More details emerge on Citrix's plans for Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop

Microsoft's Windows Virtual Desktop service still has yet to hit public preview. But its longtime virtualization partner Citrix already is building on top of it, in anticipation of its Q1 2019 debut.

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Credit: Microsoft

When Microsoft announced its Windows Virtual Desktop service at its Ignite conference in September, company officials insisted there still would be a place for its established virtualization partners like Citrix. (Some industry watchers have been skeptical that Citrix would still be as important a partner to Microsoft with the Microsoft's launch of its more robust virtualization service.) This week at the Citrix Summit conference, Microsoft and Citrix officials provided a few more specifics about what this will mean, moving forward.

Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) is Microsoft's service designed to allow users to virtualize Windows 7 and 10, Office 365 ProPlus apps and other third-party applications by running them remotely in Azure virtual machines. Using WVD, customers will be able to provide remote desktop sessions with multiple users logged into the same Windows 10 or Windows Server virtual machine. They also can opt to virtualize the full desktop or individual Microsoft Store and/or line-of-business applications. Those wanting to virtualize Windows 7 after Microsoft support ends in January 2020 will be able to do so for three years without paying for Extended Security Updates.

Microsoft had been aiming to deliver a public preview of WVD before the end of calendar 2018, but it has yet to materialize. However, it sounds like the public preview will be available sometime this calendar quarter, based on comments from Microsoft officials at the Citrix Summit.

Microsoft is authorizing Citrix, which is a Microsoft Cloud Service Provider partner, to sell WVD and to integrate WVD with Citrix Workspace, Citrix Virtual Apps and its Desktops service offerings (the products formerly known as XenDesktop and XenApp), as of the start of the public preview in Q1 2019. In return, Citrix joins the ranks of Microsoft partners claiming Azure is its "preferred public cloud" (though not exclusive cloud provider).

At Ignite last fall, Citrix officials said the company would be developing a desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) offering with Microsoft, based on WVD, but didn't say a whole lot else.

I asked Microsoft and Citrix for any additional details they are sharing this week. Microsoft officials said they had no comment. A Citrix spokesperson said that Microsoft officials told Summit attendees this week that the pair "executed an agreement last year that would enable Citrix to extend the capabilities of WVD." 

More information from the Citrix spokesperson:

"At the end of last year, Citrix and Microsoft reached an agreement to extend the capabilities of Windows Virtual Desktop with custom solutions that will help customers provision, monitor, and manage a seamless modern desktop experience for M365 (Microsoft 365) customers on Azure. With the solutions we're building right now, customers in highly regulated industries like financial services and healthcare will be able to meet custom desktop virtualization needs the Windows Virtual Desktop, while addressing compliance regulations and secure access to sensitive data.

"Customers can take advantage of Windows Virtual Desktop as a standalone solution if that meets their needs. Many customers need more though, including the need to address on-premise and hybrid cloud scenarios, SaaS (software as a service) and mobile scenarios, and seamless access to user data while leveraging the power of Windows Virtual Desktop to deliver Windows 10 desktops in Azure. Citrix and Microsoft are committed to building joint solutions that address every customer use case.

"Citrix is taking Windows Virtual Desktop to a whole new level. The offerings will deliver significant value for long-time joint customers for every conceivable use case."

In 2017, Citrix introduced Citrix XenDesktop Essentials, which allowed users to access Windows 10 Enterprise virtual desktops on Azure. That service cost $12 per user per month.