You can geek out about exactly what “true” multi-tenancy might mean in a Windows world, or you can recognize the value of Citrix’s comprehensive multi-tenancy options.  The real winners are already using Citrix.

Citrix Service Providers (CSPs) have been offering an array of multi-tenant services for several years.  Many with multiple pricing tiers based not only on the applications available as part of their managed service, but also as a result of Citrix Flexcast and our comprehensive multi-tenancy options for DaaS at all layers of the stack.  All of these options combined enable Citrix based service providers to offer the widest range of value added DaaS services and price points to subscribers in the market today.  In this post we will look at a couple of the factors that have enabled CSPs to be so successful in this emerging market, as well as how our latest Citrix Cloud Provider Pack  is again simplifying the management and delivery of these services to enable lower costs for the CSP and their tenants.

When speaking of Windows Apps and Desktops as a Service the conversation very quickly turns to the question of Multi-tenancy.  Often the question is “Is XenDesktop Multi-tenant”? or my favorite alternative statement from prospects would be more like “But we were told by another vendor that Citrix isn’t Multi-tenant”?  The latter is obvious FUD by Citrix competitors, the first is a legitimate question.  The answer is “Yes, Citrix XenDesktop is Multi-tenant when the Citrix Service Provider Reference Architecture and associated service provider extensions are implemented”.  In fact, for CSPs Citrix offers perhaps the most comprehensive set of multi-tenant options available from a single vendor, across the widest range of platforms, in the market today.  This comprehensive and open platform approach is part of Citrix’s corporate DNA and will continue as the aaS markets evolve.

To understand what we mean by comprehensive multi-tenancy, and why it should be a key consideration when determining the services you offer as a provider, or the offerings available to you in market today as a prospective subscriber of DaaS services, let’s go over some of basics.

From a business perspective, a subscriber or service provider need to understand several parameters in order to determine if the service capabilities offered can be priced appropriately to provide real value to either provider or consumer.  Because Citrix and our partners have been active in the DaaS market for more than a decade we are keenly aware that the “Build it and they will come” mindset, so often assumed by some SP’s when only the technical capabilities of a solution are taken into account, is in many cases an express train to failure unless that mantra is complemented by the questions “Who are they”? And “Do we want to be in that business”?

From a subscriber perspective the oversimplified view of “If we move our desktops to a cloud host it will be cheaper” is an equally naïve approach to leveraging DaaS.  The complementary questions for the subscriber must be “What do I get for the price” and more importantly “What do I need in order to consider DaaS a better alternative”?

Both of these sets of question can be addressed by a sample matrix of considerations we at Citrix have been talking about for years with our partners.

Simply put, there is a continuum of considerations that both providers and subscribers must use to determine the value of the DaaS service.  All of these parameters effect one another, for instance a subscriber may be very sensitive to the price of the offering while not quite so sensitive to the need for customization or self-service administration, this in turn would have the impact of requiring a less isolated environment than one where increased customization and self-service where a necessity for another tenant.

The ability for a single service provider to offer a solution that addresses both tenant’s requirements from a single architecture, with as many shared components as possible, helps to keep costs as low as possible for both the SP and their targeted tenants.  A more detailed explanation of this matrix and some of the resulting isolation models Citrix provides was posted by Ashish Gujarathi quite some time ago, these concepts have evolved to include various Citrix products beyond XenApp but the basics remain.  Our CSPs have built an array of services from this conceptual foundation over the last few years, and have seen their business thrive as a result. From what we have seen, (and we have seen much) other, more constrained multi-tenant architectures and business models have been less successful in actual adoption of services over the same period.

