Citrix XenDesktop update broadens virtual desktop appeal

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Citrix XenDesktop update broadens virtual desktop appeal

Citrix has updated its XenDesktop system with enhancements to reduce the cost of operating a virtual desktop infrastructure and improve the end user experience.

The product is also being broadened out to appeal to firms with existing PC inventory to manage.

XenDesktop 3 (XD3) reduces the infrastructure costs required for virtual clients by up to 50 per cent, according to Citrix, as the underlying XenServer technology can now host twice as many virtual machines for each physical server.

Citrix is also addressing the end user experience with new technologies called HD-X that attempt to deliver the same multimedia capabilities as users enjoy with a conventional PC, and enable the use of standard USB devices.

At the same time, XD3 adds the ability to stream images to existing PCs on a corporate network, a move designed to help firms migrate towards virtual clients without the hosting infrastructure costs.

Dave Austin, director of product management for Citrix EMEA, said the new release broadens out XenDesktop to address more workers.

"We don't look at just virtualisation technology, we look at the entire end-to-end delivery platform," he said.

One thing Citrix saw it needed to provide is a scaleable environment, he added, hence XD3's use of advances made in XenServer to support a greater density of virtual machines.

Meanwhile, desktop streaming enables firms to continue to use existing PC hardware, but with reduced management costs. With this, XD3 can deliver a centrally stored image to bare-metal PCs on the LAN at startup.

Austin said this is analogous to a network boot using PXE, but that XD3 has greater flexibility, being the only delivery tool that can both host desktops and stream them out to run natively on the local hardware. It has built-in profile management that customises the desktop provided based on the user's profile.

Citrix was careful to contrast this mechanism for PCs on the local network with its recently unveiled Project Independence that is primarily aimed at managing mobile clients.

With HD-X, Citrix aims to address the user experience, often compromised when using a remote console to access a Windows desktop. The solution is to stream content such as audio and video to the endpoint device to be handled locally, enabling even applications such as 3D graphics or VoIP.

"Lots of organisations are saying they need multimedia capability [in virtual desktops] for purposes such as training or webcasts," said Austin. The link is bi-directional, connecting USB ports on the endpoint to the virtual desktop to allow synchronisation with BlackBerry devices, for example.

Thin clients compliant with Citrix guidelines for XenDesktop Appliance Mode will be able to offer this capability, Austin said.

HD-X also features what Citrix terms intelligent orchestration to sense the capabilities of the endpoint and the network to deliver the best user experience. This will see HD-X supported in Citrix products such as WANScaler and Branch Repeater to optimise performance over remote network connections.

The datacentre HD-X enhancements will come in the second quarter of 2009, Citrix said, with device-side support due in Q3 and intelligent orchestration in Q4.

XenDesktop 3.0 will be generally available from authorised Citrix partners from February with pricing starting at US$75 per concurrent user.

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