Citrix VDI-in-a-Box - is that box a coffin?
The lifespan of Citrix's VDI-in-a-Box is limited. The question is, will the box that it is put in be buried under the patio; or will it become a surprise package for an enterprising third party?
You know that I care what happens to you
On the Jan14 Citrix earnings call, VDI-in-a-box was included in the many cuts and End-of-Sale was announced.
“Another example would be VDI-in-a-Box. We’re going to end-of-sale that product and it will be replaced by a simpler and more price competitive version for VDI that we have coming.”
While it is true that there was writing on the wall for the product, given the slower development cycle, poor sales incentives and continued treatment of the solution being a SME/SMB play. This, despite VDI-in-a-Box's scalable grid architecture (very much in vogue with san-less hyperconverged thinking today). Still, with all the effort stacked against it the latest 5.4 release included Win8.1/Windows 2012 support, was available on ESX 5.5, optimisations for multiple domain support and multiple SSL certificates; and perhaps most tellingly - a wizard for migrating to XenDesktop.
According to Citrix's product matrix, end-of-Maintenance for VDI-in-a-Box is currently set for April 30, 2015, after which no further product updates will be released. Security patches will continue until End-of-Life, which as-of-today is set for April 30, 2016. While there's a suggestion these dates may change, given there are sadly fewer people at the organisation today its not entirely evident where the resource to extend that lifespan would come from.
What then for those customers who have deployed the solution? For partners that have built business solutions around the technology?
Bury The Bone
As a younger but less wise me reported, the VDI-in-a-Box solution was bought from Kaviza at a time when DaaS vendors such as Desktone (now part of VMware) were looking to offer a virtual desktop instance to consumers; at a time when the process of installing and configuring XenDesktop was complex. Kaviza's grid architecture and integration with HDX provided a scaleable solution inherently allowing for commodity scale (20,000+ Kaviza had claimed). This provided a solution far easier to setup in terms of hardware acquisition and management.
Yet VDI-in-a-Box wasn't used as a DaaS enabler, but as an SME/SMB market virtual desktop enabler. All be it with an artificially limited to a 500 desktops capacity and a rip-and-replace upgrade path should you want to move beyond. Not ideal - but many loved it, and loved it for its simplicity.
Any Fool Knows a Dog Needs a Home
So: stick or twist?
Sticking sounds sensible if in place - if it ain't broke - why fix it? Post 2016 there will be no updates; yet... if it ain't broke.. But then the landscape of requirements could change between now and then. While deals undoubtedly got shot down - what should partners and customers be considering for those installations that are likely doing pretty well thankyouverymuch.
Twist to what? An as yet unreleased XenDesktop version? While the latest XenDesktop 7.6 release has a far slicker installation process than that of 5.5 (available when VDI-in-a-Box arrived) the install assumes that you've built the infrastructure and storage layer. The replication and redeployment process was slicker within a VDI-in-a-Box environment. Perhaps a new "hyperscale" XenDesktop (<if that does get used, can I have an X1 Mouse?) will be automatically built on a XenServer platform enhanced with an extensible file store capability utilising the SanBolic code (or third party software defined storage solution such as Atlantis USX)
Or something else? In the UK at least, sub 1000 seats are being taken more regularly by VMware where sales teams are more proactive, installation appears more straightforward and support less complex. VMware's wider EUC offering encompassing both virtual desktops (with Horizon View) and physical devices (with Mirage) helps with a deployment by offering a set of tools more comprehensive for many businesses.
>A Shelter from Pigs on the Wing
A number of partners were taken aback by announcement. What will happen with the code base and opportunity that is undoubtedly there?
Arguably what has signed the note for VDI-in-a-Box wasn't the poor sales incentives; outsider attitude or indeed the self-imposed glass ceiling, but perhaps the fact that it was far easier to setup run and deploy than XenDesktop is today and, if used at scale, could impact sales of XenApp. With XenApp revitalized in 7.6, and XenDesktop being able to sit both in the VDI space, and within the resurrected the blade PC format having a third option was too much of a crowd for the extensive Citrix portfolio.
A large systems integrator could be savvy and buy it/take it on board. While it could be said it'd be in direct competition to XenDesktop likely they're already offering a range of "competing" products, but then what would Citrix get from that deal that would make it worth Citrix's time and effort?
Likewise, Citrix could open source the code and let it be an enabler for smaller markets they don't necessarily appear to be interested - but it allows an opportunity to contribute and there is still the option of keeping the new migration wizard should a greater need develop.
They could have a complete change of heart and re-think of an invest in a hyperscale virtual desktop platform targeted at on-boarding cloud providers: and pigs could be on the wing.
Or a simply call it a day. While it feels there'd be interest and innovation with the other options, there's less risk and cost savings in not innovating with this product. Let's see what changes come with the new acquisitions and what new XenDesktop 8 features there will be. In the meantime, maybe this a gap that the likes of V3 with their virtual desktop appliances or Nimboxx, given their Verde Virtual Bridges acquisition can look to exploit