Citrix Wraps RingCube Technology Into XenDesktop 5.5 Release

Citrix Systems on Wednesday took the wraps off XenDesktop 5.5, an update that speeds performance of virtual desktops running on wide area networks and lets customers kick the tires on technology from Citrix's RingCube acquisition earlier this month.

XenDesktop 5.5 includes RingCube's "personal vDisk" technology, which puts users' preferences, data and applications into a separate container that's stored in a Microsoft Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) file. This not only speeds migrations from physical to virtual environments, it also lets users personalize virtual desktops in the same way they'd do with physical ones.

Citrix is including a test version of personal vDisk for free in the VDI, Enterprise and Platinum editions of XenDesktop 5.5, according to John Fanelli, vice president of product marketing for Citrix's Enterprise Desktops and Apps division. He added that Citrix is offering this as an "early access capability," which means customers can use it in their test environments but not in production.

"We want to make sure we're delivering the right features and functionality, and we're going to be doing additional testing and integration [of personal vDisk]," Fanelli said in an interview.

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RingCube was already a partner in the Citrix Ready program at the time of the acquisition, and its flagship vDesk product allows organizations to deliver personalized settings and applications using pooled VDI, a cheaper alternative to the dedicated VDI that this sort of personalization typically requires.

XenDesktop 5.5 also comes with integrated XenApp 6.5, and the Citrix management model now accounts for both desktop and application connections. Brian Lesniakowski, CTO at AEC Group, a Bridgeville, Pa.-based solution provider, says this is an improvement from the multiple management panes in XenDesktop 5 and XenApp 6.

"Getting to where users look to a single screen and see both types of connections in the environment will help reduce complexity," he said.

XenDesktop 5.5 also features numerous improvements to HDX, a user experience technology that boosts graphics and multimedia performance on virtual desktops and mobile devices.

Combined with support for Microsoft's RemoteFX technology, HDX in XenDesktop 5.5 delivers virtual Windows desktops with performance that's indistinguishable from that of physical desktops, Fanelli said.

Citrix is beefing up HDX in the latest XenDesktop release to improve quality of service for desktops delivered across the WAN to remote and home office workers. This includes accelerating the real-time protocols behind voice, video and audio for virtual desktops, which is particularly important for call centers, said Fanelli.

"XenDesktop 5.5 can deliver desktops to twice as many users across an existing WAN link," Fanelli said.

XenDesktop 5.5 also includes Citrix's Flash Redirection technology, which detects when a virtual desktop user is trying to run an application that uses Flash and instantly determine if the endpoint is capable of running it. Flash Redirection shifts the workload from the server top the endpoint and gives users better QoS because it's executing locally, Fanelli said.

Additional XenDesktop 5.5 improvements include a six-fold boost in scanning and printing speeds, and the ability to calibrate QoS for branch offices based on type of employee -- to prioritize real-time traffic like voice and video, for example.

Citrix XenDesktop 5.5 is available now and is priced starting at $95 per user or device for the VDI edition. The Enterprise or Platinum editions, which include application virtualization are priced at $225 and $350 respectively.