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This article is part of our Conference Coverage: Citrix Synergy 2018 conference coverage

Citrix Workspace app holds potential, raises questions

At Synergy 2018, Citrix introduced a new secure digital workspace that provides users unified access to their virtual desktops and applications, SaaS and mobile apps, and data.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Citrix's latest approach to simplifying work looks promising to IT professionals, but some are skeptical about the technology underlying the secure digital workspace.

The new Citrix Workspace app is designed to bring everything users work with -- desktops, apps and files -- into one place and allow IT to manage everything in a more unified manner. Citrix has provided workspace services in the past, but this app is a new way for users to access all of their business resources.

"As an infrastructure person, if I can make my end user's life easier and my own life easier at the same time, I'm all for it," said Kevin Talbot, manager for the Citrix and Windows teams at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) Health. "But I need to be able to turn it on without having a staff of master's degrees to do it."

Citrix CEO David HenshallDavid Henshall

Today, there are so many tools designed to make work easier for users that they can actually create more challenges and complexity, CEO David Henshall said here at Citrix Synergy 2018. The Citrix Workspace app aims to address that problem, he said.

"That's kind of the direction that software companies are going," Talbot said. "It makes sense. It makes everything a little easier."

How the Citrix Workspace app works

The Citrix Workspace app is a portal that provides users access to their SaaS, web and mobile applications, virtual desktops and applications, and data stored in supported file sync-and-share services. It also boasts universal search, which enables users to enter a query for any resources they need and automatically open files in the appropriate application.

The secure digital workspace also offers customization capabilities. Users can see apps organized under different categories, such as productivity apps or collaboration apps, and they can add apps to their homepage for easier access. In addition, the app displays files that users recently accessed, so they can easily jump back into what they were doing.

The Citrix Workspace app utilizes single sign-on. Once users log in, they do not need to log in to any other applications they open through the portal.

Users can run the Workspace app natively or by launching it in a web browser. 

What's really new in the Citrix Workspace app?

Previously, different products such as XenApp, XenDesktop, XenMobile, ShareFile and analytics services all communicated with one another on the back end through Citrix Workspace.

The new Workspace app brings this integration to users on the front end. If an organization has XenApp and XenDesktop, for example, users will see only their virtual applications and desktops. If they have the full set of Workspace services, then they will see all their resources in one place.

Secure digital workspace skepticism

The sleek design of the Citrix Workspace app, combined with the lack of technical details about the product, left some Synergy attendees skeptical.

It all looked really nice, but how much time is it going to take?
Mike McCuesystem administrator, UC Davis Health

"We used to have a joke that when an executive came back from a plane trip, the latest thing in SkyMall is what he was going to ask to install. I just saw SkyMall," said Mike McCue, a system administrator at UC Davis Health. "It all looked really nice, but how much time is it going to take [to set up]? How much equipment am I going to need in the long run?"

And it's not the only secure digital workspace on the market. VMware Workspace One offers many of the same features as the Citrix Workspace app.

"I did see the exact same thing from VMware at VMworld," Talbot said.

Technical difficulties during the Synergy opening keynote also raised some questions about the readiness of the product.

"As a prospective buyer of the products, [that] leaves me wondering: Is it just the technical stuff here at the show, or is the product maybe not quite ready for prime time?" Talbot said. "Sometimes, companies rush things to the big conventions to get them out there, but they're really not fully baked yet."

On the other hand, the technical difficulties could be a blessing in disguise, because Citrix will focus on correcting the errors as soon as possible, James R. Berardi, senior infrastructure engineer at Highmark Health Solutions, said.

"If the CEO has a lot of the same problems as the users, they're going to go back to the drawing board, [find] the root cause and make the fix," he said.

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