From a technical perspective, Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop CSP solutions based on our CSP Reference Architecture (available to CSPs and evolving since 2009), especially with the addition of technologies in the Citrix Cloud Provider Packs (available since early 2012 and now at version 2.0), have enabled Service Providers to deliver the most comprehensive multi-tenant hosted desktop solutions in market for quite some time.  This is not as simple as XenApp in the cloud, although XenApp 6.5 (plus the Cloud Provider Pack) has proven itself as an enabler of the overwhelming majority of Windows Apps and Desktops as a Service actually being consumed.  Almost any one of our 2600+ CSP channel partners, as well as independent analysts can confirm that.   This is actually about Citrix Flexcast enabling all desktop virtualization models as a service from a technical and Citrix licensing perspective.  The adoption ratios across the Flexcast models are completely driven by subscriber adoption based on their relative perceived value in the DaaS market so far.

From a solution perspective this can actually be a very complex conversation.  One that I will address in 2014 through a series of blog posts along with other topics.  But for now the following series of graphics walk through the high level technical overview.

First let’s look at the technical layers and multi-tenant decision points at different layers of this stack.

As you can see, there are as many opportunities to provide a multi-tenant solution as there are layers in this stack.  Typically the lower layers of the stack are more quickly commoditized than the higher layers based on the aggregation of services at those layers.  We have seen this play out time and time again as the price/performance of hardware continues to drop, and now the larger Infrastructure vendors have begun moving up the stack to provide differentiated value and maintain or enhance current revenue streams.  Citrix core competence comes from the inverse of this trend in that from the beginning Citrix has worked on the more difficult challenges of user satisfaction and the application and data layers, building new technologies that go deeper and deeper into the stack in order to provide more efficient management and increasingly granular insight to the user environment and experience.

Let’s look at where popular aaS models leverage the stack.

Now let’s look at the Citrix products that enable this more comprehensive multi-tenant solution.

Fundamentally, Citrix provides a complete stack of products and capabilities, all of which have been driven from the user experience perspective DOWN into the stack.  This is a significant difference when compared to other solutions that have evolved from the lower Infrastructure layers of the stack.  The Citrix HDX protocol suite is inherent within the solution and enhanced by various components with the stack.

As you can see the entire stack can be addressed with a combination of Citrix products: the CSP Reference Architecture and Citrix Cloud Provider Pack bring them together as a unified solution for efficient multi-tenant management of an array of multi-tenant capabilities as provided by our Citrix Service Providers.  The CSP Reference Architecture is provided to CSPs through our CSPToolkit.

With today’s announcement of the Citrix Cloud Provider Pack 2.0 the latest version of CloudPortal Services Manager 11 brings new levels of services and integration across Citrix and 3rd party solutions for the provisioning and self-service management of multi-tenant Windows Apps, Desktops and Data services.  In addition the newest release of our App Orchestration 2.0 automation and orchestration now enables simplified configuration management of multi-tenant, multi-site and Multi-datacenter DaaS services, from modest to absolutely massive scale.

For documentation, walk-throughs, and video demos of App Orchestration 2.0 check out these resources

Citrix Cloud Provider Pack can be downloaded by active CSPs from

There is so much more to talk about, and we could truly spend a huge amount of time on this one topic alone, so let me offer the following.  If you are a CSP or prospective CSP, and have a particular area of interest with regards to the multi-tenant capabilities in our solution, I invite you to come to Citrix Summit in January where we can talk face-to-face after my session:  SUM204: XenDesktop 7 in the CSP Reference Architecture: evolution and next steps.  I will be co-presenting with Drew Tipton from our Solutions Lab and we look forward to seeing you there.

If you are a prospective CSP tenant or subscriber I would encourage you to talk to any one of our 2600+ CSP partners to determine how their services may address your particular needs. Most of them offer several price tiers, from the least expensive and most basic to complete IT as a Service and the associated consulting and migration services to enable the most complex environments to begin a rational move to appropriate cloud services.

As has been stated several times within the last few months 2014 promises to be a very exciting year in the DaaS space.  Citrix intends to continue to accelerate our lead, so stay tuned. To quote a fun 70’s rocker from BTO “You ain’t seen nothing yet”!