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VMblog's Expert Interviews: Steve Greenberg Talks Thin Client Computing and Investing in FSLogix


Cloud desktop tool provider, FSLogix, continues to announce new investors and technical advisors from the Citrix community.  I spoke with recent investor, Steve Greenberg, founder of Thin Client Computing, to get more information on why he thinks FSLogix is a great investment.

VMblog:  Steve, let's start with a little background about you and Thin Client Computing.  You've been quite involved in the virtual desktop space for a long time.  What got you started and what keeps you so focused on this space?

Steve Greenberg:  I started Thin Client Computing in 1997 after working with early products from Citrix, like Winview for remote access and then Winframe for published desktops.  The "client server" revolution was still growing at large enterprises, and the robust, reliable, centralized computing model that had been used for so long, was being disrupted by PCs being put on every desk.

VMblog:  I remember it well.  The flexibility of the PC and the lure of new GUI based apps was pushing IT into new technologies without a long term roadmap or full scale plan.  The PC was promising a revolutionary amount of new productivity.

Greenberg:  That's right.  And in the mid-90's, Citrix started building a vision that could combine the best of both worlds, centralize the complexity, but leverage the Windows based environment for rapid app development and customization, allowing companies to seriously enhance their productivity and use IT as a competitive weapon, while still being able to manage and predict the cost and complexity of their IT operations.  Our company has grown out of that vision, in providing leading solutions for our regional customers, both large and small.

VMblog:  What about thin client devices?  Are they a part of the strategy?

Greenberg:  We certainly include thin client hardware in the mix, but in the mid-90's the published desktop space was called, "thin client computing."  After that we had server-based computing, "application service providing" or "ASP", then utility computing, and many other variations as the providers and platforms evolved and morphed.  But the public cloud desktop of today is very much what we envisioned early on.  We've had a ton of technology improvements that were predicted in 1997, including everything from storage to networking.  We've just begun to scratch the surface in migrating people into the world envisioned by companies like ours, and the big solution providers like Citrix, VMware, Microsoft, and Amazon.  And I'm more of a believer now than I was even back then.

VMblog:  You mentioned all the technology improvements - who would have imagined in 1997 that I could buy a 512GB flash drive to carry on my keychain, and use my virtual desktop on a flight from Austin to NY?  So with all the improvements, why do you think the virtual desktop space is lagging or has yet to hit their stride in the market?

Greenberg:  Well, the amazing thing is that it's taken off so much, even while so many of the critical technological pieces were still in their infancy.  I think that really demonstrates the power of the model.  A great contemporary example is Netflix.  Back in the early 2000's I don't think anyone seriously believed that Hollywood Video would be put out of business by streaming video, or that Blockbuster would start shutting down brick and mortar locations.  We all kind of knew it would happen someday, but for a long time the internet was just not a serious way to watch movies.  PC hardware and software, larger format displays, reliable high speed networking, it all had to happen.  Then one day the Netflix client was embedded on every Blu-Ray player and smart TV being shipped and that kicked off the tipping point.

VMblog:  Are you saying virtual desktops are at that tipping point?

Greenberg:  I think they are, both for enterprises and maybe even an emerging consumer model.  CIOs understand the potential cost benefit of implementing BYOD, having a remote workforce, going to cloud infrastructure, and moving IT from "one to many" back to more of a "one to one" support model, while maintaining all the benefits of the last 20 years of app development.  The perception is that cloud is brand new, but many of our customers already have cloud based HR, cloud based payroll, CRM, development and storage, and many other critical functions.  The workspace environment is the final piece, and the interface where all business productivity occurs, and we are very, very, close to moving that piece, and that's one of the reasons we started working with FSLogix.

VMblog:  Good transition.  Let's talk about your interest in FSLogix and how they fit into the vision.

Greenberg:  The executive team at FSLogix has a long, in depth history with application virtualization and virtual desktop technology, including solutions like TScale, AppStream, SVS, and products from Wyse.  I've worked with different solutions that they've been a part of for almost as long as I've been doing this, and I've seen how they've continued to positively impact the move toward a more ubiquitous world of virtual desktops.  A problem in the enterprise is that implementing PCs and traditional computing models is still the default, or fall back - a perceived way to eliminate risk.  But at this point, the real risk is in doing business as usual.  We're using solutions from FSLogix to make it a no-brainer for CIOs to move their end users into the next frontier of enterprise computing.  FSLogix has been rolling out a steady stream of releases that dramatically improve the cost and complexity model, and exponentially improve the productivity for end users.  Considering our background and vision, investing in the company just seemed like a natural fit.

VMblog:  I know many of the folks there and I completely agree.  A great team, doing great things.  So, are you predicting that that technologies like FSLogix will shift everything to the cloud and eliminate the need for the PC itself?

