Microsoft Office and the death of RDSH.

Thanks to the announcement at Ignite of Windows Virtual Desktops (WVD) and the information or more details that followed, specifically regarding Microsoft Office on the platform, several people in the industry are now announcing the death of Remote Desktop Services Session Host (RDSH).

Before proceeding with what I think, let me clarify that I do not think RDSH is the silver bullet. It is, like anything else, another tool for delivering applications to your users. That said, what we know as of today is very simple to summarize:

  • RDSH is heavily used to deliver Line of Business (LOB) applications and many, if not the vast majority, have ties to Microsoft Office and/or interact with it.
  • RDSH has been around since 1998 when it was officially announced at the New York Expo. That means we have been dealing with it for over 20 years now. We know how it works, how it behaves and its weaknesses and strengths.
  • As we know it, we learned over the years how to deal with applications that do not like RDSH as a delivery platform. And by we, I mean thousands of people on the internet. You have an issue with RDSH, someone can probably fix it within a day or two.
  • We clearly understand its scalability, performance and for many companies out there, the most important thing, its cost.

Now, looking at WVD, recently announced, all the above is completely unknown. How does it perform at scale? How does it work with all the LOBs out there, that as of today live in a happy RDSH world? And how much does it cost per user per month to deliver the same performance, scalability and availability as all these RDSH environments out there? Yes, we have no answers to that. Yet.

Then Microsoft announced that Windows Server 2019 and its RDS incarnation, does not run Office 365 but does run Office 2019 perpetual. Once people read that, the death sentence for RDSH was issued.

But does it make sense that to be the case? IMHO, no. And a big NO. And actually, quite the opposite.

What we know is simple: Office 365, like its Windows 10 counterpart, is or will become a nightmare with its almost daily release cycles. Yes, the same Office 365 you are running on your PC is not the one that was there last week or a month ago. It may even have new features.

Imagine that with critical LOB apps that interact with Office. If one thing changes on the Microsoft Office stack, everything may break on all these apps that rely on it. Reason why LOB apps are treated in a very strict way regarding patches and upgrades. For most businesses these are critical. If they go down, revenue could be directly affected (like one customer I have where one hour with their main LOB down means USD 1M in revenue lost). They do not like insane release cycles. They do not change their hosting environment on a weekly basis.

The other key point is, what are the exact differences between Office 2019 perpetual and Office 365, other than fast release cycles? What exactly is lost, functionality wise, when I run Office 2019, compared to Office 365? And the key question here, do these features are required by all the LOB applications that interface/interact with Office? Based on my experience, the vast majority of these LOB apps could not care less about whatever collaboration or online features Office 365 brings to the table.

For new deployments, mostly Office apps based, I do and clearly see the reason to go for Office 365. These are new deployments, not having to support mission critical LOB apps. Online features and collaboration are appealing to these use cases. Awesome.

With all that said the reality is, all the LOB apps will not be fixed overnight to work with Office 365. Even if they work, testing and certifying these apps with it may take ages and potentially may never happen for several companies. They will simply stick to what is known to work and to work well. This on itself may provide RDSH the fuel it needs to keep running, and existing, for many years to come.

And if the company all the sudden needs everything Office 365 has to offer, simple. Use WVD to handle that and keep RDSH for the mission critical LOB apps with Office 2019. Note that I did not mention cloud or on-premises anywhere and for one simple reason: RDSH does run anywhere, including the cloud. And unlike WVD, it runs on ANY cloud. Azure, AWS, Google, you name it.

The flexibility anyone expects from a mature solution. And in case you were going to the RDSH funeral, turn back and go home. 

And by the way, 2019 is not the year of VDI.

CR

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Is UPD now FSLogix? Taking a look at the FSLogix acquisition by Microsoft.

Perfect timing I guess. A couple weeks after I released the whitepaper I wrote showing how UPD compared to FSLogix, Microsoft decides to open its wallet and acquires FSLogix. I am sure someone at Microsoft did read the whitepaper and understood that UPD needed a revamp and that it would probably take them a long time to fix it than opening their wallet. Very happy to see this happening. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what this potentially means to everyone in the industry.

I am not going to discuss the existing UPD limitations and how FSLogix can be used to complement it or to fully replace it. You can read all about that on this blog post.

