Microsoft to drop Azure RemoteApp in favor of Citrix virtualization technologies

Microsoft is dropping its Azure RemoteApp technology over the course of the next year and guiding customers to go, instead, with virtualization software and service from Citrix.

Microsoft is starting to "wind down" its Azure RemoteApp technology in favor of application virtualization software and services from its partner Citrix.

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Microsoft made the announcement on August 12, calling the move "the next step in our broad partnership with Citrix in the remote desktop and applications space."

Microsoft plans to continue supporting existing Azure RemoteApp customers through August 31, 2017, after which time the service will be discontinued. New purchases of Azure RemoteApp will end October 1, 2016,

From Microsoft's blog post today explaining what's happening:

"Customers have provided us consistent feedback that they want a comprehensive, end-to-end, cloud-based solution for delivering Windows apps. The best way for us to deliver this is with Citrix through XenApp "express", currently under development. XenApp "express" combines the simplicity of application remoting and the scalability of Azure with the security, management, and performance benefits of XenApp, to deliver Windows applications to any employee on any device. We will have much more to share on this offering through the coming months."

Citrix officials described the situation a bit differently, saying Microsoft will be assisting Citrix in developing a next-generation Citrix XenApp and associated XenDesktop service.

From Citrix' August 12 post on the move:

"In conjunction with this effort, Microsoft recently announced its intent to wind down the Microsoft Azure RemoteApp service and assist Citrix in its effort to develop the next generation of the service. This future Citrix XenApp "express" offering will combine the simplicity and speed of Microsoft Azure RemoteApp with many of the enterprise capabilities of Citrix XenApp to revolutionize app delivery from the cloud."

Citrix officials added: "In many ways, you can look at this XenApp "express" service as Azure RemoteApp v2.0."

Azure RemoteApp, codenamed "Mohoro," allows users to deploy Windows applications and access them for a variety of devices. Microsoft made RemoteApp generally available in December 2014. When word first leaked out about Microsoft building RemoteApp/Mohoro, I heard from some of my contacts that Citrix was (unsurprisingly) not very happy about Microsoft's move into the space.

Azure RemoteApp wasn't designed or positioned like other desktop-as-a-service offerings (which typically stream apps). Instead, it was more of a remote-access service. Microsoft positioned it as being complementary to the company's existing on-premises remote desktop services offering, as customers use the same RDP clients to connect.

Microsoft and Citrix announced earlier this year that Citrix technology would enable Windows 10 Enterprise users with Software Assurance to run Windows 10 desktops on Azure in production via XenDesktop.

An interesting aside: Last month, Microsoft moved the Remote Desktop Services engineering team from the Cloud and Enterprise unit to the Windows and Devices Group. I'm not sure how that figures into this new partnership, but it might, somehow.

Update: The Azure team is sending emails out to RemoteApp customers that claim the decision to drop RemoteApp is "based on customer feedback and market dynamics." From that email:

"On August 12, 2016, we announced our plan to retire Azure RemoteApp. Based on customer feedback and market dynamics, we adjusted our strategy to focus more on the cloud platform that underpins finished desktop and application virtualization services. Because of this, we're expanding our relationships with partners who build out those full solutions, most notably Citrix. Citrix is our long standing partner in this space, and we recently expanded our relationship together to address these and new scenarios for joint customers using the Azure cloud."

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