Since Windows Azure launched I have looked forward to the day Citrix would be able to work jointly with Microsoft to support XenDesktop and XenApp workloads. We are excited that today is the day we announce support for XenDesktop 7 and XenApp 6.5 on Windows Azure. Customers can now take advantage of the leading Citrix desktop virtualization solution and all of the HDX user experience goodness on Microsoft’s leading public cloud. With the announcement we’ve published two design guides (here and here) to help get you started with your deployments.

But first a little known fact. For the past few years Citrix has supported XenApp in the Amazon public cloud.  In fact, we have a growing number of enterprises and service providers using our reference architecture and design guides to stand up new citrix environments in the cloud.

So why would you want to use Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp in Windows Azure? This is a question I want to discuss today and walk through the top 5 scenarios I hear from customers looking to deploy Citrix desktop virtualization in Windows Azure.

1. DOS – Don’t Own Stuff

I hear routinely in customer meetings about their desire to get out of the business of managing on-premise datacenters. The virtualization era began with test/dev workloads being virtualized first. IT was not confident their high performance and mission critical workloads could be virtualized effectively. We all know that wall crumbled years ago and now enterprises take a virtualization-first strategy.  The transition to cloud has paralleled this phenomenon within Enterprise IT. It started with shadow IT or low-risk workloads but now CIOs are asking themselves, why should I provision any workload (mission critical or not) on-premise instead of in the cloud? Since enterprise IT still overwhelmingly consist of Windows-based workloads this means that a growing number of Windows apps are now deployed in the public cloud rather than in traditional datacenters.

Citrix continues to lead the virtualization of hosted-shared Windows apps and desktops. If your IT strategy consists of DOS, you can now transition your virtualized Windows apps and desktops over to Windows Azure along with your other mission critical enterprise workloads.

2. Flexing for Additional Capacity

How to respond to transient demand is a topic of many customers. With every re-organization, acquisition, new marketing initiative, etc IT is asked to support their employees by providing them the set of productivity tools necessary to complete their job.  How can IT organizations plan ahead when they are one of the last groups to know when new demand is required and the first group responsible for delivering? Either they keep additional capacity on hand or the are conservative with the expected delivery of the new services.  Keeping additional capacity on hand can be an expensive proposition in terms of the compute and storage costs for Windows apps and desktop needs. But alternatively, not delivering on the business needs continues to paint IT as a necessity rather than a strategic arm of the company.

With Citrix XenDesktop and Windows Azure, customers can now quickly spin up a new environment in the public cloud and meet the business needs. In fact, to the employees accessing the Windows apps and desktops through Citrix Receiver, they will never even know their app or hosted-shared desktop are coming from the public cloud. It will be completely transparent to users.

3. Pre-production Validation

Every software release goes through a pre-production validation cycle where the software is run through its paces to evaluate the features, functionality, and scalability.  Today, customers routinely dedicate large amounts of infrastructure investment to maintaining this pre-production environment.  Citrix XenDesktop is no different. As an enterprise software provider we expect that customers will need time and resources to valide the new release before they roll it out to their users.

With the support of XenDesktop in Azure, IT can now take advantage of a cost effective and scalable test-bed for new releases of XenDesktop. But the pre-production validation isn’t limited to just Citrix releases, this scenario can be utilized for new versions of any windows app that needs to go through validation or user acceptance testing prior to rollout to the production environment. In fact, I talked with a large energy customer who wanted to validate 10,000 images a month in the public cloud rather than their on-premise datacenter. Why? Just getting a test bed to that scale was months of work and thousands of dollars. With the public cloud, its a monthly usage bill.

4. Differentiate Through Services, not Infrastructure

The deployment scenarios for Citrix desktop virtualization on Windows Azure are not limited to just enterprise customers but also service providers. For service providers, infrastructure is quickly losing opportunities for differentiated value. We’ve seen a tremendous growth of our service provider program as service providers market their ability to deliver Windows apps and desktops to their tenants with the best in class HDX technologies in addition to other services.

Today each of our service provider’s offerings rely on our published reference architecture. With our support for XenDesktop and XenApp on Azure, service providers can offload the infrastructure responsibilities to Microsoft and focus their attention to providing differentiated value in the set of offerings and migration services they can offer to tenants. In this scenario, the service provider’s entire deployment and the Citrix suite of technologies including the app delivery, orchestration, and self-service are based in Azure.

5. Increase Reach and Scale

Today, for service providers and enterprises alike to reach new users beyond the distance/performance requirements requires planning a new datacenter closer to users or outsourcing to a local collocation facility.  Many times collocation facilities require a minimum cost requirement and multi-year commitment. Because of the time and investment resources, reaching these new markets and user groups with your desktop virtualization offerings can be a slow and arduous process.

Deploying Citrix XenDesktop in Windows Azure can help you extend your reach and scale quickly and efficiently. Windows Azure already has regions across the US, Europe, and Asia allowing you a seamless global reach and providing your users worldwide with Citrix based mobile workstyles.

Summary

I would encourage you to learn more about the how to deploy Citrix XenDesktop and XenApp in Azure by reading more about the announcement, additional blog posts and the new design guides covering XenDesktop 7 and XenApp 6.5. And then, let us know the Citrix on Azure scenarios you are most excited about.