The question now that many are asking themselves is simple: will this be part of a cloud-only offering, like Windows Virtual Desktops is as of today? The answer, no one really knows for sure. Probably, not even Microsoft.

The main thing is, UPD, even though it is a much better solution than traditional roaming profiles, still suffers from many issues, no matter if you are hosting your solution in the cloud or not. At the end of the day, you are still accessing a Windows OS and given how it works, a profile is always required (even if it is a local one).

If UPD 2.0 (that is how I will call the FSLogix offering, now under the Microsoft umbrella) does become what FSLogix is and more, it makes no sense to tie it to a cloud-only offering. The reason for that is simple. First of all, having to deal with two different solutions for on-premises and cloud based deployments. Considering many are still fully on-premises and some are in a transition mode (one that may take years), forcing customers to have to deal with two completely different solutions, especially when in a hybrid deployment, could lead to a terrible end-user experience, where things do not work smoothly regardless of its location.

And that is something that Microsoft is trying to avoid at all costs at this stage. If the plan is to turn Microsoft into an utility company, where you pay your monthly bill exactly the same way you do with your cable, natural gas and hydro, it has to behave exactly the same way as everyone is used today. To the point that no one can tell the difference where it runs or how it behaves. Once that is the case, almost certainly a transition to the cloud will be just a natural evolution of an on-premises environment. Simple, effortless and more than that, painless.

Making such solution a cloud-0nly offering creates this gap between what is there right now and what will be there in the future, simply creating push back from customers, instead of promoting adoption. Reason why I do believe that Microsoft will do something regarding WVD, making it available on-premises. To simply make the transition to a cloud-hosted WVD simple for anyone using WVD on-premises.

Yes, luring customers, instead of forcing them.

Now it is worth mentioning that Office 365 is far from being a Windows only offering. Many use it from mobile devices running iOS and Android and of course from non-Windows desktops. With that in mind, to make the Office 365 experience the same no matter where/how you use it, Microsoft has to fix more than profiles. As per my twitter, the main one that comes to mind is printing. I do remember a session I attended during the first ever BriForum, in 2005. Yes, thirteen years ago. And guess what? The printing landscape is as bad as it was back in that day.

So Microsoft, please keep your wallet open and get Tricerat as well. That will give us, Office 365 users, a true world class experience, no matter where we are and what we use.

You know, like a true utility company, that does not care if I have a Vizio or a Samsung TV.

It just works.

CR

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Nutanix acquires Frame – What do I think?

As you have seen on the EUC news, Nutanix is acquiring Frame and soon will start their DaaS offering within their Xi Cloud Services. This is indeed quite an interesting move and one that can, and certainly will, affect several players within the EUC/DaaS market. You can bet that includes Citrix, VMware and Workspot.

That said, there are several things that Nutanix will have to address, according to my own personal take on this. Let’s take a look at some:

  • On-premises offering. Sure, the Cloud may seem great. It does have its use cases and is another tool on the toolbox. And that is the issue here. Another tool ON THE TOOLBOX. Ideally, and again, IMHO, a solution to be complete, has to address both use cases, providing a clear Hybrid model. That addresses current needs for an on-premises delivery model while providing a clear path to the off-premises one, the Cloud. Being a Cloud only solution could pose a huge problem for many companies out there. The solution here? Should not be hard to bring that on-premises and pave the way so both offerings work seamless together. If Nutanix can pull this off, you can bet this will definitely affect Citrix and VMware. Guaranteed.
  • Toolbox. As we all know and learned over the years, a desktop solution, no matter where it runs, requires way more than just providing a desktop. User personalization, application packaging and delivery to the desktops, robust monitoring, it all ties together to compose a full solution. And again, regardless of where it is running. Nutanix has nothing in that space. Same for Frame. Solution? Keep the wallet open and acquire a couple more companies that are still relatively small but greatly fill these gaps. Examples? FSLogix, Liquidware Labs and UberAgent (Vast Limits). The end result of these potential acquisitions would be a platform that would be years ahead of both Citrix and VMware in many levels.

The great thing here, many may not see. If Nutanix does address the above, they will be going the other way around. That means coming from a native cloud offering (Frame) to an on-premises one to address current needs but already addressing future ones. This is completely different than having to build a cloud solution off something that was built from the ground up without the cloud in mind (Citrix is an example of that, and their struggles to bring their stack to the cloud is something everyone knows – VMware does suffer, maybe to a lesser extent, from the same issue).

