Citrix VDI-in-a-Box (Part 1) - Interview

by [Published on 13 Dec. 2011 / Last Updated on 13 Dec. 2011]

An interview with Krishna Subramanian, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development for Citrix Systems, Inc who discusses VDI-in-a-Box.

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

Introduction

Citrix recently released the first Citrix-branded version of their VDI-in-a-Box product, which is the next version of the product the company acquired with Kaviza. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend some time interviewing Krishna Subramanian, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development for Citrix Systems, Inc.

I’d like to thank Krishna for her time and for her excellent answers.

This interview will span two articles after which I will dive into technical detail about the product.

The interview

Scott: I was hoping to spend a few minutes talking with you about the Kaviza VDI-in-a-Box solution. I am a lead author for Virtualizationadmin.com and also a CIO. I look at a lot of different virtualization solutions and this one really spoke to me as an interesting opportunity for a lot of companies. I understand that Citrix acquired Kaviza and then basically rolled out the new version of VDI-in-a-Box recently. Is that correct?

Krishna: It’s correct. Citrix acquired Kaviza in May, and just at Synergy Barcelona last week we announced that Citrix VDI-in-a-Box which is just the first Citrix branded version of the product.

Scott: Okay. Can you give me an overview of VDI-in-a-Box concept?

Krishna: Sure. You know, there are a lot of companies that are very interested in virtual desktops because of the business efficiency it can drive and the user benefits of any time/anywhere/any device access. But one of the challenges in this market has been that traditionally, deploying virtual desktops has been more often an enterprise kind of approach, because desktop virtualization, or VDI—which is the most common way it’s done—requires you to invest in expensive servers and shared storage SAN and high-speed interconnect in order to deliver virtual desktops from a server to an endpoint. So Kaviza was actually founded by experts from the VDI stage who said there’s got to be some simpler way to this that can be the VDI for the rest of us, if you will. And so we built VDI-in-a-Box as an all-in-one piece of software that you could run on any off-the-shelf servers, and turn them into virtual desktop servers. So VDI-in-a-Box actually eliminates about 60% of the infrastructure that is typically needed to deploy virtual desktops.

Scott: And, probably on top of that, you save a lot of money on IT skills and personnel skills because you don’t have to worry about someone that knows the Fibre Channel and has that high end skill set, particularly in that SMB space.

Krishna: Exactly. That’s exactly right. You know what VDI-in-a-Box does is allow any Windows Administrator, any desktop administrator, to actually now deploy VDI without significant retraining or requiring storage experts and network experts and server experts as you described. That’s big savings. It’s also making VDI more approachable to the small and medium business markets because a lot of them don’t have that expertise or don’t have the time to spend on retraining their people.

Scott: What kind of interest have you seen from the market on the VDI in a box, particularly the new version with the Citrix branding?

Krishna: We’re seeing tremendous interest; even prior to this acquisition, Kaviza was growing rapidly. We were more than doubling our customer base every quarter, and post-acquisition, that trend has just accelerated, and with Citrix, we’re positioning VDI-in-a-Box for small and medium businesses and for departments of enterprises. And we’re getting strong demand from both of those markets.

Scott: Do you see that that is basically the sweet spot for the VDI-in-a-Box solution—the SMB and the department level?

Krishna: Yes, when you look at it, the reason we segmented the market this way is because Citrix also has XenDesktop. So customers want to know when do you use which solution? And our guidance has been XenDesktop, a complete desktop virtualization solution, so you look at large enterprises and you look at an enterprise-wide deployment, typically they want more than VDI. They want to stream desktops, and they want offline desktops and also a lot of customizability that XenDesktop gives them. VDI-in-a-Box is the simple VDI-only solution, which is better suited for department level use and definitely for SMB use.

Scott: Okay, so that’s basically the key differentiator between XenDesktop and VDI-in-a-Box is basically some of those advance features?

