Q&A with Citrix: Microsoft and Citrix Help Drive Desktop Virtualization Adoption

Sumit Dhawan, vice president at Citrix, discusses the Citrix-Microsoft desktop virtualization alliance.

In March 2010, Citrix and Microsoft renewed efforts aimed at driving mainstream adoption of desktop virtualization. The two companies created new joint sales promotions, extended product integration and established a joint customer education program to jump-start adoption.

Now, a quarter later, Sumit Dhawan, vice president of marketing for the XenDesktop product group provides an update on how the new programs have been received by customers, and what goals the partnership has moving forward.

Q. Citrix and Microsoft first established a desktop virtualization partnership in early 2008. How did these March announcements build upon that and how have the goals changed now two years later?
Historically, Citrix and Microsoft have partnered on product development and support. As an example, the two companies have a long-standing partnership in application delivery with Citrix XenAppTM and Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (formerly Terminal Services). However, our customers have always found it a bit hard to understand how our joint solutions work together. This is particularly the case as it relates to desktop virtualization.

Earlier this year, we did an extensive assessment on how we can better communicate the value and tight integration of our joint solution and how that solution gives our customers the most comprehensive set of desktop virtualization technologies available on the market today.

The series of announcements we made in March were all aimed at further defining our joint desktop virtualization solution and providing new incentives for customers to adopt our solution. In addition, we kicked off a desktop virtualization virtual event and global road show aimed at educating customers and partners about desktop virtualization and the value that Citrix and Microsoft can bring to their organizations.

Moving forward, we are engaged in joint sales training with our respective sales forces, and building programs for the two organization to work together to deliver successful POCs that offer a comprehensive solution with the best value for our customers.

Q. What kind of interest have you seen from customers for the joint promotions? Have the promotions helped expand adoption of desktop virtualization?
The goals of our joint sales promotions are to help customers get started with VDI or to help existing VMware View customers replace their solution with a proven solution from Citrix and Microsoft.

These promotions are generating good results. We now have several customers in production with close to 100 more leveraging our joint POC program worldwide. We have also seen competitive win-backs as a result of our VDI Rescue program. Customers are open to looking at a different solution for desktop virtualization than they have for server virtualization. Our joint customer win, Telecom Italia, is a prime example of a major customer who chose Citrix and Microsoft over VMware.

Q. How has the Microsoft-Citrix road show been received by the market?
To date, the road show has attracted over 12,000 attendees with many more shows coming up this quarter – clear evidence that desktop virtualization and VDI continue to have strong interest in enterprises of all sizes.

Customers are learning about the value of the solution we provide, and it’s something that they need - Microsoft as a platform company working with a solution provider to deliver a complete solution.

Q. There is a perception in the market that there is a three-way battle for desktop virtualization leadership between Citrix, Microsoft and VMware. That really isn’t the case, is it?
We are three independent companies and each of us has different objectives. Because Citrix and Microsoft have some overlapping technologies, the perception is that we are competing in the desktop virtualization market.

However, the fact is that Microsoft and Citrix have a very tight alliance around desktop virtualization. The majority of our technologies are actually very complementary of each other. This is supported by a shared vision, which is different from other players in the market, that desktop virtualization is more than just VDI. VDI is suitable for some users in an enterprise but to realize the benefits of desktop virtualization, organizations need to employ the full range of technologies. Customers who deploy VDI only for a subset of users do so for tactical reasons. The more strategic approach seeks to leverage desktop virtualization across all enterprise users. For these customers, Citrix and Microsoft are the only companies that can provide customers with a comprehensive desktop virtualization solution to serve all enterprise users.

Q. Why should customers look at a Citrix-Microsoft solution over VMware?
First of all, Microsoft has a long history of owning and driving innovation at the desktop, and System Center is the most comprehensive solution available for desktop management. At the same time, Citrix has 20 years of expertise delivering applications and desktops to users. Together, the two companies bring to customers what no other vendor can bring: deep expertise in all things related to the desktop. As a result, we have an industry-leading solution that delivers the best experience for end users  and the best management for IT – all built upon a trusted Microsoft platform.

Q. What do you see as the biggest threat keeping enterprises from adopting desktop virtualization?
The ability to understand TCO and justify ROI continues to be the biggest question for our customers. Windows 7 has become a big inflection point for desktop virtualization adoption. When customers are faced with the decision of whether to upgrade their entire user base, how and on what timeline, ROI justification becomes much easier. With desktop virtualization companies can much more quickly and easily transition users to a new operating system while avoiding a costly PC refresh.

Q. What will be the greatest drivers for adoption in the second half of the year and into 2011?
Related to the above, we see the transition to Windows 7 as  one of the biggest drivers for desktop virtualization adoption this year and into 2011.

Q. What do you have planned in the second half this year to continue to encourage customers to adopt desktop virtualization?
We are focused on three key areas in the second half. First, we are continuing to train our joint technical sales teams on selling the joint solution – ensuring they are equipped to bring customers though successful POCs. Second, we are focused on enabling the best scalability for Windows 7 based desktops. Finally, we are continuing to make the joint solution simpler and more scalable to reduce complexity and deliver faster ROI for our customers.

More information about the Citrix-Microsoft desktop virtualization partnership can be found at www.citrixandmicrosoft.com.