Citrix, Intel Collaborate On Desktop Virtualization

The two companies said on Tuesday they are collaborating to jointly deliver a hypervisor that will sit on end-user devices which will allow customers to have access to their virtual desktop PCs from any device without the need to boot up the device.

The new solution will be a bare-metal, Citrix Xen-based hypervisor optimized for Intel virtualization technology and other features of Intel's vPro technology, said Lou Shipley, group vice president and general manager for Citrix's XenServer Product Group.

The new hypervisor will be embedded in desktop PCs and other devices in the second half of 2009 to allow virtual desktop images to be run locally instead of off the server, said Ian Pratt, XenProject founder and vice president of Citrix's Advanced Products, Virtualization & Management division.

The goal is to make such a hypervisor widely available in a package that can be built into laptop and desktop PCs, thereby making it ubiquitous, Pratt said.

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That will allow IT administrators to create virtual desktop images, distribute them, and synchronize them with new images as they are updated, Pratt said. Those corporate images can then be accessed by users who can then switch between their own personal computing environment or their corporation's computing environment.

The ability to switch between personal and corporate environments is important as the industry will see a fundamental shift in the desktop business over the next five years, said Calvin Hsu, director of product marketing for XenDesktop at Citrix.

Hsu said that the desktop business is shifting from the device to a service, making the value of the desktop image in the service and not in a piece of hardware. At the same time, users are more likely to want to use their own computing devices for both personal and business purposes, while businesses are looking for ways to do so without compromising the corporate IT infrastructure, he said.

"We're seeing a rise in Macintosh usage in the marketplace," he said. "Things like laptops -- even if they are corporate-provided, the end user sees it as a device for doing personal work as well."

Companies are also less and less interested in managing portable PCs, as it is not a core function for them, Hsu said. "So we will see a shift in ownership to BYOC, or Bring Your Own Computer," he said.

The ability to shift between personal and corporate computing environments allows the kind of centralized management that IT departments need as well as the local performance that users require, Pratt said. For example, while users might use a USB memory stick to download or upload files, a company could disable that feature in the corporate desktop image to protect data, he said.

Users who work for more than one corporation would also be able to easily shift between their personal compute environment and the multiple corporate environments, Pratt said.

The corporate images can be updated and patched centrally. When a user machine logs in, it can automatically check to see if there are any updates to the image and update their local image as needed, Pratt said. The local image also syncs back to the data center so that if a laptop is lost or broke, the user can log in with a new unit and be back to his or her latest environment, he said.

Unlike current virtual desktop infrastructure, or VDI, technology, where a desktop image is run off a centralized server, the new Citrix/Intel technology runs the virtual image on the local device to increase performance, Pratt said. This also offers the advantage of being able to access the corporate image when off-line as well, he said.

Going forward, Intel and Citrix plan to demonstrate the new desktop hypervisor technology during the second quarter of 2009, with technology previews expected to be available in the middle of the year, Hsu said. The technology is expected to be generally available in the second half of 2009, he said.

Greg Bryant, vice president of Intel's Business Client group and general manager of Intel's Digital Office Platform division, declined to discuss which OEMs are in talks to adopt the new technology. However, he said that a lot of OEMs have sold desktops based on Intel's vPro technology, and so support the new solution.

And that includes desktop PCs sold since 2007, as well as Centrino vPro-based laptops sold in the past year, Bryant said.