Citrix Systems makes a living selling infrastructure software that manages the virtualization of servers and desktops and that bridges the gaps between those devices in a number of different and clever ways. This is, in essence, what Citrix has been doing for decades, even though the landscape of that infrastructure has changed dramatically over the years.
At its Synergy 2015 conference this week in Orlando, Florida, the company is rolling out its Workspace Cloud, the culmination of years of acquisitions and developments that brings together the myriad pieces of its stack to automate the deployment and management of its arsenal of systems software. With this launch, Citrix is beginning to transform its infrastructure business from one where it sells systems software and access licenses to one where it sells subscriptions to use a management service that can deploy its own software as well as that of others to private or public clouds.
The Workspace Cloud is itself an example of a cloud-based application that runs across different infrastructure and platform services, in this case on the Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services public clouds, Joe Vaccaro, senior director in charge of Workspace Cloud, explains. Many of the services that comprise the Workspace Cloud management tool were written in Microsoft’s .NET runtime and make use of Active Directory identity management, and the close ties to the Microsoft desktop and server platform is not at all surprising given the long history of Citrix collaborating with Microsoft to stream applications from the datacenter to devices.
While The Next Platform knows full well that these desktop and mobile applications – and out constant use of the applications that run on mobile devices in particular – are in part responsible for the deluge in data that companies are keeping and sorting through to gain some insight and for the increasing compute capacity that companies need to chew through that telemetry, the interesting bits for us are how a tool like Workspace Cloud can be used to not just deploy infrastructure such as the XenServer hypervisor, the XenApp application streamer, the XenDesktop virtual desktop broker, and the XenMobile mobile application broker, but other kinds of infrastructure software that companies might want to deploy in their own datacenters, on the public clouds, or both.
And as it turns out, even though the name of the future Workspace Cloud implies it is only aimed at managing the infrastructure behind end user application bundles streamed to their devices, it turns out that the core lifecycle management software embedded in Workspace Cloud can be used to deploy and manage all kinds of server workloads.
The reason why this is the case is that the Lifecycle Management module in the Workspace Cloud service is none other than a slightly re-engineered version of the Xpert server administration tool that ScaleXtreme created and that Citrix acquired last May. ScaleXtreme was founded by Nand Mulchandani, who was formerly the CEO at OpenDNS and before that was senior director of product management and marketing at VMware, and Balaji Srinivasa, who was a software engineer at BladeLogic (part of BMC) working on system and virtualization management tools. Mulchandani, who is vice president of marketing for cloud software at Citrix these days, gave The Next Platform a tour of the inner workings of the Workspace Cloud tools, which are being previewed now. (Pricing and availability for Workspace Cloud was not divulged, but presumably it will ship before the end of the year.)
In a sense, even though Citrix is not talking about this, it has created a service that not only masks the deployment of applications from a variety of internal infrastructure, public clouds, and SaaS services to create a workspace for end users, but it also has a tool that can do the same thing for raw infrastructure. Mulchandani showed off the 110-step blueprint inside of the Lifecycle Management feature of Workspace Cloud that tells it how to deploy the XenDesktop broker to a production environment, and these same blue prints can be created for other applications – including the deployment of something as complex as a Hadoop cluster if customers want to do that.
“Back when we were an independent company, ScaleXtreme had large enterprise customers building large server blueprints, and many were autoscaling applications on Amazon Web Services, and a number of the largest AWS customers were using us for monitoring and server management,” says Mulchandani. The Workspace Cloud software comes with a gateway that allows the management service to deploy to internal IT infrastructure as well as to public clouds. At the moment, Workspace Cloud can deploy to AWS and Azure public clouds and to internal infrastructure deployed on VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix XenServer and/or CloudPlatform, the commercialized version of the Apache CloudStack cloud controller that is controlled by Citrix and that competes with OpenStack.
There is no indication as yet that Citrix will release a variant of the Workspace Cloud tool that is only tuned up to manage server-side applications, and that would be defeating the purpose of having a single tool that can do both. But if enough customers ask for it, Citrix could break it free and sell it separately. In a sense, this would bring ScaleXtreme’s Xpert full circle.