Autodesk makes software for people who make things. If you’ve ever driven a high-performance car, admired a towering skyscraper, used a smartphone, or watched a great film, you’ve experienced what millions of Autodesk customers are doing with the company’s software. Autodesk offers an extensive portfolio of applications in three categories: Product Design & Manufacturing; Architecture, Engineering & Construction; and Media & Entertainment.  

Digital transformation has been a critical factor in making Autodesk a leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software, both internally and for customers. Citrix is part of that story.

A longtime user of XenApp, XenDesktop and NetScaler, Autodesk turned to Citrix to move to the cloud.

Rachel O’Gorman, Senior Service Manager for CloudPC at Autodesk, joined me for a session at Synergy – the annual Citrix customer and partner conference and innovation launch pad – last May to discuss why and how Autodesk embraced Citrix Cloud services to deliver secure digital workspaces.

Following are some excerpts from our discussion.

CHAS: What does your role as Senior Service Manager for the CloudPC program involve?

RACHEL: I’m responsible for providing virtual environments for our engineering teams and our sales and technical support organization so that they’re able to manage their pipelines with desktops that are running our applications, but virtually.

CHAS: How many employees are using secure Citrix Digital Workspaces at this point?

RACHEL: We probably have close to 1,000 internally using our Citrix environment as services through Citrix Cloud. That’s our engineering communities and our technical sales team in the field.

CHAS: In 2016, Autodesk made the decision to migrate to Citrix Cloud, and you became one of our first Citrix Cloud customers. Can you talk a little bit about what led you to that decision?

RACHEL: We had a very traditional on-premises setup with XenDesktop and XenApp in our data centers. As everybody knows, this takes a lot of time to capacity-expand, to deploy, to update, to configure, to maintain, to patch. This was becoming half of the work that we were doing so why would we do that when Citrix Cloud could do that for us?

Our decision, our strategy, was we wanted to move everything from our on premise virtual environment in to cloud service providers. The first step was moving our infrastructure in to Citrix Cloud. The second step, which we’re working on today, will be moving our VDI instances to cloud service providers.

CHAS: Can you explain a bit about your decision to migrate to Citrix Cloud services and how each of those areas fits into your decision-making? What were your criteria for security, for choice, and for experience, and how do we do in meeting those requirements?

RACHEL: One of the stipulations we made to the cloud service providers we considered was that they not lock us into any particular cloud. Citrix Cloud was the only one that allowed us to deploy today to say, Azure, AWS, or any other environment. Additionally, Citrix Cloud had the security environment that we were looking for. We knew that they were able to get the certifications for the security that we would require for our products.

CHAS: What particularly appealed to you about the enhanced admin and user experience that would be delivered through Citrix Cloud versus on-prem?

RACHEL: Citrix Cloud made the process considerably smoother. We no longer had to go in to our Citrix Studio. We no longer had to do all the maintenance with hypervisors. It actually reduced our mouse-click environment to a very simple portal. But part of the reason we moved to Citrix Cloud is that there is a set of APIs and capabilities where our second goal is to automate everything. Infrastructure as code, configuration as code, and it gave us those two capabilities.

CHAS: Why is that important to you, and what are some of the dynamics behind working or integrating a public cloud environment in to your overall hybrid environment? A multi-cloud environment?

RACHEL: If we look further out into the future one of the things we see if we go to cloud service providers is we want to have a marketplace that we can play every day. So if today I’m using Azure, and it’s X dollars per user, and if tomorrow Google Cloud or AWS has a better rate, I want to be able to move my workload between them.

CHAS: Do you find any advantages in using Citrix Cloud Services for things like automation which was an important factor for you?

RACHEL: We’re beginning to look at app layering. One of the things is that SCCM (Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager) takes a lot of time. And again, it’s that investment in infrastructure, and maintenance, and upgrading, and patching. We want to get out of that business. We’ve just started a proof of concept with app layering to see if that can help us solve some of the infrastructure problem and get out of the business of that infrastructure.

CHAS: What were some of the other drivers that got you thinking about Citrix Cloud?

RACHEL: One of the strategies for Autodesk in general, and this helped the project when we were trying to get it off the ground, is we had an initiative to go to the cloud for our products in general. All our applications were beginning to be moved into the cloud.

CHAS: You had some very clear objectives, and you’re also helping to gain some performance enhancements and benefits as well. Can you talk about what your findings have been so far? What’s gone right?

RACHEL: We’re beginning to divest of infrastructure. I’m getting out of the business of managing servers. We’re extending Citrix secure digital workspaces to EMEA. Citrix Cloud services are now available in APAC so that was a huge point for us. We’ve got a lot of our engineers out of Shanghai, and we needed the Citrix Cloud there. It’s made it easier for us to automate — with Citrix Cloud you do have to have a connector that talks to your VDI agents.

CHAS: What advice would you have for new customers who are looking at, let’s say, Citrix Workspace Suite on-prem versus Citrix Cloud Services. Or customers who are looking to upgrade from one on-prem version to another on-prem version?

RACHEL: If I was starting today I would never have infrastructure. I would go straight to the cloud for everything. That’s probably very typical for any startup company today. To provide something like the experience of a graphically rich environment with Citrix and Citrix Desktop the Citrix Cloud just enables us to automate everything.

I don’t want to be in the business of doing ‘busy work’. I want to be out of that business. So Citrix Cloud just enabled that really easily for us.

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