Greenberg:  No, actually just the opposite!  There will always be a place for local computing, but cloud computing allows you to slide the dial of what goes where.  As an example, when new games are introduced, you generally want very fast local processing, even though most of the game environment lives in the cloud.  As the technology evolves, last year's features transition to the cloud, but the latest and greatest, leverage local computing resources.  The current iteration of enterprise apps can do very well with cloud resources, without sacrificing local performance and productivity for your employees.  That's another big benefit FSLogix provides.

VMblog:  Very interesting.  So you believe in a long term hybrid model?

Greenberg:  Definitely.  We have an old saying, "Good technology never goes away, it just moves to the back of the data center."  We still have terminal emulation on the client because we still have some incredibly useful apps running on mainframes.  So if we know we're going to be digital hoarders to some degree, let's architect the support and management infrastructure in a way that reduces cost and complexity, gives businesses maximum agility, and lets them focus their spending on strategic and innovative projects.  The cloud workspace is the obvious and immediate answer for many different classes of applications, even for those that maintain a local computing component.  What I am suggesting though, is that the primary parts of the enterprise workspace move to the cloud, and I think for most companies, that's possible today.  Even with Citrix, you may be using some apps locally and some on XenApp, like Outlook 2016.  And by using Citrix with FSLogix, you get the cloud benefit of Office 365, the virtual desktop benefits of Citrix, and local performance.

VMblog:  Let's change gears a little.  We've seen some pretty interesting, and maybe even unexpected acquisitions lately, maybe starting with AppSense, then Norskale, the "LANDesk HEAT" announcement, and now Unidesk.  What does that mean to the industry?

Greenberg:  Great question.  First of all, the amount of acquisitions we're seeing around physical and virtual client computing is really heartening.  A lot of investment is being made because people see that we're at the beginning of a very big shift.  Like the Netflix example - all the technology is coming into place to change the way we've done IT at the endpoint during this last client-server chapter.  In a few years we might look back and say, "remember when we used CDs to install software and all your apps were installed on your personal device?  That was weird."  Our grandkids will ask, "What happened when you lost your laptop?  Did you lose all your stuff?"

VMblog:  That's funny.  I have friends with younger kids who don't really get the whole "CD" thing, and have only grown up with streaming.  But that's a topic for another time. So, what role do you see companies like Citrix playing in the future?  Given their recent acquisitions, how do you think it will affect their partnerships and the overall space in general?

Greenberg:  Citrix is a great partner. They've done far more than any company to bring this vision to bear.  It's no secret that they've had a lot of changes to work through in recent history, but I think Norskale and Unidesk were both homeruns that show they're seriously on track with their vision, and the larger vision of the other giant companies now competing in cloud computing.  Unidesk brought a great set of technological enhancements to the Citrix stack, making them more competitive in the app layering area, and substantially increasing the footprint that FSLogix can compete on top of with their solutions.

VMblog:  So you see it as all additive?

Greenberg:  Absolutely.  We are a big fan of Norskale as well, and were their largest reseller in the US before the acquisition.  We've been lucky to be early in the market using some of these vendors.  There are always going to be a few overlapping features and marketing messages with acquisitions like this, but I'm looking to the future when Unidesk and Norskale are fully incorporated into Citrix and I have that set of tools along with solutions like FSLogix.  It's actually really exciting.

VMblog:  How does FSLogix specifically fit?

Greenberg:  Well, today there are some definite "no brainers."  What they're doing around Office 365 Containers is helping enterprises move all their users, including their RDSH and non-persistent VDI users.  The newest release lets you enable and roam search indexes for Outlook.  Pretty cool stuff.  The virtual workspace needs to perform better than a local workspace, and that's what we love to see.  FSLogix Profile Containers are getting rid of folder redirection, and optimizing login and application start times - and they're doing it alongside all the popular profile management solutions, to help enterprises extend the value of their investments there.  But remember, on this journey to the cloud, we're touching a billion desktops, and creating an environment for the next billion.  FSLogix addresses many of the core issues you have to fix on traditional PCs, and in the process, "cloud-ifies" the environment to allow portability of applications and data.  FSLogix is a big part of our strategic vision, for its flexibility, overall value, and also immediate ROI for our customers.

VMblog:  That is exciting Steve, and very insightful.  I'd like to close the interview if I could by asking for future predictions.  What's something interesting you think we'll see soon?

Greenberg:  Well luckily, it's too late to give my predictions on the election or the Super Bowl, so how about Kevin's Atlanta Braves still won't win in 2017.  Cloud, in terms of a desktop world, is still probably out in the 2018 time-frame as a major player, although in 2017 I think we'll see some nice progress toward that. As for the upcoming Star Wars film, "Force Awakens," my prediction for the last Jedi.... wait for it.... Supreme Leader Snoke!

VMblog:  That's a great one!  We'll have to circle back with you in the near future and see if you were right.  Steve, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to us and share your insights about the market, and your recent investment with FSLogix.  Can't wait for a follow up to hear how it's going!

Greenberg:  You're welcome Dave!  It's been great, and we're really excited about 2017.  Thanks for having me, and looking forward to doing it again later in the year.

Published Thursday, February 23, 2017 8:01 AM by David Marshall
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