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When it comes to transitioning desktops into the cloud, Citrix management thinks 2017 will be more of a transition year, with 2018 shaping up to be the year when desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) supplants the traditional desktop.

At the recent Citrix Summit 2017 conference, Citrix channel chief Craig Stillwell told partners that while lots of strides are being made in terms of making virtual desktops available via the cloud, the real opportunity for partners will be in creating workspace-as-a-service (WaaS) frameworks for accessing applications that ultimately will reside both in the cloud and on local servers. In fact, delivering managed services around that hybrid environment will wind up being the most lucrative opportunity for partners.

To help enable that transition, Citrix announced a new pilot program for Citrix Service Providers that want to deploy workspaces leveraging Citrix Cloud. Under terms of that program, CSPs will be charged a monthly fee to access Citrix software.

At the same time, Citrix has also announced the acquisition of Unidesk, a provider of application layering technology that makes it easier to manage applications and virtual workspaces across a hybrid cloud environment. Naturally, it will take some time for Citrix to unify its existing offerings and the Unidesk technologies, but, in the meantime, Citrix plans to continue offering Unidesk software for VMware and Windows platforms.

In addition, Stillwell told partners that they should position themselves in 2017 to take advantage of those cloud opportunities by getting closer to Microsoft. Citrix has a long-standing alliance with Microsoft, which, among other things, makes it possible to access Windows 10 running on the Microsoft Azure cloud.

To extend that effort, Citrix announced that it’s making it simpler to transfer on-premise licenses for Citrix virtualization software to the Citrix Cloud. The company also announced that Citrix and Microsoft have integrated the Citrix NetScaler Unified Gateway with Microsoft Intune software for managing mobile devices.

Finally, Citrix introduced a series of preconfigured packages that promise to simplify the rollout of virtual applications and desktop services, as well as a new Citrix XenApp Essentials Service, which makes use of XenApp technology to provide additional management, user experience and security features that can be delivered via the Citrix Cloud.

Another significant Citrix channel opportunity includes the launch of a program designed to make it simpler to bundle Citrix virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) software with hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) appliances from a variety of server partners.

Stillwell has been the channel chief for Citrix for a couple of months now, so he’s still getting the lay of the channel land. But one thing that is clear is that entire desktop computing environments will soon be following productivity applications, such as Microsoft Office 365, into the cloud.

For a lot of channel partners, that shift comes with fundamental changes to business models—changes that are becoming inevitable. Citrix, like many of its partners, is clearly hoping that this transition will take place in a more orderly fashion over the next two or more years.