Krishna: Exactly. XenDesktop also does VDI, but VDI is just one form or one flavor of desktop virtualization in XenDesktop, so XenDesktop has this thing called FlexCast, which allows you to pick your desktop virtualization model.

Scott: Now suppose an organization was just interested in the kind of VDI like the VDI-in-a-Box provides. Are there scaling limits, or is there a point at which Citrix says this is really too big for VDI in a box? Or is it really customer driven in that regard?

Krishna: We support the customer making the final choice, but we are testing the product for a thousand desktops or less to test the market for that sweet spot. That’s what we’re testing VDI-in-a-Box for.

Scott: Do you know what the largest deployment you have for VDI-in-a-Box is right now?

Krishna: Right now, we have deployments at 5,000 users.

Scott: For VDI in a box?

Krishna: Yes.

Scott: Wow! Okay.

Krishna: That wouldn’t be common. Within the government we have some large deployments, but I would call them “outliers” because, these are situations where they’re not using the VDI desktop as the primary desktop. They are using it as the secondary desktop. And so, it’s not a typical enterprise type of use case. It’s a more specific use case, which is why we segment the market more by use case, and if it’s a VDI-only requirement, simplified use case, it’s VDI in a box. And typically, departments and SMBs fall into that category.

Scott: The question about some of the different features, that’s what we already talked about based on the answers you already gave me. As well as in what circumstances would a customer choose one or the other. I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on that. Is Citrix at all concerned about cannibalization of XenDesktop because of VDI-in-a-Box or are they basically complementary products so that there’s going to be natural overlap?

Krishna: Yes, they’re complementary products for Citrix. Ultimately the game plan is to take the software language mainstream. Citrix wants to make it simple for customers to share desktop virtualization. And, of course, Citrix wants to provide a comprehensive type of solution so that a customer can grow with Citrix. That’s really the game plan here, which is not cannibalization. While we think there may be some overlap and in customers, and a customer can use either product, the bulk of the market will benefit from the two offerings which is why we’re really expanding the addressable market here.

Scott: Basically Citrix isn’t the only game in town with VDI. It seems like there’s more VDI products popping up than any you can think about these days. How does VDI-in-a-Box stack up against with some of the other SMB solutions like NComputing, which is pretty much aimed at education, but really could be a small business play as well.

Krishna: Yes. There are products like NComputing on the market. They are essentially terminal services, and they’re doing terminal services in hardware. And if you look at it, there’s a large market that actually started with Terminal Services. That’s kind of the origin of server based computing, but it’s also old technology. It’s been around for 15 years now, and it’s not a full virtual desktop. So the challenge for customers is that you can go with solutions like Terminal Services, which are relatively inexpensive, but they’re not virtual desktops. You don’t get the session isolation; all the users are sharing one session. At Synergy Barcelona, somebody gave the analogy that it’s like jumping on a crowded train and you’re trying to hang on from the side. So that’s what happens when users get added to user terminal sessions. So, you can go for those lower-end type of solutions, which are less expensive, but you’re limited in terms of functionality and performance. Or you can go for full virtual desktops, which give you full session isolation, give you good performance because every user has their own virtual container. And, with Citrix you have HDX, which gives you a rich user experience. But, historically, the trade-off was low cost or flexibility at a price. And, VDI-in-a-Box is kind of unique in that sense, because we’re giving you the benefits of full virtual desktops with the HDX experience. So giving you something that is really sensible and more enterprise class, but at the price point that is comparable with the lower end solutions. So we think it is actually very uniquely positioned in the market.

This is the end of part one of my interview with Krishna. Tune back in soon to see Part 2 revealed!

If you would like to read the other parts in this article series please go to:

The Author — Scott D. Lowe

Scott D. Lowe avatar

Scott has written thousands of articles and blog posts and has authored or coauthored three books, including Microsoft Press’ Exchange Server 2007 Administrators Companion and O’Reilly’s Home Networking: The Missing Manual. In 2012, Scott was also awarded VMware's prestigious vExpert designation for his contributions to the virtualization community.

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