Citrix Touts Client Virtualization, Cloud Advances

Desktop virtualization is booming, and Citrix has shipped 1.5 million copies of Xen Desktop 4 since launch the product last fall. But at its Synergy conference in San Francisco this week, Citrix is also pushing the envelope on server virtualization and cloud computing.

"Desktop virtualization is going mainstream and becoming more and more part of the fabric of enterprise computing," said Mark Templeton, president and CEO of Citrix, in a keynote Wednesday. With this stronghold established, Citrix is turning its attention to other parts of the computing experience.

On Wednesday, Citrix took the wraps off its new XenClient offering, a client-side hypervisor that runs on bare metal directly on a desktop or laptop PC. At Synergy, Citrix is distributing XenClient Express kit that includes the XenClient release candidate and Citrix's receiver and synchronization technology for connecting the client to the broader Xen desktop virtualization infrastructure.

Wes Wasson, chief marketing officer for Citrix, says the new Xen client enables central management of desktops and provides more flexibility for companies that have growing mobile work forces. "This brings the desktop virtualization world to the 30 to 40 percent of enterprise users whose primary access is through laptops," Wasson said in an interview.

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Citrix partner Wyse Technology, a San Jose, Calif.-based vendor of thin client hardware and software, will unveil a new product at Synergy called Wyse Xenith, which comes with Citrix's HDX performance-enhancing technology built-in.

Xenith in an example of a "zero client" technology, according to Wasson. While thin clients offer lower cost and longer life, zero clients make it possible to completely remove the local OS, and they also offer easier management and better security by virtue of their smaller attack surface, said Wasson.

"It's just a small piece of firmware. You plug it in the network, it automatically discovers Xen Desktop, and literally, you’re going to get a complete boot of a full Windows desktop environment in about 5 seconds," he said.

On the cloud computing front, Citrix on Thursday will introduce Burst Packs, its response to the call from enterprise customers for on-demand bandwidth scaling capability. It's an extension of the "Pay As You Grow" concept Citrix introduced last year and allows customers to upgrade throughput without a forklift upgrade, merely by using a software key.

Sunil Potti, vice president of product marketing and management in Citrix's Networking and Cloud product group, says Burst Packs allows customers to upgrade a 5-gigabit license to 15 gigabits for 90 days to account for seasonal traffic surges, he said.

"In the cloud, when customers aren’t using bandwidth they want to reduce capacity. Burst Packs addresses this problem head-on. You're not paying for the extra capacity that is unused, and the network finally becomes elastic," Potti said.

Citrix and Microsoft on Thursday will reveal that NetScaler VPX, Citrix's virtual Xen-based version of its NetScaler MPX appliance, will run on Microsoft's Hyper-V. For Citrix, Microsoft's largest partner, it's a development that fits nicely with its virtualization plans, Potti said.

"This makes us look and feel like a first class citizen within Microsoft," he said. "And it's going to dramatically move the traditional footprint of where we've sold NetScaler deeper into the enterprise."

Next: Citrix's New XenServer offering/strong>

On the server side, Citrix will unveil version 5.6 of XenServer, which adds functionality that’s geared toward increasing automation within the data center. A new feature called dynamic memory control automates the sharing of memory on a host, which is useful in cases where an extra virtual machine needs to be squeezed in.

"This allows you to run more virtual machines per host and improve the performance of virtual machines running on the host, all without any intervention from IT staff," said John Humphreys, senior director of product marketing for Citrix's Data Center and Cloud division.

Another new XenServer 5.6 feature, dynamic workload balancing, automates the placement of virtual machines within a resource pool to handle fluctuations in applications resource requirements. XenServer 5.6 also automates the disaster recovery process by handling data replication, virtual machine replication and failover, Humphreys said.

Citrix began offering a free version of XenServer last February that includes a subset of the main product's features. In the past 12 months, Citrix has had more than 300,000 downloads of its free XenServer and 150,000 server activations, and customers, on average, are consolidating six to seven virtual machines per server, according to Humphreys.

Citrix's goal is to have 20 percent server virtualization market share by year's end. "We are going to continue to feed that beast and drive XenServer into as many organizations as possible," Humphreys said.