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The virtual desktop

“Desktop virtualisation changes the way people use computers. It is not a physical thing that sits on your desk; it is part of the cloud and you can access it from anywhere. This changes the way you work and this is a fundamental shift that customers are beginning to understand,” says Payne.

Payne, who was in Dubai for the annual CIO meet that Citrix conducts in partnership with Microsoft, compared the desktop virtualisation market to VoIP in its early stages, saying that the adoption will start with large enterprises and then gradually flow down to smaller orgnisations.

“It will be taken up by organisations with thousands or tens of thousands of users, before it is adopted by companies with 100 to 500 users. It is still a technology for early adopters, and that is the stage it is at in the EMEA as well,” says Payne.

According to him, the initial driver for the technology will remain cost. CIO questions will pertain to whether by doing this they can simplify their environment, have less people to support the environment, and have less patches – this is where they start. Then later comes the business benefits of agility and flexibility.

Capitalising on these drivers, Citrix in the region is encouraging end-users to do proof-of-concepts with desktop virtualisation and decide on the solution keeping in mind the specific user profiles and usage requirements in the enterprise. 

“Take the CIOs who attended our meet. Around 80% of them are still running Windows XP. Now with the launch of Windows 7 they are beginning to think of a migration and we are right there offering them the chance to complete that migration with maximum benefits to the organisation at reduced cost,” says Payne.

Citrix over the last couple of years has also launched several initiatives to get more of its customers onto desktop virtualisation. (The company builds on its existing base of clients using XenApp.) One of them is the KickStart programme where for $7,000 an end-user gets the entire kit of Microsoft and Citrix XenDesktop for up to 250 users. This, Payne believes, acts as a strong first step for most customers, especially in emerging markets like the region.

Other initiatives include a trade-in programme and a two-for-one offer.  Customers who are using XenApps or an earlier version of XenDesktop can trade it in to get both suites together. If they are using both solutions already, they can call in the two-for-one offer where they can double their set of licences in one go.

The company is dependent to a large extent on its partners to not only spread the word on its solutions, but to also carry through such global customer initiatives. And, according to Antoine Aguado, regional director for the MENA region at Citrix, the firm is constantly adding to its partner base while improving its numbers in the region.

When asked about how the company faces competition from peers like VMWare, Payne responds, “VMWare has done a great job with server virtualisation – they are the incumbents in that space. We go head to head with them in that space. In desktop virtualisation, our strength lies with XenApp, where we take apps and deliver it to the desktop. This gives our customers a very easy path to move to XenDesktop. This is the difference in our DNA. Since we deliver this end-user experience everyday we are comfortable competing with VMWare and it is good to have them in the market.”

As for the recession, Payne believes that it could well have been a blessing in disguise for the desktop virtualisation market.

“Early last year everyone was in free fall. But now the markets are starting to come back. I almost call it the perfect storm. The recession made every CIO think about reducing cost and it was perfect timing for us to hit with XenDesktop and Windows 7. In retrospect, five years from now, we will think of the recession as the enabler for this market,” he concludes.

 

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