Also acquiring extra talent to address these needs (by the way, needs that we all know must be addressed – reason for these products to exist) will potentially cause further damage on the market as all the customers out there now using these products could be converted to the Nutanix offering, leaving the Citrix/VMware train behind.

I would love to hear from Workspot what they have to say about this, given the many differences between their offering and what Nutanix is cooking. As I said many times, good enough may be all that many customers need. But now, if Nutanix offers a similar solution, cheaper and potentially with a better stack (Frame’s protocol is indeed better than RDP, that is a fact) all at a cheaper price, the ‘good-enough’ bar gets raised. In such cases, why would customers stick with a less capable protocol and potentially more expensive solution? This can create a problem for players like Workspot for sure. And the simple fact Nutanix does have more money in the bank to acquire whatever it takes to polish its desktop offering, amplifies the impact of all this on them.

Resuming: I do like to see this. I like companies with balls and Nutanix is certainly one of them. Ballsy acquisition indeed and if they play the right game here, they can certainly create a very compelling stack that will address current and future needs. All this, coming from the future :-).

So, Dheeraj please keep the wallet open. What is another couple bucks when you already spent big money? And please keep kicking ass. The asses in question do need it.

CR

 

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Synergy 2015 Keynote – Citrix Cloud Workspace

So today we got the Synergy 2015 keynote, delivered by the usual suspect, Mark Templeton. Here I am at 3:26am in the morning after a couple beers and scotch I had a couple hours ago with old time pals like Shawn Bass, Harry Labana, Ron Oglesby and Michel Roth. Great night and tons of interesting discussions.

After all that I decided to give you my thoughts on what I think is the most important announcement from today’s keynote, the Citrix Cloud Workspace (CCW). Before I go any further let me tell you upfront that my view has nothing to do with the cloud at this stage and that I truly believe the way to go right now is to actually forget about the cloud for a moment. And you will understand why.

For that to happen we must take a look at what Microsoft announced a couple weeks ago: the Azure pack. If you do not know what that is, in a nutshell, it is on-premises Azure. You bring it in-house and now you use the exact same tools/procedures to create your infrastructure on-premises as it would be done off-premises, in the cloud. Why is that important?

First, it eliminates the distinction between on-premises and off-premises as you do things the exact same way, no matter where your stuff is running. That means if one day for whatever reason you decide the cloud is the way to go you already know everything on how to get there. You just point whatever automation/procedures you have to a different container, the cloud. Done.

Secondly, it gives a taste of the cloud to anyone that at this stage will not go for it. It plants the seed on everyone’s head about Azure, showing on-premises how the whole thing works. Without going off-premises.

Finally, everything around the cloud revolves around heavy automation. Many things happen in background, with IT not even really aware of what is going on to get you where you need to be. What I mean by that is, as an example, when I deploy a new application on Azure RemoteApp (ARA) with my custom image (my 2012R2 box with the apps I want to be available), I do not see exactly how Microsoft is actually doing it on Azure. Not that I care. As long as I end up with my apps there and assigned to the users that need them, I am good. The end result is indeed a huge simplification on how we build infrastructure and also how quick we do it. Night and day difference, not to mention the great reduction on human errors as the whole procedure is automated and you barely see it.

Take what I just said and look at Citrix Cloud Workspace. As of today I can have all the backend stuff up there and point all to my XenApp/XenDesktop on-premises. But that is not where the value is IMHO.

If Citrix brings CCW on-premises, I can now deploy my whole XenApp/XenDesktop environment in a heavily automated way. In a couple clicks I can have a PoC up and running for 500 people. The simplification between front end components (RDS Session Hosts, VMs with the VDA, etc) and the backend (StoreFront, DDCs, Databases, Domains) is huge thanks to the connector architecture in use. And again, this erases the line between on-premises and off-premises. If one day you decide you should burst to the cloud or move all up there, everything you have done on-premises is EXACTLY the same thing you would do in the cloud. No more distinction.

This is where Citrix has to go with CWC IMHO. Make the product completely location agnostic, working the exact same way and with the exact same connector no matter if on-premises or off-premises. This will greatly help with multi-domain authentication, SQL connectivity and so on.

