Citrix Desktop Virtualization Software Coming In May

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Citrix XenDesktop puts the core desktop PC components, including the operating system, the application, and the settings, into a desktop image that can be run off a server, said Calvin Hsu, principal product marketing manager for the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based company's XenDesktop product.

Wyse Technology, San Jose, Calif., on Monday also unveiled the first desktop appliance built to take advantage of Citrix XenDesktop. And Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif., said on Monday it support's Citrix XenDesktop with its ProLiant server and Compaq thin client product lines.

Industry observers, including vendors and solution providers, expect the desktop virtualization market to boom thanks in many ways to the current boom in server virtualization infrastructure based on technologies from vendors such as Citrix and VMware, of Palo Alto, Calif.

Analyst firm IDC estimates that the number of virtual servers deployed will rise 41 percent annually through 2010, resulting in 7.9 million virtual servers implemented on 1.7 million new physical servers. However, IDC said last year it also expects over 30 million office workers will be using virtual desktops three years from now.

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It is an exciting time for the virtual desktop PC market, said Marshall Lucas, CTO and director of technology services at ESI, an Indianapolis, Ind.-based solution provider which works with both Citrix and Wyse, and which has been running the beta version of XenDesktop.

"We're seeing the virtualization of desktop PCs become more and more prevalent, and more and more accepted in our financial, law, and kindergarten through 12-grade school customers," Lucas said. "These organizations just don't have the staff they need to manage their desktops."

With desktop PC virtualization, a PC workload can be one of multiple virtual machines sitting on a hardware server, either in the customer's data center or in a remote site. The user has some type of computing device, such as a traditional desktop or laptop PC, or even a desktop appliance, which is a thin client to which peripherals such as a monitor and a keyboard are attached.

ESI has been doing thin client computing for five years using Citrix's XenApp technology, but is now getting inquiries from customers about whether or not to switch to virtual desktop technology, Lucas said.

"A lot depends on whether the end user is a power user or a task-oriented end user," Lucas said. "If there's a lot of customization required, we may take them to XenDesktop. But if there's a lot of standard applications, we may go XenApp. I could see them running a mixture of both. This gives us flexibility."

Citrix is treating the virtual desktop as a complete solution, and not as just another technology for the data center, Hsu said.

"If you bring the desktop into the data center server room, you are just bringing in all the same problems with updating, maintenance, and so on, and putting them in a new place," he said.

By breaking down the operating system, the application, and the settings into individual components, they can be assembled when a user requires them, and then disassembled when not required, Hsu said.

Updates and patches to the various components are done automatically so that each time the user logs into his or her virtual desktop PC, the result is a fresh and pristine system, but one that is personalized with the user's settings, Hsu said.

Customers will find that, for most applications, Citrix XenServer virtual desktops offer the same performance as traditional desktop PCs, Hsu said. And, unlike thin client computing, the virtual desktops have access to any applications.

Customers also have flexibility in terms of computing device on which to log into a virtual desktop, he said. "The processing is done in the data center, so the end-user device can be anything," he said. "A whole host of manufacturers are coming out with virtual desktop devices."

One of those, Wyse, on Monday said it is partnering with Citrix on virtual desktops with the introduction of its Wyse Viance family of devices.

The Viance devices come in two flavors, said Jeff McNaught, chief marketing officer at Wyse.

The Viance Pro M is a mobile device that looks like a laptop PC with a 15.4-inch LCD screen and both 10-Gbit Ethernet and 802.11 b/g/n wireless support. "It's not aimed at companies with road warriors," McNaught said. "It's mainly for knowledge workers who want to move around with their computing device, maybe carry it to a conference room. There's no data on the device, so there's no security concern if it's lost."

The Viance desktop appliance is a small, low-power, fanless device which sits on a desktop and connects to user peripherals such as a monitor and a keyboard.

Both are based on VIA processors, and use only 13 Watts to 19 Watts of power, McNaught said.

The Viance Pro M is list priced starting at $599, with the Viance desktop appliance list priced starting at $399.

Citrix XenDesktop is slated to be available in three versions, Hsu said.

The Enterprise Edition includes all the core functionality, including provisioning, which is the ability to stream a single virtual desktop PC image across multiple end-user devices to cut back on the amount of storage required, Hsu said. The Enterprise Edition also includes the ability for a single management interface to work with virtual desktops across multiple servers.

The Standard Edition is for customers who do not require a lot of scalability, and does not include the image provisioning or multi-server interface.

The Platinum Edition includes all the capabilities of the Enterprise Edition, along with remote support, remote access, application provisioning, and WAN optimization, Hsu said.

The annual license fee for XenDesktop is $45 per virtual desktop for the Standard Edition, $95 for the Enterprise Edition, and $140 for the Platinum Edition. Customers who sign up with Citrix's Subscription Advantage program can get perpetual licenses for the three editions for $75, $175, and $275.

XenDesktop includes Citrix's XenServer server virtualization software free-of-charge. However, Hsu said, customers can also use XenDesktop on existing VMware ESX or Microsoft's Hyper-V infrastructures, he said.