Framehawk Buy: Incremental Improvement for Citrix, Trouble for Microsoft

Citrix and desktop-as-a-service rivals Amazon and Cisco Systems may be the biggest beneficiaries of growing interest in business-class DaaS, but the biggest loser may be Microsoft.

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[caption id="attachment_34101" align="alignnone" width="500"]Citrix Image from Flickr photos of Aaron Paxson, Creative Commons[/caption]

When Citrix Systems Inc. snapped up Framehawk Inc. for an undisclosed sum earlier this week, it was trumpeted by the company as a good -- if incremental -- way to improve the vendor’s desktop-as-a-service chops for mobile devices.

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Forgiving for a moment that the capabilities Citrix says it is gaining are mostly things the company claimed it already did pretty well, the move is indicative of the scramble within the DaaS market to attract new enterprise users in a BYOD world. And while Citrix and desktop-as-a-service rivals Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. may be the biggest beneficiaries of growing interest in business-class DaaS, the biggest loser may be Microsoft Corp.

First the news: Citrix has agreed to purchase San Francisco-based Framehawk hoping to improve the performance of its own HDX IT technology powering the XenApp and XenDesktop offerings. The jewel in the Framehawk crown is its Lightweight Framebuffer Protocol, which can push desktop apps to mobile devices over cellular networks.

LFP sits on a server or in the cloud, pulls pixels from a virtualized application's framebuffer, then pushes them to a thin-client display without granting access to the core data. The Framehawk technology also offers some touch-screen capabilities.

"With enterprises increasingly enabling mobility for their employees, the ability to deliver apps and desktops with the best user experience to any of the billions of devices on the market is of paramount importance," said Sudhakar Ramakrishna, senior vice president and general manager of Citrix's Enterprise and Service Provider Division, in a statement.

If that sounds familiar, you might remember this:

“With the tremendous explosion of new devices, operating systems and applications, organizations are struggling to keep up with the challenge of managing desktops and applications in this new highly mobile world. At the same time, trends such as consumerization and bring your own device (BYOD) programs are putting added strain on IT resources… Citrix announced a set of new innovations that help organizations transform their Windows desktops and apps into a cloud-like service that can be managed centrally and delivered to any device in any location. …This innovative new solution makes it easy for IT to give end users fast, secure remote access to all the apps and data on their office PC from any device.”

Yes, that statement is Citrix in May 2012. But things can always be improved, we suppose.

Taking them at their word that the Framehawk technology will, indeed, now make XenDesktop a complete player in DaaS, the company joins a crowded field. What Citrix describes in the LFP additions is remarkably similar to the PC-over-IP Teradici protocol functionality that Amazon for its Workspaces VDI, a services that is making serious inroads in the market. Equal to the task is Cisco’s new Desktop Virtualization Solution, a system built with Desktone management software tailored for VMware Inc.

According to Forrester, more than half (52 percent) of enterprise IT decision-makers said they saw desktop virtualization and related thin client and streaming technologies as a key priority in early 2012. That has the analyst firm bullish on DaaS in 2014.

Which raises the question of where all this traction is coming from in the DaaS space. The dispersal of the modern workforce and the BYOD movement are fueling some of the interest, but there’s another factor at work that should be concerning to Microsoft and the partners who sell their wares.

As we approach the end of life for Windows XP in a few months, organizations are scrambling to migrate to Windows 7 or Windows 8 and are struggling with the associated headaches, not to mention the costs of updating all of their Windows productivity and client-server applications. That has many looking at virtualized DaaS of the kind enabled by Citrix, Amazon and Cisco as a way to put off replacing their older Microsoft titles while providing equal or better remote access -- with the additional benefit of added security for core data that remains safely tucked in the data center.

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