek, Ron.

Good! Ringcube is a layer.

Now RingCube is not Unidesk to be sure. But it IS a layer. Harry Labana’s take on this is that it allows for one off, small audience apps to be installed right into the Ringcube layer. He calls these Departmental Installed Apps.  These are apps that take too much time and effort to virtualize but are needed by the users moving to VDI. Chris Midgley talked a little about the need to deal with apps and other persistent items within the desktop in this article.

So are one-off apps a big deal? Sure. They are actually one of the biggest blockers in VDI.  Even Gartner says so (note HVD – Hosted Virtual Desktops – is their term for VDI):

“It’s not just about letting users install their own applications,” said Terry Cosgrove, Principal Research Analyst, Mobile and Client Computing, Gartner. “It’s about all the one-off, non-standard applications that IT installs for users that make non-persistent HVD unrealistic for most users. Solutions that permit application personalization and that sustain other types of desktop customizations are essential if HVD projects are to succeed.”

But is a single personalization layer the answer to this? No.

If you have 10 desktops that need Quickbooks, do you virtualize QuickBooks to deliver it?  No, probably not worth it.  IT would just install it 10 times in the PC world.  In the new Citrix/RingCube VDI world, IT can now log into each VDI desktop and install the app into each personalization layer.  Doing this 10 times is bad enough… but how does the app get updated? Standard desktop Patching/Updating? SCOM? On top of the cloning mechanism? What if you have 50 apps that are like this? Or 250?

Or, if you have a user that creates a conflict between something they have installed in their layer and something IT has in the base image, how is that resolved? With layering only at the personalization level (like RingCube) you now have a conflict between registry and file system entries located in two different technologies with no bridge between them and no way to resolve other than to either kill the personalization layer (start over/kill everything the user has done) or get a desktop guy to get in there and fix it manually (at very high cost for Level 2 and 3 admins, says Gartner).

This is why layering needs to be done from the OS up.

Unidesk handles these conflicts by putting the OS, Applications and Personalization ALL in layers, in one technology. Conflicts that cause user problems can be resolved from a single place and IT can even decide to override items in the user layer with IT settings and files from IT created layers. This is great for the one off apps that get installed wild west style and later get put into an application layer and become IT-managed.

So is the Ringcube acquisition a good thing? Yes. The first step in solving a problem is to admit that there is one. With this acquisition Citrix is telling the world there is a hole in VDI. This will elevate the conversations around VDI where they need to be now that layering technology has been accepted by one of the “big boys”.  Did Citrix slay the giant with this one stone? Nope. But at least they’ve started the process.

Anytime layering is adopted it's a good thing. Good luck guys!

Posted by Ron Oglesby on Aug 12, 2011

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