This is the way to go moving forward with any solution actually, Citrix or not.

I hope VMware is reading this.

CR

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Parallels acquires 2X. A deeper analysis.

As you probably know by now, Parallels Inc. has acquired 2X Software Ltd, one of the smaller players in the VDI/SBC space, in case you did not know that.

Like Brian, I always have a soft spot for the smaller vendors out there like 2X and Thinspace for the simple reason I truly believe there is no perfect product for all the use cases out there. What I do believe is using the right tool for the task and in many environments we ended up using Thinspace and 2X as Citrix was indeed overkill and the customer needed a little bit more than plain RDS.

If you were not even aware of these smaller vendors I highly recommend you to watch my BriForum 2014 Boston presentation. Main problem is I have no clue where Brian and Gabe put it. So please head over to http://www.brianmadden.com and ask them where it is.

To make your life a little easier I will just mention the usual small vendors we deal with:

2X itself is probably the one I have the softest spot for. The reason for that is back in 2005 2X acquired my own Terminal-Services.NET and all the Windows intellectual property we had became what is known today as the 2X Remote Application Server and the 2X LoadBalancer. No matter what Alex (yes, that guy that organizes the most disorganized and shittiest IT conference for alcoholics – E2EVC) tells you, the products were good, reason why customers like Hilton Hotels and John Deere used them… So I do know these products well.

Back to the topic, there is more to this acquisition and let me explain why.

First of all, pretty much everyone that has a Mac is aware of Parallels. They were the first company to release a decent type-2 hypervisor for OSX so you could run Windows VMs on your Mac, something that probably 90% of all Mac users out there do on a daily basis. Sure VMware later joined the party with VMware Fusion but Parallels was always perceived as the leader on this space. At least based on my own tests (I have both products) Parallels was always better on the graphics department and faster in general. Things may have changed with the latest and greatest releases though. The point here is not who is the best but the simply fact Parallels is a well known brand with regular people, end-users and IT geeks.

Then Parallels released Parallels Access, a solution to allow you to remotely access your Mac/PC, like many other products on the market (i.e. GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, etc). Difference is they pretty much nailed the whole translation of a desktop GUI to a mobile/tablet device GUI making accessing desktop apps on any device a much easier thing. If you have no clue what I am talking about, take a look at their YouTube channel.

Finally there is the Parallels most people are not aware of. The company behind Plesk, Parallels Automation and Virtuozzo. If you are an IT geek or someone working for a hosting provider I can bet you have heard of that Parallels.

To make a long story short, Parallels is used at probably 10,000+ hosting providers out there on a daily basis, reaching millions of customers. What they do is automate the whole management layer required at that level (i.e. provisioning the required services subscribed – web servers, wordpress, etc, handling customer creation/permissions/etc, provisioning the required software stack, etc) and also provide a robust and potentially much more efficient virtualization layer with their container approach (that is what Virtuozzo is). They have it for both Linux and Windows.

So they do have the end-user/consumer reach with their SOHO virtualization offerings AND do have the cloud (yes I will use the pretty word that everyone likes these days) providers on-board, with 10,000+ of them as active customers. This is something that both Citrix and VMware lack. Sure they may have made their way into the cloud space with things like Desktone and CWS. That is different than having 10,000+ of these under your belt and more than that, that have been using your solution for several years. It is proven. It is robust. AND customers like it. This by itself is something not all Citrix and VMware customers say about their solutions after having buying and deployed their products. Not saying they are bad products. Just saying there is a lot of very unhappy Citrix/VMware customers out there, for one reason or another. And please do not tell me you cannot please everyone. You and I know this goes way beyond that.

Now Parallels can introduce a product that will allow you to publish individual Windows apps out of RDSH or do the brokering to VDI based desktops potentially running on containers or any other hypervisor as 2X was indeed hypervisor agnostic, all this on the cheap. And they can leverage such robust and proven platform to all their hosting providers very quickly. With some engineering they can actually leverage your OWN PC to a provider out there and allow you to seamlessly connect to the one you have at home or to a much more powerful one (more CPU, more RAM) in the cloud, when you need it. Fully synchronized with your home machine.

That is killer.

I am a huge believer that VDI will only become what Brian and others have been predicting (and failing year after year) when it becomes a consumer product. Something end-users will want and use it. And not the niche thing it is today. Yes, no matter what you say your 10,000 VDI deployment is a niche compared to the 130,000,000 physical desktops shipped last year alone. I wrote about that years ago, here.

If there is one company now that can pull this off, under the radar, while Citrix and VMware fight their battles for niche VDI supremacy, is Parallels.

Time will tell if I was right or wrong. Of course a lot here will depend on what Parallels and Jack Zubarev do with 2X. But knowing they like a good fight and do love to innovate I do not expect anything less than a great outcome from this acquisition.

CR

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Citrix vs. Cloud Platforms. Yawn.

Ok after reading Gabe’s article and then Brian’s take on it, instead of replying I decided to write a whole post about it. That is why you are reading this.

First of all I want to resume Brian’s post for you. I think he should start working for Gartner as he is becoming the master of failed predictions (perfect fit if you want to work for Gartner – not sure if you know this but Gartner has a lot of mediums and Gypsies on staff and is responsible for buying 83% of all crystal balls made in America) and his latest post kind of falls into the same category.

The main idea on both posts is if VMware or another player releases seamless windows apps in their cloud offerings Citrix is fucked.

Here is the deal why IMHO that is not the case and even Brian seems to contradict himself on the post he wrote.

1. The cloud. Oh the cloud. Amazes me to see most CIOs seem to have learned nothing from the whole Snowden/NSA episode. If all corporate systems and intellectual property now lives in the cloud, you just made NSA much happier. The same way Snowden put up their arse, gathering all that information and sharing with the public, don’t you think it would be possible for a Snowden Jr, to get confidential corporate data and give the finger to the NSA and go living in China or Russia with all that info ready to be sold overseas? Do we really think a pharmaceutical company with crazy drugs being developed will consider doing anything in the cloud? Or Lockheed Martin, Bombardier, making Area 51 flying shit , etc? The list of corporations in the Fortune 500 that would be MASSIVELY affected by something like this happening is simply huge. So going to the cloud just makes NSA life easier. Bring the cloud onsite and at least you have a little bit more control and chances to guarantee NSA is kept out of the door.

2. Ok I mentioned bringing the cloud onsite and Brian does mention that, meaning a common platform is there for on-premise and off-premise deployments. But on the same article he also states “Microsoft has started talking about how future versions of Windows Server will be more like “mini on-premises instances of Azure.””. That means this does NOT exist today and only Jesus knows exactly when it will see the light of the day (Nadella or Nutella as I prefer, does not know the answer for that, trust me). So as of today and for at least 3-5 years this is not happening mainstream. Also keep in mind if Windows Server 2016 does have all this shit built-in and working 100% (what is never the case with anything Microsoft releases – for God’s sake they cannot even get RDS to work 100%) companies will still have to go through the exercise of testing and validating such platform what in itself takes years for many Fortune 500 companies. These guys cannot simply change platforms overnight. The FDA would shutdown ANY pharmaceutical attempting to do that overnight. Simple as that. So the reality here is this is still YEARS away.

3. Given point #2, that means a solution, to be called a SOLUTION, and not a HAE (Half Ass Effort) has to support BOTH on-premises and off-premises TODAY. So if someone (i.e. VMware) releases something that only works off-premises, in a cloud platform, we have a problem. What do I do with my on-premises stuff? Ignore it? Choose another vendor to deal with the on-premises scenario only? That is a fucking nightmare. Now dealing with two products and two vendors so I can address my on/off-premises needs. Keep in mind this would still be the case if someone releases a platform that can indeed deal with both scenarios flawlessly within the next year. Why? Because you will still need to test and validate such platform BEFORE going full production with it (point #2). Simple. Common sense here people.

Resuming: as of today and for at least the next two to three years things will still look very similar to what they are today and if you do want to be a leader down the road you must have a platform that deals with the IT landscape of TODAY and with the IT landscape of TOMORROW. Sorry to say but VMware is nowhere near it, in terms of addressing SBC/VDI on-premises and off-premises.

Now if you do not need to test or validate anything, do believe ‘cloudfying’ your whole IT infrastructure is a great idea, and the NSA does not exist, Brian is indeed into something with his article.

CR

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